When I think about the words “Digital Identity,” my first thought is a question: “Who am I online?” This question brings up several subsequent questions such as, ‘am I the same on every site?’ ‘on every profile?’ ‘do I behave differently on facebook than I do on twitter?’ ‘Do I email differently from my gmail versus my work/school?’ – the resounding answer to these questions is pretty much the same: “I am a virtual chameleon.”
In the article “Queerness, Sexuality, Technology and Writing” created from an online MOO conversation about digital identity in 2004, Keith Dorwick states, “Things that blur boundaries are always dangerous” (37). Perhaps he is correct in this statement, but in context, Dorwick is talking about sexuality. This statement however, brings up ideas of the ways in which identities and identity markers are not necessarily distinct, but often intertwined and inseparable, both in real life and online. Can the ways in which disembodiment allows us to experiment with alternate/alternative identities in virtual spaces be ‘dangerous’?
And what about images? In “Queerness, Sexuality, Technology and Writing,” images remain largely undiscussed until more than the second half of the conversation. Eventually, the speakers begin to discuss images and especially Photoshop around page 35-36. This has changed a lot in the last 10 years as people challenge ideas of identity and identification in online spaces. Often, it seems, we are asked to share endless selections of ourselves looking into the camera from unnatural angles to hide any possible flaw in facial structure or weight.
And we don’t stop at self-portrait shots of our own faces from above, but resort to displacing self with images of our children, our pets, or even people that we have no connection to, like celebrities, or cartoons. The article “Get Your Kids Off Your Facebook Page” is an interesting look at this idea that many women chose to hide behind the image of a cute child, giving off the message that they are their children. The article discusses several reasons that many women might make the choice to use their children as their profile picture, but it does not account for the multi-identity issue many of us suffer from in the online spaces. Increasingly, I hear adults in my age bracket [25-35] admit that they are only on facebook because everyone is, and that’s the only way they ever find out what is happening. Without disclosing personal stories, I will admit that without facebook, I would have missed out on HUGE events in the lives of people I care about.
Clearly, our online identities are linked to the spaces we chose to use online, and so it is important not only to evaluate how we express ourselves in the digital universe, but how we chose to express/represent ourselves in specific spaces within the digital sphere.