Single online Identity, versus multiple online identities, versus total anonymity

Authenticity is a key argument made for the benefit of having just one identity. It stands to reason that if everything you post online can be easily attributed to you, this makes everything you post appear more trustworthy because it’s tied to your reputation and credibility, it’s also easier and less time consuming to manage just one identity, (Futurelearn, 2018).

However there are risks tied to having a single online identity, conflating the personal with the professional can damage your credibility and have real world repercussions. Ed Pilkington pointed out that when Justine Sacco posted a racist tweet on a twitter account that was tied to her as both a professional and a public figure, this damaged her career and reputation, (2013). Having multiple identities allows for different behaviours, as van Dijck discussed. Facebook as a platform encouraged users to express themselves whereas LinkedIn encouraged maintaining a purely professional tone, (van Dijck, 2013).

With the previous example we can see how online identity is multi-faceted. People will adjust their behaviour depending upon social settings, i.e. professional workspace versus public space like a coffee shop. This is true of online spaces as well, only the social rules are dictated by the digital platform rather than the physical social setting. I believe at the heart of the online identity is the dichotomy between anonymity versus authenticity, (Krotoski, 2012). As previously mentioned digital platforms determine which behaviour is permissible, but there is also the role of state governments to explore. In Countries where criticism of the state, or access to particular information online is restricted, it becomes important to hide one’s online identity in order to circumvent this (BBC, 2018). The debate around identities is expanded on in the video I created below.

Video source: (Dodd.R, 2018)

To conclude whilst it’s easier to maintain just one online identity, multiple identities are essential for expressing different facets of our self. Additionally anonymity remains an important option but one that is worryingly, “becoming quite the luxury”, (Costa, and Torres, 2011).

Word Count: 324


BBC Guides. (2018). What is the dark web and is it a threat?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. i2Cat Foundation, pp.47-53. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Apr. 2018]

FutureLearn. (2018). What is your network identity? – Learning in the Network Age – University of Southampton. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. [online] the Guardian. Available at:[Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

Pilkington, E. (2013). Justine Sacco, PR executive fired over racist tweet, ‘ashamed’. [online] the Guardian. Available at:[Accessed 23 Apr. 2018].

van Dijck, J. (2013). ‘You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn. Media, Culture & Society, 35(2), pp.199-215.


5 thoughts on “Single online Identity, versus multiple online identities, versus total anonymity

  1. Hi Ryan,

    I love your Prezzi video, it is very good!

    For your case for anonymity, do you think arguments made in comment sections that appear to be from real people – accounts linked to another social media accounts for example, have more weighting and force in an argument, as they could be seen as more authentic than anonymous posts – like arguments in 4Chan or on the dark web as you mentioned? This maybe the case, but this example I found, “Amina Arraf” => who appeared to be authentic, but deemed a “pathological liar”, got me thinking how close this topic is to ‘post-truths’. Many in #UOSM2008 have commented for this topic, “on the internet no one knows you’re a dog” and this began to make me think about comments I’ve seen on social media and who actually wrote them – actual people or propaganda bots for example.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Adam,

      Thanks for your comment!
      The issue of authority you bring up in relation to online profiles is an interesting one. Arguably posting with complete anonymity will make the reader be more critical of a comment because it is not tied to an identifiable person. This could be said is an advantage of anonymity if the comment is critically analyzed on the merit of its own substance versus the potential legitimacy of who posted it. As the Wired article you posted expressed, it is easy to create a sock puppet account to give off the air of legitimacy, and then to reinforce this legitimacy by constructing an entire person through linked false profiles. The problem with anonymity of course is that when other posters get involved it’s impossible to tell who is supporting what argument, i.e. for instance the original poster is agreeing with their own comment. With regards to social media the use of the twitter verification mark creates a way counter the possibility of fake profiles, but access to this verification is extremely limited.

      Liked by 1 person

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