Digital Identity

Digital identity and how a person represents themselves–privately or to the public–through social media is an important issue to talk about. Digital identity is how one presents themselves on social media–giving out information, personal details, etc to the public or privately. On social media, one can either be their “true” self–chronicling their life and posting about their day or life events. Or, one can represent a totally different persona from their everyday lives–one that is separate and is an identity solely for social media use. It can be hard to tell what identities are fake or authentic, thus also being aware what information being put out there is true or not. An example of this can be people impersonating celebrities on social media. The public can believe fake news that is being posted by this impostor celebrity account.

Erika Pearson writes in her article, All the World Wide Web’s a stage: the performance of identity in online social networks,” to describe digital identity through a glass bedroom metaphor. She describes it as:

“Inside the bedroom, private conversations and intimate exchanges occur, each with varying awareness of distant friends and strangers moving past transparent walls that separate groups from more deliberate and constructed ‘outside’ displays. The glass bedroom itself is not an entirely private space, nor a true backstage space as Goffman articulated, though it takes on elements of both over the course of its use. It is a bridge that is partially private and public, constructed online through signs and language.” (Pearson, 2009).

So, a user can decide whether to share their information to the public or private. Even if this information is on a private account, it’s still ‘out’ there in the public in the digital world. That private information can be spread out to the public by one of the user’s followers–unknowingly that that information is being shared outside the realms of that digital platform. If a user has their account on public, it is shared to a whole network, a global community–anyone can see it.  That information can be shared publicly–to ‘outsiders’ (strangers) and ‘insiders’ (friends/family). Another thing to point out is information that is being shared can reach the wrong person–so initially it wasn’t intended to be seen by a particular person/group or taken the wrong way. It can explode because it is presented ‘onstage.’ Also, a user who is ‘hiding’ (they are not posting as their ‘real life’ self) can present information falsely to a wide group of people. Although, it can depend what the user is using their social media platform for, so that is not always the case.

There’s a lot to consider about digital identity. Professional organizations should consider their OWN digital identity and what is being sent out to their users and to take in account what other users, organizations and networks will see this information–how the information will be passed on. Another consideration is to take into account of what organizations/user identities (ones to follow) seem credible, authentic and valid.


References:  Pearson, E (2009). All the World Wide Web’s a stage: the performance of identity in online social networks. First Monday, 4(3): 1-7.


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