One of the results of the Web 2.0 and the rise of social media has been identity construction in online settings. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s scholars studied ‘online’ identities versus ‘offline’ but in the last decade the surge in use of social media has meant that the distinction between personalities on and offline has started to blur (Cover, 2015). The rise of access through mobile devices and the physical distance between the user and the audience has meant that the notion of impression management has changed (Bullingham and Vasconcelos, 2013).
Impression Management is a concept introduced by Goffman (1959) who argues that within all social interactions we all have a front stage where we perform for an audience, these are known as our identities and they change depending on audience and to maintain good impressions of ourselves. If we fail in our performance we then ‘lose face’ (or get embarrassed) and our social relationships damaged or severed. This theory of presentation of identity has been heavily adapted to online and can be used to be a good argument for or against creating multiple identities.
Within professional identities, reputation is very important thus you want good impressions for a variety of reasons, but usually you want it to further your career.
Similarly within personal identities you want to make good impressions in order to seem authentic and maintain good relationships.
As you can see in figures below there are advantages and disadvantages of both perspectives.
Using Marwick and boyd (2010) and the concept of contextual collapse it is heavily regarded as beneficial to have multiple identities online as you can disclose carefully to a chosen specific audience. However single identities match more of a post-modern coherence approach where people expect you to narrate your life and be authentic and trustworthy.
van Dijck’s (2013) distinction between ‘self-presentation’ and ‘self-promotion’ highlights where you can do both on social media.
If you’re serious about finding a job, definitely keep all of your personal profiles private in order for any innappropriate pictures to be seen by employers. Maybe think about creating a LinkedIn account. (Jones and Swain, 2012).
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Cover, R. (2015) ‘Digital Identities: Creating and Communicating the Online Self.’ London: Academic Press
Goffman, E. (1959) ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life .’ New York, NY: Random House