The online identity I draw upon depends on which platform I am using as I mentioned in my previous blog.
My Twitter profile is used for networking, information consumption and dissemination and invokes a self-aware, professional identity, tweeting about current events, news, politics and advocacy.
Instagram is more of a visual platform and the identity I invoke is slightly narcissistic however I use this profile to present my fitness journey to the world. This is where I have grown an audience of 30,000 followers and whilst I don’t have personal relationships with them all I feel a sense of obligation to post at least once every day. Each post is very carefully taken until the right shot from the right angle under the right lighting has been taken.
Facebook, I use to keep in touch with friends and family but similarly as Twitter, this identity is one of news, politics and advocacy. My relationships on this platform, besides close friends, is a little one sided. I tend to disseminate information more than I actually pay attention to what others are posting. Another reason I don’t pay too much attention to Facebook is all the fake news and inaccurate information that goes around however Facebook is cracking down on this which is a step forward.
SoberGrid and Snapchat invoke the rawest and most exposed version of myself as these are safe spaces where I can connect with other former addicts. As a former drug addict the friendships and relationships I’ve built through these apps are genuine and it’s incredible that we are all over the globe yet connected and united by one common enemy – addiction.
So, which of these identities are engineered, and which are authentic? The answer is: both. I used to be under the impression that online identities were glossed over, photoshopped and hyped up versions of people’s lives. After my own experience, I now know that each identity I use for each platform is drawing from an authentic part of my personality. Like reality, I want to show the best version of that identity. As in real life we make sure we look our best with one last glance in the mirror before we leave the house; we make sure we are dressed our best before hitting the nightclub and some of us adopt popular styles in music, fashion, film and general pop culture in order to ‘fit in’ or to create our identity to the world. Do you see a similarity between crafting an online and offline identity? I certainly do.
If social media had been around when I was a kid, knowing myself as a (closeted) gay youth at the time I would have used my online identity for two reasons. One identity would be present to the world that I was your average teen with nothing but girls and dirt bikes on the mind and the other identity would be using an alias in order to connect with like-minded guys and to find people who understood me and who I felt I belonged to.
This is the great thing about the prominence of social media; you can present any identity you like to the world, and you have more control over what you let the world see. You control the narrative, the story and the perception of yourself. Social media has also allowed those from oppressed countries where women are considered second class citizens or where being gay is punishable by death, to create online identities where they can be free, interact with others and even whistle-blow to the world how awful the conditions they live in are. Without the ‘powers that be’ that control the media, access to the online world provides women in oppressed countries the opportunity to put on a megaphone and communicate to the masses without being censored or silenced. Self-expression by communicating online has ignited noticeable changes to the realities of women in these societies. The Arab women bloggers have been termed “agents of change” for the fact that when they are online, no one is in control of them (Guta & M, 2015, .p116).
Now the dating apps I’m not a fan of. Here is my take on them.
To me, curating what images, moments or identity you’d like to present is like preparing your home for a routine inspection. You tidy and clean before the inspection to a point where it is tidier than on a normal day, but you’d like it to be seen in its best light. It’s still the same place, just intentionally presented in a way its audience will appreciate.
All other images or videos are owned by the author
Guta, H. & M, K., 2015. Veiling and blogging: Social Media as Sites of identity Negotiation and Expression among Saudi Women. Journel of International Women’s studies, 16(2), p. 15.