Is our online identity our only identity?

Online Identity Image
Screenshot by Sinead Malady, 8 April 2017

As a ‘digital native’, I have been a part of the digital world for many years now, however I wouldn’t have considered myself an active participant. If you went onto any of my social media profiles you wouldn’t have gotten much of an insight into the life of Sinead Malady. I uploaded a photo every now and then but other than that I was pretty much invisible. However that’s not to say I didn’t use social media. I was constantly scrolling through other people’s profiles and staying up to date with all the online goings-on. Everyone online seemed to be having the time of their lives based upon their social media profiles, which were saturated in pictures of tropical holidays or status updates about how amazing their careers/family/friends are. I certainly didn’t think I had anything exciting enough going on in my own life worthy of posting onto any of my profiles. However, as a digital media student, I have been encouraged to become more of an active user of social media rather than remaining passive.

Claudia Grinnell would suggest that I am transitioning from a ‘consumer’ to a ‘produser’ (Grinnell, 2009). Grinnell states that the ‘produser’ is the amalgamation of a producer and a consumer, therefore someone who actively participates in not only the consumption of online information, but also the production of their own innovative content. This seems to be the trend among many users of social media and the Internet as a whole. More and more we are seeing people posting their whole lives online, leading to the question of whether or not our online identity is our only identity. It could be said that who we are is based on how others see us, and if so, the online world would be a good depiction of that. Our social media profiles aim to concentrate our lives into one page, but how accurately do they capture the ‘real us’?

Online platforms give us the ability to manufacture our identity and mould ourselves into anything at all. It gives us time that we wouldn’t otherwise have to think about what we want to say and who we want to be. The world doesn’t have to see all of us, just the parts that we want them to see. Hence, the online self can often be seen as contradictory to the actual self, which has both positive and negative consequences. The negative aspect of living a conflicting life through the online world is that you have the potential to become absorbed in it and use it as a means of escape. For example gamers can get so caught up in their virtual worlds, they end up completely disregarding reality and only living life through their avatar as a form of ‘active escapism’ (Kuo et al., 2016). It is an outlet for those who perhaps feel alone and misunderstood, as well as a barrier for experiencing real life. The same could be said for those who are so caught up in all their social media profiles that they no longer value interpersonal connections or experiences. For example, many of us will go to a concert and when our favourite songs come on we’ll get out our mobile phones and start filming, only to realise after that we didn’t really get to fully experience those songs ourselves. And we don’t film these concerts so that we can go back and watch them later, we film them so that we can post them onto our social media profiles in an effort to prove how good our life is compared to others. Therefore we can see that the importance of the online world often outweighs the importance of the actual world, potentially causing us to lose our humanity.

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Pros & Cons of Being Active Online‘ at Canva

Through my own experience, however, I have found the notion of the online identity to be very positive. The process of developing my ‘online voice’ and creating a number of new profiles has been an incredibly enlightening and educational experience. I have learnt the value in developing my online identity, not just for my own enjoyment, but also for the benefit of my professional development. With the advent of social media domination, organisations are often turning to the online world as a means of gaining information on job candidates (Guiseppi, 2016). Hence, it’s becoming more and more important to stand out online and have a voice. In our modern world, not everyone always wants to listen to your opinions, thoughts or feelings, but through online platforms such as WordPress we all have an outlet for sharing ourselves in a creative fashion. However, I wouldn’t describe the process as being easy. As previously stated, most of my life I have been invisible online so the transition from passive to active media user meant overcoming a lot of my own fears of online rejection. I had the belief that nobody would care about what I had to say and that I didn’t even have anything worth saying in the first place. I came to discover that becoming more involved in the online world encouraged me to develop my own opinions where before I had none, and share them with the world, which proved to be very empowering.

It would be almost impossible to condense every facet of ourselves into our social media profiles, hence we create a number of them in an attempt to categorise our identity into different contexts. For example, we might highlight our professional self on LinkedIn, our party self on Facebook, our intelligent self on Twitter and our arty self on Instagram. We generally aren’t going to post all the negative aspects of ourselves online, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We all have flaws, however we don’t often go around flaunting them to the world. We want to maintain the online façade that our lives are perfect even if they’re not.

So, is our online identity our only identity? No, but it tends to be the one that matters.

Social media
Social Media Mixed Icons – Banner ( by Blogtrepreneur (CC BY 2.0)

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Grinnell, C. K 2009, ‘From Consumer to Prosumer to Produser: Who Keeps Shifting My Paradigm? (We Do!)’, Public Culture, 21, 577-598.

Guiseppi, M. M. E. C. 2016, ‘Mind Your Online Reputation: The Personal Branding Social Proof Paradigm And Two Little-Known Ways To Master It’, Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 32, 101-106.

Kuo, A., Lutz, R. J. & Hiler, J. L. 2016, ‘Brave new World of Warcraft: a conceptual framework for active escapism’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 498.



My Broader ALC203-Related Online Activity

Since commencing the unit, I have made an effort to become more active on Twitter in particular, and aimed to Tweet a couple of times a week about my thoughts on each week’s unit content. For example after watching Fifteen Million Merits in Week 1, I tweeted about my ideas in relation to the episode. I then created my WordPress account in preparation for the first assignment and published 3 blogs, which reflected my opinions, thoughts and ideas in relation to the unit in an attempt to discover and refine my online identity.

First Blog Post!

As an avid user of Facebook and Instagram, I have found it easy to become relatively invisible online in the sense that I post an image every so often, but I don’t actively participate in conversations with people or post any of my own statuses. However, being a digital media student, I have been encouraged to broaden my use of social media and become an active, opinionated and informative user of a variety of networks. This has led to my creating a WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn and More importantly, it has led me on a sort of quest to find my niche and my voice.

This has been an area of concern for me as I have never really voiced my opinions, thoughts or beliefs online. This, I believe, is for a number of reasons – the primary reasons being fear of rejection or ‘hate’ and the belief that nobody would really care about what I had to say, along with me not actually feeling like I have anything to say anyway. Hence, I find myself attempting to find my voice in a world that is completely overcrowded with voices.

Through this process I am beginning to realise that being an active user of social media is sort of non negotiable in modern western society. If you don’t have Facebook, people tend to assume there’s something wrong with you or theres something your trying to hide. And there are also professional implications for those who don’t participate in the online world, as many opportunities are discovered online via networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Having a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account is now like the equivalent of having computer skills. So in an effort not to get left behind within the digital media industry I am taking social media head on! #prayforme