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What Is Your Network Identity?

What is your network identity? Read to learn more.

Watch some University of Southampton students talk about their approach to managing their network identity.

Network Identity

Having grown our network by making reliable new connections, we should think about how to maintain and manage those connections and how to present ourselves to our network.

Our digital differences – the different social, technological and personal factors we are subject to – impact on how we choose to present ourselves to our network.

We can choose a single identity which is easily identifiable as us across all platforms. This could be as simple as using our real name and picture on all our social media platforms, our email, our blogs, and on sites or services we register with.

Or we can adopt multiple identities for different contexts (such as professional and personal) or on different platforms – some of which may be anonymous, some of which may be identifiable as us.

Whichever network identity type we choose, we will always need to make active choices over what we:

  • create, post and share,
  • contribute to communities and social networks,
  • like and comment on,
  • respond and reply to or repost/retweet,

because these types of actions help us to bring value to our network. In network terms, the value which our identity has is important because the more value we bring to the network, the more effective our network should be when we decide to use it.

Single Identity

Single identity: advantages:

  1. Consistent presentation of image (good personal branding).
  2. Trustworthy (no separation of personal and professional, nothing to hide).
  3. High levels of integrity / authenticity.
  4. Easy for others to find and connect to us.

Single identity: disadvantages:

  1. The personal and professional, formal and informal are mixed up, which can lead to ‘unintended’ negative effects.
  2. Is it really possible to be authentic online? Check out this Guardian summary of the key issues and a detailed First Monday review of Facebook’s position on this subject.
  3. Higher risk of identity theft. According to Cifas, a British leading fraud prevention service, just under 190,000 identity frauds were recorded in 2018.
  4. Lack of privacy (you leave a traceable digital footprint).

Multiple Identities

Multiple identities: advantages:

  1. Can separate the personal from the professional
  2. Improved privacy and security
  3. Can manage your identity to suit your contexts
  4. Less risk of ‘unintended’ negative effects

Multiple identities: disadvantages:

  1. More profiles and accounts to manage and check
  2. Higher risk of appearing inauthentic or of lacking integrity
  3. Less trustworthy

Anonymous Identity

Anonymous identity: advantages:

  1. Increased freedom of self-expression
  2. High levels of privacy and security
  3. Can provide a voice to oppressed or threatened people whose safety may be compromised if their true identity is revealed.
  4. Very small risk of ‘unintended’ negative effects

Anonymous identity: disadvantages:

  1. Untrustworthy
  2. High risk of appearing inauthentic or of lacking integrity
  3. Enables Catfishing, Trolling, Flaming, Cyber-bullying and abuse

You might also like to listen to this BBC World Service discussion which explores the extent to which our identities are shaped by technology.

These two thirty minute BBC Four radio broadcasts exploring whether we are suffering an Online Identity Crisis and what online Authenticity involves may also be of interest, if you have the time.

The links below show what the University of Southampton students from the video think about these difficult issues:

Catherine Laws

Wil Muskett

What approach do you take to managing your network identity? Why?
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