Whilst some individuals are wary of revealing merely one online identity, there is much debate over having multiple. Many (including Facebook creators) believe that authenticity, which describes the genuine nature of one’s online persona, is greatly important in online networking. Others believe that we are multifaceted; which is creatively reflected when anonymity is maintained, and allows people to explore avenues when not restricted by their names or “real” identities. Anonymity permits individuals to have multiple identities whilst interacting on the web (Krotoski 2012).
Casserly (2011) believes maintaining several identities through social media is one of the most useful powers of the web.
[Multiple identities can be used] as a marketing tool, in order to reach the most valued niche audiences possible, [therefore] fragmenting your interests into separate social media accounts seems worthwhile. Why water down your message with unfocused or unwanted content?”
– Meghan Casserly, Forbes, 2011
Using the example of Richard Laemer, marketing executive (and owner of 5 Twitter handles, 6 blogs and a Facebook group), Casserly likens this ability to having J.K.Rowling’s “horcruxes”; splitting one’s soul to increase the odds of survival.
Personal and professional development are integral aspects of medical school training, and it is argued that separating your personal and professional lives is beneficial. As I discussed previously, White(2013) stressed how common it was for healthcare professional students to blur the line between these boundaries through social networking, and this may be “in conflict with requirements of professionalism and confidentiality”. A suggestion of this article was to integrate networking policies into our training, but I feel this will be difficult to employ.
In actual fact, there has been a recent shift towards creating separate social identities. I have observed many colleagues changing their Facebook names from <FirstNameSurname> to <FirstNameMiddleName> as an attempt to preserve social anonymity.
Here is a TEDxTalks about the matter:
Conversely, multiple identities allow for malicious, negative online behaviours such as “trolling”. In the past few years, Ask.fm has received some spotlight with regard to cyber bullying. Knibbs (2013) comments on how Ask.fm’s focus on anonymity is problematic as it increases the chances people are going to troll and abuse each other. Multiple identities may make people question an individual’s authenticity; especially due to the recent phenomenon of “Catfishing”. Casslery (2011) makes the point that online personality “jugglers” should beware of the social toll of spreading themselves a little too thin, as fragmenting your personality makes it difficult to be a person “offline”.
Alex Kroski, 2012. ‘Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?’ Guardian Technology. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity [Accessed 23rd Feb 2016]
Meghan Casserly, 2011. ‘Multiple Personalities and Social Media: the Many Faces of Me’. ForbesWomen. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/01/26/multiple-personalities-and-social-media-the-many-faces-of-me/#4823643f5e5c [Accessed 23rd Feb 2016]
Multiple identities image – Indulgy
Voldemort GIF – Giphy
Jonathan White, Paul Kirwan et al, 2013. ‘’Have you seen what is on Facebook?’ The use of social networking software by healthcare professions students’. BMJ. 3(7). Available at: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/7/e003013.full [Accessed 23rd Feb 2016]
Facebook screenshots and correspondence. Consent was given for the use of these screenshots.
Kate Knibbs, 2013. ‘Is Ask.fm the internet’s neverland, or just a haven for adolescent bullies?’ Digital Trends. Available at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/ask-fm-cyber-bullying-epicenter-or-just-another-social-network/ [Accessed 23rd Feb 2016]