Topic 2: Reflection

This week’s discussion on the pros and cons of multiple online identities has been extensive and varied. I found the most interesting blogs were those that questioned the future of online identities; the role of technology and those that discussed the stigma attached to multiple identities.

The first thing  that I noticed after reading the blogs and the attached comments is how much this topic is influenced by personal opinion. Some blogs clearly supported the use of multiple identities, for their ability to allow individuals to market themselves to different audiences. While posts like Ben’s use real world examples to highlight the dangers associated with the use of multiple online identities.

The discussion about not allowing our past mistakes to influence our future seemed to bring out different opinions. For example, Jens’ post highlights the negative impact that single identities can have on creativity and freedom online. Similarly, Nicole’s post questions if we are even aware of how many identities we have. I found this particularly interesting as individuals who support the usage of single identities may be unaware of their own multiple identities.

One of the major factors making this such a diverse debate is how different people define multiple online identities: some see it as anonymity while others see it as just simply having more than one account. The multiple identity discussion highlighted the reality versus perception debate, which is epitomised in an article where a student fakes an entire exotic holiday.

I found that this topic has not only taught me how important having an on online identity is, but also to be careful about what that identity represents. The overall conclusion seems to be that people appreciate that in an ideal world, one authentic identity is preferred. However, some recognise that this requires a lot of maintenance, as well as a resolve to be professional at all times.

Commented on:

Nicole Odofin

Saber Hamidi (currently unmoderated)

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.


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.