The Online You and I!

Written by Alyce Brightmore.

A person’s online identity often begins before they take their very first breath. Social media sites are constantly flooded with pictures and videos of tiny blobs inside a womb. This all seems a little bizarre to me. Is it okay that this human has now attained an online identity which they didn’t give permission to do so? Is it normal for this to happen or should we be condemning those parents who choose to put their child’s identity online before they even meet them?

Ultrasound!

Ultrasound! by Andrew Malone (CC BY 2.0)

Personally, I have no idea when my online identity begun. A quick google search shows that 2011 is the earliest time I’m publicly identified online. However, it more than likely begun when my parents would send emails to their friends and families containing pictures of me and yes you guessed it without my permission. This was the beginning of my digital footprint and online identity.

2009 marked the year I signed up to my very first social networking site, Facebook (which therefore demonstrates that my online identity started way before Google thinks). It was very simple to set-up and use and I had no rules other than not accepting strangers.  I soon linked the account to my mobile phone which started my constant connection to social media which is still present 8 years later. After Facebook came Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter. My online self and digital footprint was developing more and more.

My Social Media Timeline
My Social Media Timeline at Canva

Online environments allow for people to construct and try out different versions of themselves (Poletti 2014, pg. 75). These platforms resulted in the exploration of who I was and who I wanted to be. For example, Tumblr was a space where I would repost photos and quotes which I felt reflexed a life I was striving for and Facebook was a space where I would post real photos of my daily life. Facebook was more representative and a reality of who I was but Tumblr was an outlet to trial a new version of myself.  However, the word reality can be defined in multiple ways depending on your culture, upbringing and other psycho-social factors (Cinque 2015, pg. 5).  Therefore, what I determine to be my reality may be completely different to how others saw me (Cinque 2015, pg. 5).

Having an online identity allows for people to have an interactive life which is often co-constructed through links with others as well as allowing for people to connect with consumer products and works of art (Poletti 2014, pg. 71). Theorists of media and autobiography highlight that an online identity is a moving target which is connected by memory, identity, experience, relationally, embodiment, affect and limited agency (Poletti 2014, pg. 71).  Through the availability of multiple social networking sites users can convey some truth or no truth about their ‘authentic’ selves (Poletti 2014, pg. 75).

I often remind myself of the saying ‘don’t believe everything you see online’ because sometimes it’s almost impossible to determine the truth from the lies. I have questioned myself before when I’ve noticed a peer not being fully representative of themselves online however, I didn’t act upon it because I it felt like an awkward situation. I took to Twitter to ask what others thought about this topic.

Tweet embedded from my @AlyceBrightmore profile.

There are both positives and negatives with constructing a digital version of yourself. Some positives include being able to connect to a vast array of new people, keeping in contact with friends and family and having multiple platforms to explore and develop who you are. Possibly one of the most exciting things that comes with an online identity is the ability to “each have the world at our fingertips” (Oxley 2011, p. 1).  However, users may begin to lose touch with who they offline and question if the person on the other side of the screen is really who they say they are (Chalkley, Hobbs, Brown, Cinque, Warren & Finn 2015, p. 221-222).  People may also start to question if their own online identity is real or fake (Chalkley et al. p. 222) With this comes the issue of whether our children know the difference between their online and offline selves as they are growing up in a very digital world.

Tweet embedded from my @AlyceBrightmore profile.

Most people including myself  have multiple social networking sites which are constantly logged on. This raises safety concerns for their online privacy.  It is important to understand the need to tighten privacy settings to avoid misuse of personal online identifications (Oxley 2011, p. 2). One study found that 58% of teens didn’t think posting a picture or their personal information onto social networking sites was unsafe (Oxley 2011, p. 2).  To avoid online dangers I constantly check my settings on my social networking sites. Some settings I have changed is the ability to find my social networking sites through a google search and by turning accounts to private.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 3.48.26 pm

Screenshot of my Instagram account @alyce_brightmore, retrieved 8th of April 2017.

People sometimes create a bubble where if they don’t post what they are doing online then it didn’t really happen. It is as if they are searching for validation and to show off their lives. Both my Instagram and Facebook profiles haven’t been updated since the 19th of February 2017.  I find I don’t need the validation through likes and comments on my life and know that I don’t have to share every little detail of what I am doing.

However, this leads me to evaluate my online identity and discuss what I hope to achieve by expanding my online persona in the next weeks, months and years.

Although I stated I’m quite private online I can be found on multiple public platforms. These include YouTube where I vlogged my travels in Europe, my About.me account, my Twitter account and now through this WordPress blog site.

Through the unit ALC203 at Deakin University, I have already gained confidence within posting and sharing online. When I posted a Tweet and my peers began to engage with me I felt this sense of excitement and found myself continuously checking back on my tweet. It was almost like it was a beginning of an addiction of wanting to be active and present online.

Tweet embedded from my @AlyceBrightmore profile.

I hope to use my About.Me profile more actively as well as post a new video on my YouTube Channel at the end of the year when I visit Vietnam. I’m feeling inspired to get my Instagram and Facebook pages more up-to-date and use them as a platform to document achievements and exciting life events so that I can look back on it in years to come. Finally, I’m eager to continue my Twitter use as I believe it is great way to connect and engage. I’ve discovered it will be a key part of my future work in Health Promotion.

Tweet embedded from my @AlyceBrightmore profile.

Finally I would like to finish on this quote as I feel it reflects my opinions and thoughts of an online world, “we live in an incredibly exciting time of global connectedness and online collaboration” (Oxley 2011, p. 1).

(Word Count: 1090 not including citations and captions).

My broader ALC203-related online activity. 

During the first 5 weeks of ALC203 I have been engaging in broader activity online. Through Twitter I have posted a newspaper article related to Online Identity, reflected on the benefits of the unit and how it relates to my future career, I have asked questions to my peers about being authentic online, expressed my excitement for new social media platforms and finally created a poll to gage my peer’s opinions on the future of social networking. I also created a mind map with Yasmin and DeShawn on bubble.us where we discussed the effectiveness of Twitter.

References:
Chalkley, T, Hobbs, M, Brown, A, Cinque, T, Warren, B & Finn, M 2015, Communication Digital Media and Everyday Life Second Edition, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic.

Cinque, T 2015, Changing Media Landscapes, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic.

Oxley, C 2011, ‘Digital citizenship: developing an ethical and responsible online culture’, Access (10300155), vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 5-9, retrieved 9th April 2017, Library & Information Science Source.

Poletti, A & J, Rak 2014, Identity Technologies, University of Wisconsin Press, retrieved 8th April 2017, Ebook Library database.

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