The chapter “Online Identity” by Alice E. Marwick seeks to explain and provides a thorough understanding on the topic of identity, especially in the spectra of online identity and how can identity be constructed online via new media platforms. Marwick started the chapter with the definition of identity; in general and also includes definitions from various scholars.
She continued the chapter with theories of identity, while at the same referencing some of the prominent scholars that contributed to the topic of identity, such as by Erving Goffman with his theory of how people present themselves distinctively based on context and audience (1959) to a more postmodernists approach by Anthony Giddens where he referred identity as a “project” (1991). In this part of the chapter, the author mentioned other aspects that are related to identity, such as symbolic interaction, a pluralist subject, multiple self, gender and sexuality and race.
On the next point, Marwick discussed on how social media and online identity relates to one another; where she mentioned about “identity workshop” created by the internet did not actually happen, to a more in depth discussion of identity construction, identity and difference lastly the concepts of context collapse, privacy and authenticity. First and foremost, what is “identity”? I would describe myself as a woman, a daughter, a friend, a student and on a bigger scale; a servant of God.
According to Marwick (2013) in this chapter, identity can be subjective (the way we think about ourselves), representation of self (how we portrayed ourselves in streams if culture and media), or self-presentation (our presentation of self to others). She also added that the three points mentioned above can indicate our individual personal identity, or as a social identity in a group. Furthermore, according to Boyd 2010; Wynn & Katz 1997; Papacharissi 2002; Baym 2010, they agreed that self-presentation has been the main focus of identity research.
Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter where users choose the information and materials to show their followers on the sites. To add further, identity can at the same time be expressed through interaction with other fellow friends on the sites. Moreover, since it is hard to distinguish identity “signs” online rather than a face-to-face interaction, every single information available online is and can be used to make interpretation about a person.
The line that interests me is from paragraph 11 where it stated that “the term “online identity” implies there is a distinction between how people present themselves online and how they do offline”. In my opinion, there are no distinction or differences in portraying self, be it online or offline. As people are using social media as a platform for communication and interaction; the idea of presenting our ideal selves in contrast with our real selves has become more common. Green (2013) mentioned about the differences between your “real self” and your “ideal self”.
According to her, your “real self” is what you are, this includes your traits and personality, while your “ideal self” is what you aspire and inspire to be. This differentiation is particularly true and I can relate it to myself. I do not consider my identity to be any different offline and online. My online self is an extension of my offline self. Indirectly by being online, I have become the person I am today – my “ideal” self influence my “real” self, for example of the way I think and behave to the way I dress. In my opinion, your “ideal” self motivates you to be the person you want to be in real life.
For example, by seeing a person’s achievement and success online; it triggers my “real” offline competitive side. I am inspired to be like them. Therefore, I believed that, via social media platform, our real and ideal selves converge. All things considered, the main social media application that I used and “consumed” everyday is Instagram. I considered my Instagram account to be the place whereby my “online ideal” self to be shown the most. My Instagram feed needs to fit the aesthetics that I want and what I like in my real life.
My feed should be clean, in neutral color scheme, white background with a touch of greeneries. This feed is no different from the way I lived my offline self. Yes, although I do not wear neutrals outfits every single day, but most of my outfits are in neutrals. Among all social platforms, Instagram and Tumblr are my biggest inspiration and, it influences me so much to “reinvent” my offline self. Exposure especially from using the two social media platform, in a way, I discover what I really like, what I want to be and apply it to my offline self.
Even from the people I follow on Instagram, they are the people that I want to be in the future. Ganda (2014) stated that the social media outlets are virtual spaces for social interaction which will then serve as a way for self development. Supporting this paragraph is by Davis (2012) where she mentioned that by using social media platforms, the user has complete control over the formation of their own identity and understanding of self and have the freedom to determine their self-representation offline which is based on the feedback from their online identity.
In conclusion, Marwick’s chapter is a very good, detailed, well-written chapter that provides a broad explanation and aspects relating to self and identity. To add, the author added a lot of references in the chapter to further emphasize on the different theories about the topic. I, personally, enjoyed reading this chapter as it gave me a more understanding and clarification on some of the concepts that I was confused about. Overall, the chapter, when taken as a whole, is relevant and provides with lots of good information and references that can be applied to the AD-4311 Virtual Geographies, Space and Culture course.