My online identity

My Online Identity

I consider myself to be a heavily active participant and user of social media. Although having said that, when asked recently to undertake an audit of my online identity, I found that I wasn’t as active as I first thought. This surprised me.

Facebook is my most used form of social media. I rarely call anyone using a phone number anymore, and when it’s much easier to contact them via Facebook Messenger, why would I?

Whilst I’m active on Facebook (I scroll through Facebook marketplace, comment and post in various groups, and manage many clubs and business pages daily), the last time I posted anything on my profile was two and half years ago. The time before that, another year prior. If you were to look at my profile, you wouldn’t be able to see the posts anyway, as I keep my profile set to private, to be viewed by friends only.

What I discovered about my online identity was that it is one that I like to keep hidden. Even my cover photo, the image of the shoes above (my groomsmen and I), hides my identity.

This was not always the case, however. As social media has changed over the years, and as I’ve become more aware of some of the ethics (or lack thereof) that these major companies adhere to, I have begun to share less and less of myself.

For the rest of this blog I’m going to dissect three of my Instagram accounts, and look at how they differ in terms of the audiences, and authenticity.

@matthill_timill

I setup this account prior to going on a trip around Europe with my wife. It was a way that we could update our families on our adventure and share photos of our travels. Unrelated to the trip, a few years later I decided to eat an ice-cream every day for a year. I used this account to keep a record of my progress throughout the year. I last posted to the account two years ago, although I do access it weekly to follow a small number of friends.

Audiences
The account has always been set to private, so the potential audience (followers) have always needed to ask for permission to view the images. I currently have 43 followers, and they are all either family or close friends.

Authenticity
Smith and Watson (2013) discuss how some social media accounts can be “manufactured” or “stage-managed”. Of these three accounts, this one would be the most authentic. There is no attempt, nor benefit to, making the photos tell a different story to that which I am living. Whilst I still selected which photos to share, the choice was determined by what would give the most accurate representation of the event/situation, rather than the one that would showcase the event in the most positive light.

@scrimscrilla

This account is one I use to post about and interact with people involved with the sport of Disc Golf. I’ve only been playing for about 6 months and only setup the account recently

Audiences
This account is public so anyone can see it. I follow disc golf players and companies, mostly local, but some international, and in return my audience is entirely made up of disc golfer players.

Authenticity
Whilst everything that I post is about me, it is restricted to only things related to disc golf. Since I don’t post anything to do with my family or my work, you might look at the account and think all I do is play Disc Golf, however, it only consumes a small percentage of my time.

@melbourne_vixmen

This is an account that I co-manage with two others. It is a tongue-in-cheek fanpage for the professional netball team the Melbourne Vixens.

Audiences
This is a public account and most of the followers (2726 in total) are girls under the age of eighteen. As Smith and Watson (2013) point out, audience interaction is important, and it is more so with this account than the others. We encourage our followers to comment on our posts, and they really appreciate it when we reply to their messages.

Authenticity
The posts are never about me directly. I am never mentioned by name, and I’m essentially just one of the anonymous faces of the Vixmen ‘brand’. The posts are far from authentic as we deliberately play up the ‘male netball supporter’ stereotype.

Final Thoughts

What I learned from the social media audit was that there are a number of different personas that encompass my online identity, and that each one has a different audience, and a different level of authenticity.

References

Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self – Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95

Photos/Media either taken by, or owned by Matt Hill