#Topic2 · #UOSM2008 · Topic 2 · Uncategorized

Online Identity

Digital identity can be considered in two parts, firstly by presentation – i.e. how we choose to present ourselves and our ideas online – and secondly by reputation – i.e. how others interpret our online presence (Costa, Torres, 2011). In this article I aim to consider what type of digital portfolio is better for an individual in the online world from both a professional and personal perspective in terms of the ‘reputation’ aspect of Digital Identity, I will be arguing that multiple identities is better placed than a single identity.


(Image made by me, items in image source: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 – referenced below)

It is important for any given individual to consider their online presence from a perspective of how it will be received both from a professional perspective (by employers, colleagues, potential clients, etc), and from a personal perspective (by friends, family, online communities, etc). For purposes of simplicity it could be argued that a single identity could be advantageous as it is easier to keep track of and to remember logins on multiple sites, particularly as in the cases of Facebook and Google, accounts can be used to login to other sites. However this poses serious online security risks, more associated accounts means that more information about a person is quickly accessible, and the compromising of one account potentially compromises multiple accounts (Bishop, 2013).


(Image made by me, items in image source: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 – referenced below)

A multi-identity system using several different accounts avoids this particular problem as different accounts may not necessarily be traceable back to each other, it also allows for the separation of personal information, professional information and anonymous information.

A further advantage to multiple identities arises from the threat to job security posed by personal social media use. If you engage in debates and take positions that the company does not wish to associate itself with, make insensitive jokes or have pictures/videos of nights out easily accessible to employers, they could lead to losing a job or not being offered a job. As is considered in the book “So you’ve been publicly shamed”,  Justine Sacco is an individual who lost her job due to such issues; where as if she had held accounts with different or perhaps anonymous identities, she potentially could have avoided this leading to her losing her job (Ronson, 2015). The video below explains this from 3:20-5:19.

(Ronson, 2015)

In conclusion, the risks to a single public identity seem too great, whereas to an individual the advantage of anonymity and alternative identities seem too majorly beneficial to be ignored.



Bishop, E. “5 Threats to your internet security when using social media

Costa, C. and Torres, R. “To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society” (2011) (Accessed on 23 February 2017).

Ronson, Jon. “Jon Ronson When Online Shaming Goes Too Far. (2015) (Accessed 23 February 2017).

Ronson, Jon. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”. 1st ed. Riverhead Books, 2015.

Image References

Facebook logo, https://en.facebookbrand.com/assets/f-logo accessed 23/02/2017

Instagram logo, https://en.instagram-brand.com/assets/glyph-icon accessed 23/02/2017

Linkedin logo, https://brand.linkedin.com/visual-identity/logo accessed 23/02/2017

Pexels Creative Commons source image, https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-woman-during-sunset-194446/ accessed 23/02/2017

Skype logo, https://blogs.skype.com/skype-logo-feb_2012_rgb_500/ accessed 23/02/2017

Snapchat logo, https://www.snap.com/en-GB/brand-guidelines/#ghost-logo-usage accessed 23/02/2017

Tumblr logo, https://www.tumblr.com/logo accessed 23/02/2017

Twitter logo, https://brand.twitter.com/en.html accessed 23/02/2017

YouTube logo, https://www.youtube.com/yt/brand/en-GB/using-logo.html accessed 23/02/2017




16 thoughts on “Online Identity

  1. Great post Philip! I completely agree that multiple identities are the way to go. The video you linked about Justin Sacco is really engaging and it is scary just how big an effect can be packed into 140 characters, especially considering employers are 60% likely to screen a candidate’s social media profiles [1].

    I think that your separation between professional, personal and anonymous is good and definitely covers the main points. Expanding on this, I think it is possible to drill deeper with sub identities, you could have a persona for one group of friends and a different one for another. The decision really lies in what you want certain people to see.

    As I’m sure you have experienced keeping multiple identities cleanly separated can be challenging at times and you show this in diagram where services overlap. What tends to be your approach when you encounter this conflict?


    (148 words)


    1. Nikravan L. Number of Employers Using Social Media to Screen Candidates Has Increased 500 Percent over the Last Decade – CareerBuilder [Internet]. Careerbuilder.co.uk. 2017 [cited 28 February 2017]. Available from: http://www.careerbuilder.co.uk/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=4%2F28%2F2016&id=pr945&ed=12%2F31%2F2016


    1. Hi Jordan,

      Thank you for your comment. I have separate names for personal accounts than I do for professional ones, as well as having strict privacy settings on personal accounts such as Facebook. Generally this is so a search of my name will direct to accounts and web pages I would prefer employers to see, and so my name isn’t directly associated with anything silly, such as a series of cat videos.

      I agree that sub-identities are a further consideration to be made, however it is often the case that these can be managed from a single identifying account. For example, on Facebook I have a central identity given by what is presented on my timeline, in my pictures and through public comments. However then I also have many groups and chat groups in which I interact with people differently.



      1. I think that you have developed a good strategy there Phil. Your use of separate names I find interesting. I feel the Internet is really unique in this regard, everyone starts as black text on a white background and you can forge a whole identity without prejudice, you can truly be yourself and are valued on your reputation, not how you got there.


  2. Hi Phil,

    A really good post. I agree that separating your professional and personal identities is definitely beneficial to a large amount of people. The video you referred to reinforces this point beautifully and really brings home the idea that something you post may seem insignificant at the time but can really blow up, resulting in an outcome that you never anticipated, in this case the loss of a job.

    However, the advantages of anonymity cannot exceed the benefits of a singular online identity all the time, can it? With reference to Justine Sacco, many people have a personal Facebook/Twitter account that is easily viewable by anyone, including employers. Might the solution to having one identity be as simple as altering privacy settings and creating very definitive restrictions as to who you add/follow? For example, making sure that only ‘friends’ can see posts and also not ‘friending’ bosses.


    (149 words)


    1. Hi Ollie,

      Thank you for your comment. A well managed social media presence as you suggested with privacy settings all keeping things private would help to make a single identity more secure, however you may then be worse off as the information you want to put out about yourself may be more difficult to advertise if everything is private. I would argue that it is perhaps the case that you have a separate identity if you keep some things in a private identity and some in a public regardless.



      1. Hi Phil,

        I do agree that adding in privacy settings can inhibit how much you are able to advertise yourself online, however I feel that in order to stop a situation such as the one described in your post it is a comprise that may have to happen.

        Additionally, you can create different accounts and give them to the appropriate people. That way you are able to keep a distinction between personal professional lives where a personal and/or a professional account can be made for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.



      2. Hi Ollie,

        This supports my argument that multiple identities is generally better as an online portfolio, as managing privacy settings additionally is a way of separating identities online. If the differing accounts have different levels of privacy and are targeting different groups, it is effectively holding several identities under a single name.



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