Performing my Identity Online

ALC201 Module 1: Critical Exercise 

The implications of digital identities relies on accuracy of information, whether we are being ourselves or creating ourselves (Claypoole & Payton 2012, p.61). The revolution of social media sites have posed to users as a ‘potential for trying out versions of the self’ (Smith & Watson 2014, p.75). Many social websites require you to reveal information about yourself, but often media platforms only ‘highlight certain aspects of our lives’ which makes it difficult to completely and truthfully display our identities online (Claypoole & Payton 2012, p.61). Thus causing ‘cultural commentators to question’ authenticity in ‘virtual environments’ (Smith & Watson 2014, p.75). When we are so limited with what to say about ourselves, we think more carefully about what to post.

Media expects its users to ‘actively and deliberately think about’ their online image when constructing the ‘identity they want to have’ (Gabriel 2014, p.105). While evolving media entices us to share more about ourselves online, it has also been brought to our attention the dangers of sharing “too much”. While posting personal information about ourselves might allow us to receive ‘attention and admiration’ from peers, it does not outweigh the ‘risk of a future employer uncovering’ these posts and using them as reasons not to employ you (Gabriel 2014, p.105). Therefore online identities are constrained to the outcomes of our actions, while it’s important to remain socially active with posts that attract the attention of our peers, it is also important to consider the other long term effects of our online activity.

When considering my own online persona I notice the shift between personal, professional and social posts across my many media forums. Noticeably, I will display myself according to the site that I am using. Profoundly the shift occurs between different platforms of media, for example Facebook, which I use primarily for my source of entertainment, social engagement and to show a more personal side to my identity. However Linked In is a site specifically used to construct professional identities, where you provide information about work experience and education. This site is commonly used by employers to research a possible employee. As shown in the images below, my profile for Facebook highlights my social activities. Yet my Linked In profile conveys only information about my professional life such as my educational history.

Facebook Profile

Screen Shot of my Facebook Profile

Screen Shot from my Linked In Profile

Further comparisons that can be made from these images are the profile pictures, on Facebook I have uploaded a more casual image, where I am posed with a beanie on my head that reads ‘How Bout’ No’, my Linked In profile picture shows a more sophisticated image.. Additionally, my Facebook profile brings attention to my relationship status, yet Linked In did not require this information to be a part of my online profile, while it is a noteworthy part of my identity.

The differences between these images relate to Judith Butlers research on performativity, where she suggests that ‘youth is performed via social media’ (Gabriel 2014, p.108). Butler argues that our efforts to ‘create profiles, write blogs and share photos’ are a way for us to perform our youth, how we assume adolescence should appear virtually (Gabriel 2014, p.109). By being limited to posting only information about my professional life, I am performing a role for a particular audience, being that of future employers or teachers who I’m looking to impress with my skills. When I post on Facebook, however, I do so hoping to communicate socially, to entertain and communicate with friends. Therefore Linked In does not accurately portray my social or personal identity online, in the same way that Facebook fails to portray my professional identity. My online personas are formed around the audience I am hoping to engage.

Interestingly David Marshall was able to relate Butlers ideas of performativity to the different celebrity identities presented online (Marshall 2010). Marshall argues that celebrities have many ‘dimensions’ of performance in their ‘public everyday lives’ and while their ‘primary’ performance may consist of acting or singing, they also perform through ‘advertisements, awards nights and premiers’ (Marshall 2010, p.39). Marshall also states that we are now ‘witnessing’ the ‘staging of the self’ both as ‘character and performance in online settings’ (Marshall 2010, p.39). Celebrities in turn play a large role in the construction of our own online identities, as we strive to replicate their image in hopes to also ‘gain a following and an audience’ (Marshall 2010, p.41). In this sense we are performing the role of a celebrity.

My Twitter profile is another good example of the shift between identities. Below you can see how both these tweets, followed by the hashtag ALC201 have allowed me to engage my teachers, bringing to their attention my skills which is then followed by their acknowledgement.

Tweets embedded from my @ashlie_jm Twitter profiles respectively

twitter (3)

Tweets embedded from my @ashlie_jm Twitter profile respectively

Dissimilarly, this last tweet demonstrations a shift between my professional identity and my social identity. By posting this image I do not hope to receive attention from my teachers or employers. This image indicates that I am attending a social event and therefore my desired audience is social.


Tweet embedded from my @ashlie_jm Twitter profile respectively

Further analysis of my online identities led me to create the infographic below which indicates the different uses I have for Facebook and Twitter as associated with my professional, personal and social identities.

Facebook vs Twitter

Facebook vs. Twitter at Piktochart

Here Facebook is the most dominant, which indicates to me that my social and personal identity overrides my professional identity. Likely meaning that my followers/viewers are not getting an accurate representation on my true persona. Yet is it possible to have balance between all three components of our online identities?

(917 words, excluding citations and captions)


Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.

Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48.

Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, no. 151, pp. 104-12.

Claypoole, T, & Payton, T 2012, ‘Protecting your internet identity: are you naked online?’, Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 61-83.

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