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.
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
- Online article accessed 27/10/2016: http://www.openu.ac.il/personal_sites/ina-blau/download/Blau%20&%20Caspi,%202010.pdf
- Online article accessed 25/10/2016: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~kiesler/publications/2013/why-people-seek-anonymity-internet-policy-design.pdf