OLJ 12 – Module 5 – Identity online

It’s 2013 and the social web has seen lots of development in its short lifespan. But issues around identity, privacy, security and trust are still unresolved. Social sites remain popular despite people’s concerns about their own personal online protection.

Instead of seeing positive improvement online, new social problems have emerged such as cyber-bullying, identity theft, trolling, and fraud.

Are people even trying to ‘manage’ their identity online? Twitter has shown us some very public meltdowns by well known identities who should have known better about having a public face. Acting professionally online is fine if you are indeed a professional. Is being authentic an excuse to “let it all hang out”?

There was the public rant by Justin Bieber:

“I’m 19 with 5 number one albums, 19 and I’ve seen the whole world. 19 and I’ve accomplished more than I could’ve ever dreamed of, I’m 19 and it must be scary to some people to think this is just the beginning…” (The Independent, 2013)

TV personality Charlotte Dawson was the target of some serious and hateful bullying via Twitter that resulted in her hospitalisation following her final tweet of “you win x”.

“Director of communications law centre at UTS, Professor Michael Fraser told News Ltd that online harassment was assault and that people who had taken part in the hate campaign against Dawson had committed criminal acts.  “The online world is not above the law,” Prof Fraser said. “The challenge for us is to build security into online society in the same way as we have into the physical world.”” (The Telegraph, 2012)

Personally I try to manage and control what I publish online and I am sure there are many others who take the same approach. But you only have to look at YouTube or iTunes or Twitter to see and hear that anything goes and there is an opinion, attitude, face, image, campaign, stunt, and comment for everything under the sun. I suppose it depends how seriously you wish to be considered and what privacy means to you. The more controversial someone can be the more likely they are to be noticed online and their content to “go viral” and with that the hope of making a lot of money.

Online transparency appears to be the new social currency and so people engage in these spaces fully embracing the risks they know are there. Many people are sharing so much of themselves online – they want their own voice to be heard and noticed. But Danny Brown questions this notion of transparency saying that we are not really being totally transparent especially if we are silently sitting by, knowing that cyberbullying is occurring and not speaking up against it.

It’s our friends that are being picked on. It’s our colleagues that are being affected. And, most importantly, it’s our morals that are being compromised by staying silent.” (Brown, 2013)

Pavlina Papalouka is a personal development coach based in Cyprus who, typically, is keen to emphasize the positive side of building a personal online identity.

“People today want the truth, even if it’s ugly. Sugar coating, pretense and phony posing are no longer acceptable. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into portraying you are something else that the real you – being authentic is what really matters. Those who realize this and take certain actions will succeed more than anyone else in this new environment.” (Papalouka, 2013)

This infographic by Mark Smiciklas offers some advice about how to achieve transparency when engaging with social media tools. Encouraging this open and transparent approach to online engagement seems at odds with a basic human attitude towards protecting the security of our organisations and our personal lives. Finding a sensible balance is necessary.

Social Media transparency (Smiciklas, 2013)

Social Media transparency (Smiciklas, 2013)


Brown, D. (2013). The Fallacy of Transparency in Social Media. Danny Brown – Social Media and Marketing Blog. Retrieved from http://dannybrown.me/2013/03/06/the-fallacy-of-transparency-in-social-media/

The Independent (2013). Justin Bieber’s Instagram rant: edited highlights. The Independent. Retrieved from  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iv-drip/justin-biebers-instagram-rant-edited-highlights-8535871.html

Papalouka, P. (2013). Phony is out, real is in – Transparency is the new currency. Retrieved from http://pavlinapapalouka.com/entrepreneurship/phony-is-out-real-is-in-transparency-is-the-new-currency/

Smiciklas, M. (2013). Social media transparency. Retreived from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-transparency-infographic/attachment/social-media-transparency/

The Telegraph (2012). Charlotte Dawson Twitter attack sparks call for changes to laws against cyber bullying. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/charlotte-dawson-twitter-attack-sparks-call-for-changes-to-laws-against-cyber-bullying/story-e6freuy9-1226461809720

Wikipedia (2013). Cyberbullying  – Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberbullying

Wikipedia (2013). Identity theft – Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_theft

Wikipedia (2013). Troll (Internet) – Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)