Creating Identity Online
“We remodel our self-image to fit pictures taken at previous moments in time. Memories are created just as much as they are recalled from photographs; our recollections never remain the same, even if the photograph appears to represent a fixed image of the past.” -Jose Van Dijck
It is important to not attach our identity to photos. Photo’s are simply a one sided and distorted view of our physical selves. Social media is built around attention grubbing. People posting want as many views or hits as possible and people will do whatever it takes to get it, including being somebody else. In some cases, action online can influence real life behavior for example if you get 100 likes on a photo or a bunch of new followers on Twitter, it can act as confidence to use in the real world. The reasons for which people misrepresent themselves are many times shallow, superficial, or to please their ego. However self-centered and hollow these attentions seekers may appear, it is important for those on the outside to remember that the true motivation is due to the fact that none of these people want to be alone. However, is not loneliness just another form of the ego?
The use of false identity is a trick that is centuries old but ever since the birth of the internet it has become even easier to use a fake identity. Our modern world continues to grow using technology and networks. Social media is the most popular communication network, allowing people to put their identity online. But creating your identity online allows for anyone create a dual identity. This split persona consists of their online personality and who they are in real life.
Because the internet has become such a vast place, it is impossible to meet everyone online. We have began using avatars to represent us in the online world and interact with people all over the world. Researchers in Toronto looked into the way we judge people based on their online avatars.The research was conducted by asking 100 people to to make avatars of themselves. Then, 200 other people were asked to rate the avatar based on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. It is not always easy to detect personality traits based on an animated version. The results showed that it was easier to recognize being outgoing or anxious instead of the more internal traits but it was easier for people with “agreeable traits” to portray their personalities accurately through their avatars.
“Specific physical traits of the online characters helped translate personalities more than others. Smiles, brown hair, sweaters and open eyes were more likely to come across as friendly and inviting, compared to avatars with neutral expressions or those that didn’t smile. Avatars with black hair, a hat, short hair or sunglasses were less likely to come across as friendly or desiring friendship.”
Further proving that our online actions and impressions seriously impacts, not only our online network, but our real life network.
Amina Arraf, a Syrian American and 35 years old when she started posting on her blog titled Gay Girl in Damascus. She was very liberal with her political views and her sexuality and she posted about it, along with descriptions of her daily life in Syria.
In June of 2011, Arraf was walking to meet a friend when she was kidnapped by 3 young men. Arraf’s cousin posted the details of the kidnapping to her blog, and after further investigation, Andy Carvin, an NPR journalist sent out a tweet mentioning that no one who had ever interviewed Arraf has met her or spoken with her on the phone. And then after more and more people began to question the identity of Amina Arraf, she was unveiled. The Wall Street Journal has discovered that Tom MacMaster, a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh was using photos of a woman living in London to create a fake identity. MacMaster had created fake Facebook, Twitter, and email addresses pretending to be a girl Middle Eastern gay girl named Amina.
Tom MacMaster, having very strong beliefs about the Middle East created the identity of Amina to credit his ideas. In this instance, MacMaster is like a puppet master by lying about his identity and portraying himself as another person with necessary traits to gain authority, attention, or even profit.
Psychologists and sociologists who have studied usage habits on Twitter, Facebook and popular dating sites are now saying there’s little correlation between how people act on the Internet and how they are in person. Research shows how personality traits are filtered online with assistance from messaging services that are instant like Facebook chat. “Digital-health experts have observed numerous transformations when someone ascends the Internet’s world stage. Whether a person is overly chatty or arrogant on Twitter doesn’t necessarily reflect on how he or she acts in the real world.” Which is why people tend to exaggerate because they have the time to edit and revise.
As we know, perception is everything; especially in the world of social media. In terms of perception, we all have an ideal self. We all wish to maximize our careers, our profession, and aspire to be like those who we find most successful. As the use of social media continues to evolve; the concept of presenting our ideal selves versus our real selves has become more and more prevalent on social media platforms.
“As research suggests, your “real self” is what you are – your attributes, your characteristics, and your personality. Your “ideal self” is what you feel you should be; much of it due to societal and environmental influences. From a societal standpoint, many of us are driven by competition, achievement, and status; hence, the creation and portrayal of our ideal selves.”
The growing popularity of online dating The dating scene has been changing over the last decade. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, approximately 6% of Internet users who are in a marriage or other committed relationship met online, compared to 3% who reported this in 2005.
42% of Americans know someone who has used an online dating site or app (11% increase from 2005)
29% of Americans know someone who has met their partner through this medium (15% increase from 2005)
This data represents a significant shift in the perception of online dating, suggesting that the stigma associated with the practice is dropping:
- 59% of Internet users feel that online dating is a good way to meet people (compared with 44% in 2005),
- 53% of Internet users feel that online dating is a good means of finding someone with shared interests (compared with 47% in 2005), and
- 21% of Internet users feel that employing an online dating service is a mark of desperation, which is down from the reported 29% in 2005.
Despite these signs of growing acceptance, an undercurrent of hesitation and uncertainty persists when it comes to online relationships:
- 54% of online daters believe that someone else has presented false information in their profile,
- and 28% have been contacted in a way that left them feeling harassed or uncomfortable.
The term catfish was made popular by the 2010 documentary film by the same name (which has also morphed into a series on MTV). It refers to a person who is intentionally deceptive when creating a social media profile, often with the goal of making a romantic connection. This deception can be elaborate, and may involve the use of fake photos, fake biographies, and sometimes fictitious supporting networks as well.
This becomes slightly more nuanced with online dating. Online dating profiles are designed to emphasize relatively personal data, including things like height, weight, age, and preferences. Users may feel pressured to alter this information to present what they perceive is their ideal self and maximize their attractiveness.
Online perception on dating apps and social networks is guided by the possibility of a future offline meeting. This means users eventually have to come to terms with the image they craft online.