What do you call a person who changes their identity the way they change clothes? You might outright think double-faced, but the creation of identity is much more complex than deception. For instance, the version of you known by your friends might be slightly different, if not totally, compared to the one known by your family. We are also different than the people we were years ago. We grow and evolve, and our identities are highly dependent upon our social situations. While these changes might not be sudden or conscious, it is much more vivid in terms of online identity curation. A study by Bullingham and Vasconcelos (2013) on online identities with reference to Erving Goffman’s work brought to light that most people re-create their offline selves in the online space to create their unique online identity. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that as we grow in our offline lives, similar changes can be seen in our online persona. Here, I shall discuss the evolution of my online identity as an aspiring writer.
My first interaction with the writing community heavily relied on anonymity. As presented in a survey-based study by Keipi, Oksanen & Räsänen (2014), anonymity allows internet users to share aspects of themselves, or live their authentic selves. This is most common for people with low self-esteem and fewer offline friends. As a bullied teenager, I found solace in venting about my day-to-day struggles in form of semi-fictional entries. I made friends who were going through similar experiences and also got suggestions from mature readers and writers on the platform. My pen name during the period was lonely_girlie.
However, as the years progressed I became more and more confident about my identity as a writer and created a WordPress blog named, From My Perception. In this blog, I wrote about various taboo topics such as the Kumari Tradition of Nepal, the politics behind religion, and so on. My online persona during this period was a social activist, which was mainly influenced by my friend who was an aspiring journalist.
Soon after, I landed a few internships in magazine houses and advertising agencies. As I was exploring my career options, I fell in love with the art of copywriting and stuck with advertising. The hectic 9 to 5, which often extended to midnight left me no time for my creative pursuits. However, one night, tired of writing exactly what the client wanted all day long, I hopped back to blogging with a new WordPress blog Wild Scared Crazy. I never posted anything as I got sucked right back into the corporate cycle.
A few years later, I quit my job to pursue postgraduate education, and covid hit less than a month after. Although I was freelancing during the lockdowns, I had more than enough time for my blog and started posting poetries. Soon I made some new friends, even guest blogged for some of them, and had them featured on mine. As my popularity on the blog increased and I grew more familiar with the platform, readers, and other writers, I decided to create Instagram to reach out to more readers.
Delving deeper into each of my identities, it is crucial to note that I wasn’t the sole creator of my online persona. It was co-created by people who invested their time and effort in reading and interacting with my profiles on each platform. Communities I found on each platform highly impacted the people I reached and the kind of content I created. For any branding, in this case, personal branding, communities play a very crucial role, such as information sharing and the construction of the social structure (Hatch & Schultz 2010).
Now that I am trying to break into the Australian content industry, I revamped my poetry blog into a professional website with links to many of my previous works. With this new change, I am trying to create my online persona as a trustworthy and experienced communication specialist.
Although my online persona has evolved over time, my previous digital footprints still make an impact. As Smith and Watson (2013) stated in their toolbox about online self-presentation, anybody with simple internet skills can dig in to trace all my previous online persona. This brings to the question in relation to online persona creation. Do we create a new online persona over the years, or is it the same persona growing with the years?
Bullingham, L & Vasconcelos, AC 2013, ‘“The presentation of self in the online world”: Goffman and the study of online identities’, Journal of Information Science, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 101–112.
Hatch, MJ & Schultz, M 2010, ‘Toward a theory of brand co-creation with implications for brand governance’, Journal of Brand Management, vol. 17, no. 8, pp. 590–604.
Keipi, T, Oksanen, A & Räsänen, P 2014, ‘Who prefers anonymous self-expression online? A survey-based study of Finns aged 15–30 years’, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 717–732.
Smith, S & Watson, J 2013, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolkit about Online Self-Presentation’, http://www.academia.edu.
lil artsy (n.d.) Person Sketching on Paper, Pexels, accessed 14 December 2022. Available under Free to use Pexels license
Joshi, S 2022, Summary infographics, Made on Canva