Online Identity

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Digital communities are now omnipresent in modern society. People craft and showcase their identity through the expression of their interests, opinions and principles in their profiles or interactions with their online friends when they join communities of their interest or social networking sites like Facebook.

Many comment that identity production through digital communities is a vivid representation of identity production in the real world hence equipping one with the skills needed for networking in the real world. On the other hand, others criticize that identity production in the virtual world is not a true representation of social networking in the real world because of the inherent differences between the real world and the online world hence this will hinder the crafting of an accurate identity in the online world. However, many are unaware of the repercussions of identity production in the virtual world. People are too drawn to its ease of communication and the ready pool of networking sites which results in them getting more and more immersed in identity production in the virtual world that unknowingly, they are compromising on the time spent with the customary face-to-face interaction. This is my point of concern. Identity production through digital communities lacks physical indications, responsibility, credibility and patience which contribute greatly to the production of identity. Without these factors, one is hindered in crafting his or her identity accurately and at the same time, they are not able to gauge others accurately too. Hence if people solely depend on the virtual world to craft their identity, it is insufficient. People can use virtual networking sites as a practice ground but this should not substitute identity production through social networking in the real communities.

I do acknowledge that identity creation in the online world is a convenient practice ground as it gives people the freedom to create their ideal self without the constraints that one faces in the real world. Therefore, this permits people the space to venture between the various types of identities. Moreover, the virtual world provides a wide variety of communities of many different interests and people have the flexibility of accessing them anywhere and at anytime. In today’s fast-paced society, this convenience is attracting a lot of people, especially the youths, to network in the virtual world since it is less time-consuming as compared to the conventional face-to-face interaction. According to Danah Boyd who wrote an article titled “Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace” explains that youths like to interact in the virtual because it requires little movement and have easy access to youth communities without the interference of adults. (Boyd, 2006) However, this becomes a concern if people are spending so much time on virtual networking that it compromises the time spent socializing in the real world. Not only so, according to Sherry Turkle, a MIT sociology professor, she noted that people actually find that living in the virtual world is more “fulfilling than their real lives.” (as cited in Mihelich, 2007, para 17) This is especially worrying if people are getting so tied up in their fantasy that they are losing touch from reality. She also suggested that the crafting of identity in virtual world might be detrimental if it actually mobs out other parts of life, backing up her claim with statistics that people are spending too much time, about “80 to 100 hours a week” (as cited in Mihelich, 2007, para 18-19). This is the equivalent of spending 11 to 14 hours each day, which is half the day, on one’s virtual identity. When you take into account work, study and resting time, there is literally no time for socializing in the real world. In my opinion, people should focus more on identity creation through socializing in the real world instead of the virtual world. This is due to the various...
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