Psychologist Jim Blascovich proposes that everyone has multiple identities synonymous with social roles such a professional occupation, religious belief, gender, marital and family statuses and so forth (TEDxTalks, 2011). In contrast, Rodogno (2012) argues that a person’s social role or occupations may have nothing to do with their identity but is anchored in their attachments such as what they care about, what is important or what matters to them, can change over time. Another view is that personal identity is simply the concept a person develops about themselves that evolves over the course of one’s life (Scarince, n.d) which conflicts with the popular view of many world religions that persons are immortal souls continuing to live after bodily death (Korfmacher, n.d).
Trying to define personal identity is complicated enough without the internet and social media thrown into the equation. But since it has been Hongladarom (2011) proposes that while technology promises the opportunity to share our genuine self it’s really just a tool that is used to create new identities that we represent as real. In evaluating Hongladarom’s conclusions, I discuss my definition of identity, consider how my offline and online self compare, interact and impact each other to create a new identity. And I will determine the effect technology has on how I constructed my online identity.
My definition of Identity and Hongladarom’s Idea about Online Identities
To take a position on Hongladarom idea about identity and social media, I think I need to to determine what my idea of what offline identity is. Like Hongladarom, I approach this concept from a religious or spiritual perspective based on biblical writings. The Prophet Jeremiah writes in the voice of God:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 29:11 King James Version)
This verse speaks to the popular Simple View that persons are immortal beings (Korfmacher, n.d), however, adds that there is a God that created our identities even before we were born. And the identity of Jeremiah is the social role of a Prophet. Social roles can, in fact, be who we are and that our life experiences, what is important to us and concepts of ourselves are also ingredients to creating our identity as Proverbs 23:7 King James Version says “For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” Ultimately identity is made of many fragments and social media reveals a spectrum of users ranging from datasexuals, who are completely transparent and share everything about themselves and those who share nothing (TEDxTalks, 2013 ).
Somewhere in there are those who share authentic fragments of who they are and those who create totally new fake identities that they represent as real. In Thailand, for example, Hongladarom (2011) points out that Facebook users create profiles using pseudonyms, photos of animals as profile pictures, however, share some of their real interests.
Then there is the extreme example of the sting operation in the Dateline NBC show “To Catch a Predator,” where adult volunteers from the online watch group Perverted Justice act as decoys by setting up fake online underage identities to snare potential sex predators.
Comparison of my online and offline identities
Then there are people like myself with the intent of showing their authentic self. And when I compare who I am offline with who I am online I would say that my online identity is really just chosen fragments of my offline line identity. I have about 5 different profiles, but just looking at two of them I can see how my offline and online identities compare and create a new representation of myself. On my LinkedIn profile, I summarize myself as a musician, songwriter, educator, documentarian, actress, artist, philanthropist, business owner while listing past employment positions in education and music business. So I would say that need to pair down what I have on my LinkedIn and make it represent more of the professional side of my persona because right it is a blend of professional and creative.
My Facebook page does not share all the same information that my LinkedIn does. In the about section on my Facebook, I do not share my present place of employment or say that I am an actress, documentarian or philanthropist. However, I do have professional conversations with others via Facebook, share posts from my academic blog while revealing things about myself that I do not share on LinkedIn like that fact that I’m married, have a son, the people that I associate with on and offline, who my family members are, some of the activities I like to do and thoughts involving some of the online conversations I engage in. Also, one can see how others experience me, what others are saying about me and to me which also plays a role in creating my online identity (Matthews, 2012 ).
And there are some things that I do not share at all online like complaints about people, places or things, political views, my physical location at all times or a mini review of every restaurant I visit, all my moods at any point in time. I do not share the ins and out of my marriage or when my son has a doctor appointment. But these are things that I do reveal about myself and life with others offline while there are also things about myself that I keep to myself and do not share at all.
Technology and Identity
While there is a fusion of my offline and online selves taking place, even if I was a datasexual, technology presents limitations to what I am able to share while offering me the control to decide what I do share (Rdigitallife, 2012 ). Much of what is experienced through face to face interaction is filtered by technology from online posts. What is missing is all the nonvoluntary information that can be relevant to a person’s identity like body language, tone of voice, lack of confidence and style of communication (Matthews, 2012). And there is also the ability to that technology provides to have immense control over what one shares and how they represent themselves online. One can carefully shape how they come across by filtering out aspects of their offline identity and including others (Matthews, 2012)
With so many views and positions on what identity really is, it is my opinion Honogradam position that technology does not give us the tools to reveal our authentic identity online but creates a way to create new identities is limited. I agree that anyone can jump online and create a totally fake identity or a limited version of themselves. But in regards to technology not facilitating authentic identities I disagree. I’m not so sure that we as humans always share our genuine selves in public and even in the most intimate relationships we don’t always spill the beans on every aspect of our lives. So if we don’t share everything about who we are offline how can we online? Even if we made the effort to, like datasexuals, technology filters out physical aspects that communicate who we are. So does the fact that we may limit our transparency or be limited by technology create unauthentic online identities? I don’t think so. I think the essence of who we are will somehow shine through.
Hongladarom, S. (2011). Personal identity and the self in the online and offline world. Minds & Machines. 21(4), 533-548. doi:10.1007/s11023-011-9255-x
Korfmacher, C (n.d) Personal identity. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/person-i/
Matthews, Steve S (2012 )Authenticating an online identity. American Journal of Bioethics. Volume: 12 Issue: 10 Page: 39-41 DOI:10.1080/15265161.2012.708089. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/01/21/online-personality-influences-real-life-identity/50633.html
Rdigitallife (2012, December 12) Identity: Are you the same person online & offline? [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10K137WU9gw
Scarince, C (n.d) What Is personal identity? – definition, philosophy & development. Study.com. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-personal-identity-definition-philosophy-development.html
TedxTalks (2011, October 24) Digital freedom: Virtual reality, avatars, and multiple identities: Jim Blascovich at TEDxWinnipeg [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgEA4iM8CHc
TEDx Talks (2013, April 10) Fake It – to control your digital identity: Pernille Tranberg at TEDxOxford [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRrgD-4-D8s&ebc=ANyPxKrgyowPTgwHGfNy5aQV2DOFUerli_iLRkoZrFZsrAHIC4kw4DIUzD2UiTqhky62zIAsuppDIYJE0QDk0sMfrHbgU458BQ
Cover Photo Retrieved from www.digitaltrends.com