It seems that modern life has become inseparable from social media. As a student, just simply ask myself, ‘Can I survive a day without browsing any social media page or communicating with friends via social media group?’ The answer is obvious, it’s positive that the concept of social life is no longer solely about socializing or interacting with people offline/ in a real-life conversation. With the ‘invasion’ of the Internet into our everyday life, our social life has been reconstructed. Even a ‘real-life’ conversation could happen via a virtual platform, also known as online media. Many terms have been redefined, so has our identity. With such contemplation, my concerns are: How effective is my online identity? How can I build a better online persona to help me build a better overall image? And what should I do to ensure that my online identity most confirms to my authentic personal identity? My following content will extract content from several social media of mine to construct a better discussion.
Before I go start discussing about these concerns, I should probably reflect on my own online identity first. Virtual platforms are full of strong evidence of identity, such as information like one’s body, race, gender, age, personality and ethnicity (Thomas 2007, p. 6). Therefore, one’s online identity is somewhat a reflection of his or her own image in daily life, it won’t surprise anyone to find daily selfies on social media. For myself, I like to share happy moments of my life by posting selfies, food, cute photos of my pet and other friends, just to memorize the golden days. One side of my online identity shows that I am a positive, easygoing and pet-and-life-loving girl. This can be seen from my social media like Instagram and Facebook. I believe these posts have built an energetic online identity for myself.
However, I do not get involved in virtual social life frequently. I have concerns that often prevent me from sharing more information about myself and my life, for one of the most basic concerns, is it safe? I deem personal privacy an important aspect when considering online media, because it affects our real life and we may face dire situations if our private information gets revealed without authorization. Hence, this big concern has basically prevented me from opening more social media accounts in the first place, resulting in very few posts on my Twitter.
Tweets embedded from my personal Twitter account: @annabelfeng
As many of you believe, the online persona/identity shown on the Internet may not always be true. Often, it has been perfected. As I reflect upon online identity, including mine and others, I always concern with the issue of online authenticity. The Internet is not only a useful tool for communication, but also a ‘place’ to befriend with others and can be even inseparable from one’s self performance (Markham 1998, p. 20). Consequently, we see online identity as a great ingredient of one’s whole personality. Although I would naturally doubt what I perceive regarding one’s persona via social media, I would like my own online persona to be as real as possible, so I would sometimes make fun of the difference between one’s online and offline image myself. It’s not easy to come up with some principles or rules to maintain one’s online authenticity, since it’s basically a thing up to one’s moral standards. However, I believe the best principle to build an authentic online identity is to confirm to the facts. ‘Observers’ should also learn not to trust anything at first sight and develop their own judging standards.
The following infographic shows a simple self-introduction and several social medias that I am using, including in which year I signed up for social media sites, social media use frequency and so on. It is obvious to see that I have been using social media for thirteen years.
Photograph by Annabel Feng. 16 April 2016. Image on http://twitter.com/annabelfeng
Twitter profile screenshot taken by Annabel Feng. 16 April 2016
Although online communities have its downside and many parents may want to curtail their children’s participation in such spaces, online social environments can be educationally and psychosocially beneficial by serving as a communication tool (Tynes 2007, p. 575-584). This has led to my last contemplation: what should I do to make better use of my online persona, also known as how can I achieve more through this? As a university student, I frequently use online platforms to finish my usual assignments, whether it’s done by myself or as a team work. However, as I come from a country where many internationally used media have been blocked, such as Twitter, it was difficult for me to get started at first, as everyone else has been using for years and already built an online network. So far, these ‘western’ social media have served more like a tool for me to do my work, instead acting as a real social media. Therefore, my short-term goal is to rebuild my online persona.
Specifically, I plan to set different purposes for different media. For example, I will share more about the ongoing events and results of my academic life by posting at university on Facebook, as I often use it to connect with my classmates and it comes naturally to use it to build an academic focused persona. Secondly, I plan to share more about my personal thinking and reflection upon daily happenings on Twitter, as Twitter itself is a media for sharing immediate thoughts and moments, so I think it would be an effective way to record such ideas and therefore people get to know the ‘deeper’ side of my persona. Last but not the least, I plan to use Instagram to record my colorful life, as I have already kept a good track of some of my good time in the past, and I believe it would be like a mirror of my life and people will get to know me comprehensively. Overall, by establishing a well-rounded online persona via different platforms, I hope that my friends and tutors will see me as a positive and beloved young professional, as authentic as possible.
(997 words, not including citation and captions)
Thomas, A 2007, Youth online: Identity and literacy in the digital age, Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, Pieterlen, p. 6
Tynes, B.M 2007, Internet safety gone wild? Sacrificing the educational and psychosocial benefits of online social environments. Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 22, no. 6, pp.575-584
Markham, A.N 1998, Life online: Researching real experience in virtual space, Rowman Altamira, p. 20
My broader online activity and engagement
Nowadays Twitter is playing a significant role in my academic work. It provides a platform for tutors and students to communicate, I could simply ‘Tweet’ (my twitter link: https://twitter.com/annbelfeng) my tutors to inquire about my assignment and my tutors would give me a feedback as soon as possible. Besides that, I also make tweets that relate to my unit and reflect on my study under the hash tag #ALC203. Therefore, Twitter has been a useful tool that guides my academic work in the right direction.