Cyber Century: My Online Identity

Are we living in an online cyber world; a place where we construct our personalities, create beliefs, generate friends, produce conversations, manufacture networks? We have to accept that we are now communicating, living and establishing our self in a computer-generated domain.

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Screenshot of my social media apps

 

I construct my online identity by creating multiple social media profiles; including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, AboutMe and Snapchat.

 

I display new profile pictures every 6 months, post regular photos and information about myself to allow my contacts to get to know me.

I refer to my online persona as the ‘intercommunicative self’; defined as someone who is “engaged in a multi-layered form of communication that kneads mediated forms with conversation, that allows photos to be the starting-point for reactions and discussion, and that produces…forms of communication that invite response (Marshal 2010, p.43)”.

I portray myself online as someone who likes to go out, attend fashion events and travel the world. Smith and Watson (2014, p.79) explain how “Narrative, profiles, images all link aspects of your experience and your character into a coherent presentation” and how it’s a crucial aspect of “managing your online reputation” and keeping your social status high.

But to be quite honest, although my virtual identity portrays a life that seems alluring and fun, it’s almost a mask for my mundane life and the not-so-happy real me I hide. Gabriel (2014, p.109) acknowledges how the internet and “social media collapses the previously distinct relations of public and private, real and virtual”.

I want to explore how online identities can be positively effective or acquire undesirable limitations.

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Screenshot of my Instagram photos
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Screenshot of my Instagram photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My online identity is effective because I can form/maintain relationships and networks.

Through social media  I share memories of family albums and exchange stories with distant relatives, I ‘share’ interesting articles and even ‘check-in’ to locations so my friends know where I am.

My simulated character allows me to further my career by connecting with publics in the fashion and media industries, like connecting through LinkedIn. I have to ensure my profiles are neat and presentable – you never know when you might get a job opportunity! Smith and Watson (2014, p.79) further recognise how “…users utilize the web to create a multimedia CV that marks ‘you’ as a brand”.  I can even study with university classmates via Twitter “in terms of increasing connectivity, sharing ideas, and online learning (Pantic 2014, p.652)”.

My virtual persona allows me to creatively collaborate and share videos, music, films and ideas via platforms such as YouTube, Vine, Musical.ly or Spotify. I bond with “networks of enthusiasts [that] identify and share material that is of interest” to me and I can thus be apart of “like-minded communities (Gauntlett 2011, p.204)”. I interact with the YouTube community; following makeup guru Lauren Curtis and celebrity fashion stylist The Rachel Zoe Report. I ‘follow’ Instagram pages such as Melbourne Foodie Finds to discover (but also recommend) the yummiest meals!

My online identity is effective because it can increase my self-esteem and lower depression, therefore obtaining optimal mental health.                                                

It’s obvious that frequently participating in “online communication with friends and family… is actually associated with a decline in depression (Pantic 2014, p.653)”, as one will feel more connected and valued.

I can also decrease my sadness by sharing personal confessions online; for self-accountability, self-revelation or help. It can similarly be beneficial for the virtual audience as a collective safe sharing environment. This could include websites that deal with weight-loss, coming-out, addiction or grief.

My online identity is effective for promoting campaigns.                                  

Having your voice heard in the world is hard enough. Developing an online persona propels me into the public sphere; enabling me to use a social media platform to advocate important messages.

A celebrity’s popularity has a clear advantage for visibility, although creating an online identity is a definite stepping stone. I used Twitter to promote the OCRF White Shirt Campaign. I ‘retweeted’ a post from my work – Witchery – to spread the message and support a create cause.

 

Lastly, my virtual self is effective because I can publish or receive content that is easy, cheap, fast, direct and not not bound by geographical locations – partly due to wireless technology such as iPhones and iPads.

 

My online identity blurs the gap between public and private, thus generating potential risks.

  1. Fraud and online theft are serious dangers that come with web 2.0. I have to be ethical and conscious about the material I disperse and receive on the internet. For example, exchanging credit card details online can be a deceptive tactic for someone to steal my money or identity.
  2. Disclosing secrets online can be an effective way of dealing with and overcoming problems. But not when it jeopardizes one’s privacy, safety or dignity. For example, one might confess to being in a homosexual relationship which in turn can cause the partner to be ostracized.
  3. I need to be mindful about the content I post on the internet so I don’t compromise my safety, security, job, family and overall reputation. For example, exhibiting drunk photos, racist language, regretful tweets or ‘sexts’. Inappropriate material posted via social media is more commonly displayed by adolescents rather than adults. Researcher Laurence Steinbery reveals that an adolescent “‘socio-emotional’ systems mature faster than the ‘cognitive-control’ systems” equating an imbalance that causes one to “make decisions and process information in a way that is more likely to emphasise emotional or social reward over potential risk (Gabriel 2014, P.105)”. This immediate gratification produced by irrational decisions can be expressed by the ‘transgressive intimate self’; defined as one who is “motivated by temporary emotion… for intercommunicative sharing, comment and discussion” arguably for “an accelerated pathway to notoriety and attention (Marshall 2010, p.45)”.

I have just crossed over from adolescence into adulthood, and I know all too well about spontaneous and regretful online choices. Nothing can be permanently deleted from the internet – as President Barack Obama said “’Whatever you do, it will be pulled up later in your life’ (Marshall 2010, p.45)”.

My online identity exposes me to others’ unrealistic expectations of the ‘self’. This puts pressure on my virtual presentation, consequently causing damaging physical and psychological effects. 

I became exposed to the flourishing world of social media in 2008 – I was only 13 years old. It was the starting point for celebrities to have a ‘public diary’ too. Their lavish lifestyles displayed on Facebook pages, Instagram photos and Snapchat videos allowed me to feel closer to the admired stars. I became a naïve teen who bought into the damaging pressure of how I should look and act. Marshall (2010, p.36) agrees how the “celebrity has been and is increasingly a pedagogical aid in the discourse of the self”. I am still constantly self-evaluating my public persona, comparing my achievements and competing with the physical/emotional/ social characteristics of others. Marshall (2010, p.35) acknowledges that an online identity “produces this new hybrid among the personal, interpersonal and the mediated”; coining it “presentational media”.  Performing of the self in an online setting can be likened to a stage – where “the props and accoutrements of the stage can now be translated to the various profiles, images and messages that are part of a Facebook site (Marshall 2010, p.40)”.

I manufacture my version/parts of my life that I want to convey to the public. For example, I only show fun images of travels or exciting events on Instagram. I would never display images of personal dilemmas, unhappy days or my face without makeup. I even go as far as editing and filtering my photos so they are unflawed. You could say I display a false reality online as I don’t reveal my true self or authentic life – I make everything seem perfect! I uphold these public standards to stay within the social norms of society. This pressure has consequently “…associated online social networking with several psychiatric disorders, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Pantic 2014, p.652)”.

Others online identities cause me to feel jealous and not good enough. This

cycleofpublicself
‘Damaging Cycle of the Public ‘Self” at Easel.ly

triggers anxiety about being seen outside in the real world (where its hard to fake or manufacture my genuine self).

This fear takes a toll on my physical self; involving lip injections, hair dye, spray tans, fashionable clothing and restricted diets.

My online identity is a harmful mask – a limitation for revealing my true self.

 

 

 

My online identity can obtain great effects and damaging limitations. Smith and Watson (2014, p.92) conclude;

“The prospect of being simultaneously self-presenters, self-curators, consumers of others’ lives, and bricoleurs of individual and collective subjects heralds a new age in which the old certainties no longer apply, but space of experimental combination are likely to provoke new formations of self, relation, and community”.

 

(1,108 words- not including citations or captions)


References

Gabriel, F. (2014). Sexting, selfies and self-harm: Young people, social media and the performance of the self-development. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, (151), pp.105-109.

Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting. 1st ed. [ebook] Cambridge UK: Polity Press, p.204. Available at: http://deakin.eblib.com.au.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2016].

Marshall, P. (2010). The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media. Celebrity Studies, 1(1), pp.35-45.

mkhmarketing, (2011). The art of social media. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing/.

Pantic, I. (2014). Online Social Networking and Mental Health. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(10), pp.652-653.

Smith, S. and Watson, J. (2014). Virtually Me. In: A. Poletti and J. Rak, ed., Identity Technologies: Constructing the self online, 1st ed. WI, USA, p.79.


My Broader Online Activity and Engagement:

Since starting ALC203 I have learnt how to create an online identity on Twitter, LinkedIn and AboutMe. I have actively engaged in the unit hashtag, retweeted classmates’ posts and tweeted questions. I have learnt how to set up LinkedIn and connect with other online public profiles in the media and fashion industries – hopefully aiding to my future career opportunities. AboutMe had enabled me to have a concise platform to self-evaluate my identity.I have learnt how to create a blog, use hyperlinks and embed posts. I actively engage in Digital Zones blog, answer his polls, read is weekly content and watch his ‘Talking digital media’ videos with other researchers/lecturers.

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