Topic 2


Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity.

Online identities are the way in which people choose to represent themselves on the internet.  Some people choose to display their true selves online while others prefer to remain anonymous. There are also people who choose to have multiple online identities when interacting with the internet.

In 2013 the website popular science made the decision to disable the ability to post comments. They felt that comments, in particular anonymous ones, were able to“skew the reader’s perception of a story”. This is not uncommon as the YouTuber PewDiePie also made the decision to de-activate his comment section in 2014. In a video PewDiePie posted he blamed “people trying to provoke” as the reasoning behind his decision. These examples suggest that where anonymity is present people feel able to say things they might not say in a real life context, leading to discussions not developing and people being put off creating content.

(Click here for a short video I made on anonymity)

There are arguments that defend having multiple online identities however. In a report written by Blau and Caspi they found that in studies “Students participated more and took more risks when acting anonymously”. This demonstrates that people may be more likely to participate in activities without the fear of personal criticism. Another report by Kang, Brown and Kiesler also identifies three reasons why somebody may wish to remain anonymous online. These include “a misunderstanding of the internet, fear of an online community and personal privacy preferences.” These factors are concerns many people have and an alternative identity online is a way of combatting this.

Another example of having multiple online identities is to claim to be someone you aren’t. The TV show catfish is a prime example of how people are masquerading online as someone they aren’t. The shows aim is to expose people who are lying about their identity to gain companionship, money or just to hurt somebody. The show demonstrates how easy it is to create a fake persona and how devastating the consequences can be. There are scenarios however where people choose to create a false identity because they are embarrassed or don’t wish there friends and family to view them differently. In these instances having another identity can be extremely useful.

Overall, having multiple online identities can be harmful when in the wrong hands. If used productively however it can be a useful tool that can aid many people in their online and offline lives.

Word count: 400

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3 thoughts on “Topic 2

  1. Hi Tom,

    I really liked your first points that suggest that anonymity may induce negative responses online and your uses of real world examples really helped to explain the point well.

    Furthermore, I agree that anonymity can also be seen as a positive. For example, people may be scared to post certain views through fear of being criticised or ridiculed, but being anonymous may give them an outlet to express their views openly and honestly. I believe that a level of anonymity online is a positive, as long as it is not abused and used negatively.

    Would you also agree that having multiple identities in the context of separating your personal profiles from the professional? Personally, I have one identity consisting of my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram accounts etc. I also keep a detached identity where I remain more professional, mostly made up of my LinkedIn account. This works well for me as I am able to keep my professional and social lives unassociated.



  2. In the main, I agree with the points you make and feel that you have identified a number of key aspects about the positive and negative implication of having multiple online identities and the reasons for why any individual may chose to do so.

    In particular, I was stimulated by your examples of channels that have elected to ‘do away’ with internet anonymity. Whilst the case studies you use point to internet anonymity as being a somewhat volatile tool, I feel that your analysis of this, ‘where anonymity is present people feel able to say things they might not say in a real life context’ – provides the foundation for an interesting debate. Could this be construed as a negative thing? For example, were voter anonymity to be revoked during elections, it is likely that less people would vote/vote for more mainstream parties and the resulting government may not represent the population. As such, Internet anonymity could potentially act as a useful tool for gauging accurate public opinion on a variety of subject matters.

    I would be interested to know your thoughts!



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