Identity is the assemblage of characteristics and behaviours that something or someone is recognizable by the onlooker. Personal identity is influenced by many factors including family, friends, heritage, life experience and more. This sense of identity is portrayed through appearance and actions.
An individual has multiple identities for example the work vs. home identity; the way an individual acts at work is rarely the same as the home. The world of social media creates another channel for people to share their identity or chosen identity. When creating a Facebook profile, personal details are required including name, date of birth, photo and location. Additional information can be included about their likes, hobbies and work place. This information is entered into the online world by the user, it can be honest, slightly embellished or completely fabricated. The below image is an example of a fabricated profile, a parody profile of the Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg.
Livingstone refers to the way teenagers create their online identities; an age group known for devoting a lot of attention to how others perceive them. Being Digital Natives (Prensky) they are the perfect group to analyse use of online identity.
“While younger teenagers relish the opportunities to recreate continuously a highly-decorated, stylistically-elaborate identity, older teenagers favour a plain aesthetic that foregrounds their links to others, thus expressing a notion of identity lived through authentic relationships.”(2008)
Amongst the individuals Livingstone analysed, profiles were admittedly not 100% truthful. However this information represents how each individual wishes their online connections to recognize them and not disclosing all the correct information is also a method of protecting their own privacy (Livingstone 2008).
As social media transforms so do the reasons for using it, the fundamental use is to connect and create relationships online. These relationships become part of an individual’s online identity and can be in the form of connecting with another individual, a group or something. A teenager would not generally be connecting with a Facebook group: You’re Life Choices however they might enjoy the group: Justin Bieber. Each and every connection is visible to their online friends and is a representation of their online identity. For this reason it affects every online connection and manipulates their online identity.
Each individual’s online identity is created differently but will always incorporate aspects of their offline identity. Intricate relations between online and offline, real and virtual experiences, and in those intersections the identity reveals itself in different manners (Gradinaru 2013). The online and offline actions of an individual interrelate and construct their identities which must be accepted, as social media and online identities become an everyday component of life.
Livingstone, S. 2008. Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression. New Media & Society 10(3), 393-411. doi:10.1177/1461444808089415
GRADINARU, C. 2013. Contemporary Trends in the Study of Online Identity.. Journal the Seminar of Discursive Logic, Argumentation Theory & Rhetoric;, Jul 2013, Vol. 11, (Issue 2), pp. p95-108. Available at: http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy1.canberra.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=49fff90c-6b20-4b48-9734-f3a782ae7572%40sessionmgr11&vid=6&hid=22 [Accessed: 26 Sep 2013].