Single Identity vs Multiple Identities – what’s best for you?

Copyright the New Yorker Collection 1993. Peter Steiner From All rights reserved.

Since the New Yorker published their now-famous cartoon in 1993 (Fleishman, 2000the idea that no one knows who you are online has “run and run and run” (Cavna, 2013). Cartoonist Peter Steiner’s take on online identity marked the start of a debate between a single online identity or multiple.

A single online identity is a mirrored one, where online persona and activities match those offline. This would be true across platforms that you use, everything is concurrent and linked. This is easy to manage, as it doesn’t involve having to think about posts and activities. In this way, since an individual’s online identity will be similar to their offline identity, it is easier to trust that this individual is who they say they are. This does, however, have issues. If an individual has a single online identity and it is not tightly managed, it can damage their reputation, employment prospects or other aspects of their life. Although, some people believe in a different kind of single identity (Vronay, 2014). I talk a little bit more about this below.

An alternative is multiple online identities. This is effectively selecting what is relevant to a certain context and applying it. An example of this is using LinkedIn for professional updates, rather than personal, allowing a user to compartmentalise, and best promote themselves online. Separating your professional and private life is often touted as the best way to represent yourself online (BBC News, 2013). Having a blog where you represent yourself, and control your online identity is touted as a valuable tool too (TheEmployable, 2014). This, however, takes time for the user to consider material and a certain level of digital knowledge.

In conclusion, having multiple online identities offers a higher level of flexibility, but at cost. Until a single online identity can be centrally managed, manual multiple identities is the best way forward. There is also scope to introduce the issue of anonymous identities into the debate…(Krotoski, 2012)

Word Count: 329

Reference List;

BBC News. (2013). Is your virtual self employable?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

Cavna, M. (2013). ‘Nobody Knows You’re a Dog’: At 20, Web cartoon as true as ever.. [online] Washington Post. Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

Fleishman, G. (2000). Cartoon Captures Spirit of the Internet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

TheEmployable. (2014). How blogging can help you get a job. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

Vronay, D. (2014). The Online Identity Crisis. [online] WIRED. Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].






2 comments for “Single Identity vs Multiple Identities – what’s best for you?

  1. adamderann
    27th April 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I would like to have seen you consider that Digital Residency is a spectrum, not a binary choice YOU SPANNER

  2. 4th May 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Great to read your perspective on single and multiple identities. Your “fill in the blanks” paragraph at the end was really inventive and engaging, for a blog post. I completely agree that having multiple online identities is beneficial, until a more efficient method of handling a single identity is available. In your voice note, you speak about how Vronay has suggested that online interactions are very different to real life situations, in terms of a single identity. It’s an interesting point as most of the time, people think of virtual life as more of an escape, but in this case real life interactions with different people allow you to keep conversations and feelings separate. Although some people just have a single online identity and this is deemed more trustworthy, it could also be a complete façade. What are your opinions on this single identity also being untrustworthy?


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