Have you ever been in a situation where you see a change happen to someone’s personality right before your eyes? Depending on where they are or who they’re with, their ‘normal’ shifts a little? Perhaps stemming from an evolutionary survival instinct, the subconscious desire to be liked by everyone can certainly shape us or alter the way we act, moulding our personalities within social situations – but how does this translate to our online life? A complicated relationship establishes itself when considering the merge of offline and online lives, Watson and Smith discuss how when users are constructing their own web pages or profiles, often they are revealing their true self, their very essence in the context of their choosing with no social constraints (Smith and Watson, 2014, p. 71).
The above infographic is an example of my online personas, perhaps to be considered as revealing my true self but split across various platforms. Where they may not differ too much, they do have differences based on the intended audience of each platform. My Twitter profile image is clearly showing a smart but informal version of myself, where that exact same photo is used both as a Facebook display profile and also in an Instagram post, where the previously but craftily cropped alcoholic beverage is displayed, nowhere to be seen on Twitter or my About.me page. The professional photo used to head my LinkedIn profile sets the tone as I connect on a professional level on this platform. Not too long ago people (who were often patients) with multiple personalities were considered mentally unstable, but with technological development and the acceptance of the online self performance, amongst avatars or social profiles these multiple personalities may not even be noticed.
Some produsers share a uniform front of media production across all forms of social engagement and media platforms, these users more often than not influential, celebrity or public figures or ‘brands’ which are typically more audience and performance driven than the average user (Poletti and Rak 2014, p. 79). For me personally, my exposure within online media platforms makes up an overall online presence and self representation, but my involvement within each space differs, together creating an overall online persona and presence.
Looking at this in detail, a brief spell of r(e)-constructive surgery saw my Twitter account transformed, updated and reinvigorated to correlate more so with my LinkedIn profile. Despite not previously using it frequently, my Twitter account dated back to 2009 and harboured many unnecessary and uncomfortable tweets needing to be tended to with the intention of using both Twitter and LinkedIn in cohesion to build a professional platform of communication, ideas and contacts in the field of communications I wish to establish myself in. Alternatively my Facebook profile is used for maintaining connections and conversations with long-standing friends and family, all whom I wish happy birthday once a year or cull into an online nether.
Instagram is a platform which lets me quickly share media about my personal interests, as well as follow those who inspire me and look toward influencers for ideas and news within the certain circles I follow. I have a presence on each one of these platforms tied together through an About.Me page, all of which matter greatly to the sum of my online self.
Adam Brown and Matthew Allen (Experiencing Ourselves Online 2016) discuss our inability to be who we are without some kind of online presence, as our careers, studies, love and social lives are ever increasingly online, without any presence we comparatively would simply not exist. We experience ourselves within an online world, defining ourselves from the audiences we attract. Creeber and Martin (Creeber and Martin 2008, p.115) allude that with the ever increasing integration of mobile devices to the everyday, this crucial element of the development and establishment of online persona will only continue in prevalence, despite lacking in it’s professional level of production. Parallel with offline personalities, online personas age and develop through experiences and culture, often guided and influenced by intended audiences.
Throughout the online world, understanding that we model our online selves from celebrity personas and culture, the majority of us publicly expose more online every day than in the offline world, but exposing only certain types of polished content about ourselves which proudly glorifies the aspects of our lives we want to present or display. Highlighted below by Gabriel, the youth have merely adopted this process and harnessed their own performances through it ‘…social media activities are not taking teens outside of the context of their youth or otherwise harming their self-development; rather, they reveal that youth has always been a discursive construction and a social ‘performance’ (2014, p. 109). Furthermore, understanding that users creating media and content are performing for an audience, we must also understand that these performances are measured, calculated and strategic as highlighted within Smith and Watson’s toolbox about Online Self-presentation (Smith and Watson 2014, p. 74-75, p. 79, p. 82-83). Relating to this, my online persona as mentioned previously is tailored to each platform and therefore it’s unique intended audience.
Marshall (Marshall 2010) comments on the vast influence massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) have had in creating environments and platforms for the masses involved to form and construct networks and friendships, to communicate, share and engage. Having previously spent many (way too many, actually) hours inside a virtual world using an avatar, I have a first hand account of the workings of the avatar and the veil it can provides within a computer or mobile device. The avatar gives users the opportunity to say and do things that they perhaps wouldn’t in an offline setting. MMOs have a negative stigma attached to them, one which places a dark cloud over the more invested user, but understanding just how complex and diverse these alternate realities and avatars can be is truly important in understanding variations of online and digital identities.
Understanding the importance of online identities lets us harness the true potential available to engage and communicate, create and share. With strategic use of available platforms, bodies of work are able to be broadly disseminated and accessed. Without an online identity or presence, you are unavailable, untraceable and uncontactable. In a world so heavily integrated and invested in digital prowess, communication and online activity, do you really want to miss out? I know I won’t be.
1000 words (not including citations or captions)
Creeber, G & Martin R 2008, ‘Digital Cultures’, McGraw-Hill Education, Berkshire. Retrieved 8 April 2017, Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.
Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, Selfies and Self-Harm: Young People, Social Media And The Performance Of Self-Development’, Media International Australia (8/1/07-current), no. 151, pp. 104-112.
Marshall, P D 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48.
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 3-11.
We Are Now the Product: Experiencing Ourselves Online – Talking Digital Media, Episode 7 2016, YouTube, Adam Brown, 10th Feb, retrieved 8th April 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qHg_BiT2aE
My broader ALC203-related online activity
My unit related online activity has been varied across two platforms, Twitter and WordPress. Microblogging through Twitter with thought provoking articles, subject relevant tweets which contribute to the learning process of those who come across it, but also involvement in discourse and discussion within the context of the unit. Furthering my understanding of weekly study topics, through the use of WordPress I have produced blogs shared within the unit’s hashtag. Understanding and contributing to the formation of online an community has been enlightening, where my voice is heard, acknowledged and further considered. An educative tool proven incredibly powerful and useful.