Identity Crisis: Me, Myself and I.

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”  Mark Zuckerberg

Your online identity is a collection of your characteristics and your interactions on the web (Internet Society, 2015) . We are now in an age where we are more concerned than ever with real identities (Krotoski, 2012) and anonymity is perhaps an ageing concept. A single online identity is advantageous if you want people to be able to connect to all aspect of your identity, old or new, with ease online. A single identity links your past and present, it’s no longer as easy as it used to be to have segmented identities. The argument for a single identity is that any other options raise doubts of your openness, uniqueness and honesty (Costa and Torres, 2011). Since it’s seen as a dishonest practice to hold multiple online identities and there are various companies that can manage your online reputation.Is there any reason to hold multiple online identities?

Multiple online identities are created for varying reasons and not all of them are to dupe the unsuspecting victim. Often they are created for security reasons and with the lack of legal protection online it seems this can often be a wise choice. Andrew Lewman argues for anonymity on the web to promote creativity. His podcast on the relationship between identity and privacy discusses the application of Tor software as a way of improving security and privacy and enabling users ‘selective invisibility’ (Krotoski, 2012). Lewman understand that the software can be misused and often the darker side of anonymity is evident. Whilst Zittrain (2010) discusses how eBay could use a little less anonymity and that multiple identities can easily be linked to criminal activity.

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Rosen (2010) highlights another argument for multiple identities: if our identities offline change in different contexts (social, professional or academic) why should this not be the case online? The success of Yammer as social network used solely by business suggest that some employers promote multiple identities and the clear separation of professional and social identities online.

Projects like STAGE (though still in development) are emerging with the aim of catering for legitimate users of multiple online identities as shown in the video above. Figure 1 shows why people need to manage their online identities.

STAgESource: STAGE 2013

Jarvis (2011) believes that we should be less concerned with identities and focus more on the societal norms online so that risks associated with single identities are reduced. This topic is multifaceted and though not discussed here has links to research in sociology, psychology and education but to name a few. Watch the TEDX lecture below for an  overview on the psychology of multiple online identities.


Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, University of Salford.

Internet Society (2015). Manage Your Identity. Accessed on: 20/02/2015

Jarvis, J. (2011) One identity or more? Accessed on: 19/02/2015

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian.

Rosen, J. (2010) The web means the end of forgetting. The New York Times Magazine.

STAGE (2013) Digital service system for online identity management.  Accessed on: 19/02/2015

Zittrain, J. (2010). Reputation Bankruptcy. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Harvard Law School.

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8 thoughts on “Identity Crisis: Me, Myself and I.

  1. Hi Leigh, you wrote a very interesting post with loads of examples of mutliple-identity technologies I had no idea existed before. You also provided readers with a good overview of the most important concepts in the debate. The TEDx talk provides a unique perspective on a question, shifting our focus towards the impact of virtual identities on us.

    How do you think the situation will evolve, bearing in mind the technologies that are slowly beggining to become available to everyone (VR goggles, intelligent glassess, wearable technology)? Is that going to lead us towards the spectrum of independent virtual identities, or possibly towards a single online persona closely related to our offline persona?

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    • Hi there,thanks for the positive feedback and I’m glad you found the blog informative.
      The rapid advancement of not only wearable technology, but also online programs associated with identities, means that we will battle to predict how our identities will change in the future. I believe that the technology emerging now may actually make it easier to hold multiple identities. I think that single identities are becoming treacherous the more our online personae are monitored in a professional context. However, perhaps we should consider whether, with development of technology, multiple identities will become socially acceptable and lose the attached stigma over time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Leigh, I really enjoyed reading your post and it has definitely furthered my knowledge. Your use of imagery and videos kept me engaged!
    In your first paragraph, you raise the question “Is there any reason for having multiple online identities? I would have to say yes, yes, yes!! There is a reason because as the Internet evolves, more purposes and functions are developed; therefore people create numerous identities as they discover new gains from being online. However, do you think we will ever have control online?

    I 100% agree with Rosen’s (2010) statement that as our offline life changes then so too should our online. For example, university is a great example of this. Prior to university, I’m sure you hardly used Facebook or most social networking sites, but this change in your life and engaging in new friends/societies has led to multiple identities being created.

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    • Hi Nicole
      I’m glad the media in my blog proved to be useful and you enjoyed the blog.
      I think your question regarding control can be tricky because it depends how we define control. I think similarly to how we perceive privacy, control is also individually determined. Personally, as I have a limited number of identities, I feel I have relative control (though this is probably naive, I always accept cookies on websites). However, I suspect control is hard to maintain for those with numerous identities.

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  3. Hi Leigh,
    I really enjoyed reading your post, you’ve got some great sources and I like how you used the TED video to add extra information to your post, I especially like the Zuckerberg quote.
    I was wondering what your own opinions on the topic are? Do you think that having multiple identities is a bad thing? Your post gives a nice overview of some positives and negatives but if you had to make a conclusion from what you’ve gathered what would you say?
    Ben

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    • Hi Ben
      Glad my blog was of interest to you. Personally I’m pro multiple identities. Apart from the reasons listed in my blog, I also think that people use the web to find and ‘create’ themselves. I am all for people being given the opportunity to be creative, without having to commit to a certain value or belief system. I obviously realise that anonymity in the hands of the wrong people is dangerous, which may simply be the price we pay for online freedom. I do however think that those who maintain a single identity should be applauded for their brave choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Topic 2 Reflection | nicoleodofin

  5. Pingback: Reflective summary: The question of multiple (online) identities | Living and Working on the Web

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