This week I have had my eyes open to the differences between digital identity and real identity. I believed that my digital identity is pretty much just an extension of my real identity. I portray myself online in the manner in which I do in everyday life. I assumed that everyone else was the same. But the more I try to believe that I have one true identity, digital or not, this may not actually be the case. It appears I have several identities both online and in real life. How many me’s are there? Or am I me, just on different platforms?
I have been off to London for copious amounts of flat hunting before I start my new job in October. A hectic few days of looking at all sorts of flats, meeting potential flat mates and walking for hours definitely puts a strain on the senses. I discovered during numerous viewings that I was changing my behaviour and my conversation to suit the surroundings. I hadn’t realised that I was doing this, until my friend (bodyguard in case of undesirables attacked me- I’ve been in Cornwall for two years, I need to reacclimatise to the hard London streets) pointed out that I was especially restrained in one of the viewings. This was because I didn’t want to terrify them with my excitable bubbly nature. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly comfortable in the viewing and couldn’t see myself living there, so I shall not be moving in to that flat. That particular environment made me uncomfortable and I changed my personality for that cause. Does changing your behaviour mean you are changing your identity? Do I do that on a regular basis and not notice? I thought I was me, through and through, and never changed my identity to suit different environments, people or scenarios. But now I’m not so sure. It is also the case that potential flat mates that I emailed in the digital world, sounded just my cup of tea on paper (online paper) but in the flesh were not the same, for either better or for worse.
So this got me thinking, it is only when we feel comfortable that we are our true selves? Does the online world give us that comfort? We get to hide behind a screen, are able to give opinions, and consider ourselves equal to all in sundery, while in real life, we are more likely to shy away from confrontation, and look up to people who are more experienced and know more, and look down on the lesser beings? Does digital media afford individuals with new ways of expressing, exploring, and asserting our identity in a way that can not possibly be achieved in the real world? Or is it just offering an extension of the real you, me, us? Or more probably do we have different identities for different environments??
The more I think about it, I have begun to dissect my behaviour and my identity both in digital spaces and in real places. It seems on occasions I actively choose to split myself depending on who and where I am, not majorly but perhaps sufficiently enough for there to be a notable difference. But is that actually an identity change or just a change in behaviour? In essence I’m still me, aren’t i?
Quite a few people choose to have more than one digital identity, maybe one for their work or academic life, and one for their social life. Some people try to keep these identities separate, for example a person may choose to keep their digital identities divided for different groups of friends, colleagues and relatives and many also try to separate their digital identities from their real personas. To be honest I don’t see the point of that, in essence im still me what ever platform im on, so why should I try to keep them apart? I have nothing to hide. For me the majority of people know me from more then one environment, so they can perceive a better picture of my true identity. But when placed in a scenario like a flat viewing where contact has been made in the digital space and then transferred briefly to a real encounter, how does this affect my identity and their perception of it?
Rather a lot of question marks there, and not really any definitive answers. But its worth thinking about, I think.