Online Identity: The More The Merrier?


Anonymous “Million Mask March” (

Creating an online identity is akin to painting a white mask; the wearer can choose to paint an entirely different identity while remaining anonymous, or an authentic depiction of one’s true self. An online identity is essentially a social identity that one establishes in online communities and websites, as an actively constructed presentation of oneself. (Wikipedia)


Various Social Networking Sites (

With social networking sites presenting users with tools specifically designed to help individuals create a digital impression of who they are (Manago, Graham, Greenfield, & Salimkhan, 2008), many users are able to create an online identity that portrays themselves in a flattering yet authentic depiction. A study published in the journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” shows that avatars – the icons users customize in Internet forums and video games – are good depictions of the people who created and customised them. (Sifferlin, 2015) This shows a group of users on social networking sites who are authentic, usually having a single online identity.

Another group of users create false identities under a cloak of anonymity online. They usually have multiple online identities, in which different identities are used for different sites, portraying different personas respectively. The difference between these personas and the user’s real offline self can vary. For these users, especially emerging adults, social networking sites present enhanced opportunities for them to try out different aspects of their identities; allowing users to gauge their friends’ opinions of their online performances. (Valkenburg et al., 2006) Psychologists argue that the use of anonymous online identities is valuable for self-development. (Krotoski, 2012)


Facebook Q3 2015 Statistics (

With major social networking sites such as Facebook and Google on the pursuit of online authenticity, as seen in Facebook’s recent “Real Name” policy (, 2016), the argument has shifted from authentic vs anonymous identities to one vs multiple online identities.

My personal take is that I am for having multiple online identities; with the main benefits being security and privacy. Firstly, secondary identities allow a user to communicate, browse, and purchase online with less vulnerability of information theft or hacks. Secondly, multiple identities benefit the user by separating personal and professional life. A study shows that employers use social networking sites to divulge information about employees which can affect their career negatively. (, 2016) Thirdly, I believe that a user can still be authentic while having multiple identities. For example, one can keep in touch with family and friends on a Facebook account, while having another identity on Twitter for being more open about random topics or world affairs. Both still reflect the true nature of the user. As exemplified by a social media researcher for Microsoft Research, “Different sites, different audiences, different purposes.” (Danah Boyd, 2010)

To end off, I’d like to share a TEDx video about how social media shapes our identities.

[440 words excluding citations]

List of references: (2016). Number of Employers Using Social Media to Screen Candidates Has Increased 500 Percent over the Last Decade – CareerBuilder. Available at: (Accessed: 7 November 2016)

Danah Boyd (2010). “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58.

Krotoski, A. (2012) Online identity: Is authenticity or anonymity more important? Available at: (Accessed: 7 November 2016).

Manago, A., Graham, M., Greenfield, P., & Salimkhan, G. (2008). Self-presentation and gender on MySpace. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 446-458. (2016). Community Support FYI: Improving the Names Process on Facebook | Facebook Newsroom. Available at: (Accessed: 7 November 2016)

Online identity (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 7 November 2016).

Sifferlin, A. (2015) What your online persona says about who you really are. Available at: (Accessed: 7 November 2016).

Subrahmanyam, K., Reich, S., Waechter, N., & Espinoza, G. (2008). Online and offline social networks: Use of social networking sites by emerging adults. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 420-433.

Valkenburg, P.M., Jochen, P., & Schouten, A.P (2006). Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents well-being and self-esteem. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 9, 584-590.

Zhao, S., Grasmack, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital Empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1816-1836.

3 thoughts on “Online Identity: The More The Merrier?

  1. kayemcarter says:

    Hi Shafiq!
    I really enjoyed your post as I think you covered the aspects of how us humans enjoy putting on different personas depending on the platform, or context we’re in. However, I think you could have talked about the disadvantages of having a single or online identities, and why this whole thing is even an issue. So, what do you think? Why does this issue even matter?

    Also, if I choose to have a single online identity, does it neccessarily mean that I’m displaying my true authentic self on my profile? ( Meaning online self = offline self)


    1. Shafiq Mazlan says:

      Thanks for the comment Kaye!

      To answer your first question regarding the disadvantages of a single online identity, I believe the main disadvantage would be the compromise of security and privacy. With advertisement services knowing your history of website visits and online purchases, and the vulnerability of information theft and hacks, online security is at stake when a user only has one online identity. Employers are also able to obtain information about your personal life that might affect your career negatively.

      As for your question regarding authenticity from having only one online identity, I would disagree. A user may have only one online identity which he uses to communicate with others and purchase things online, but the persona displayed may be entirely different from the user’s real true offline self.

      Similarly, as mentioned in my last paragraph, a user with multiple identities is still able to display his true authentic self in one or more identities.


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