I’ve gone by many names online; many profiles and many different avatars I’ve tried and tested to see what suited me in constructing an appropriate online profile. But a recent realisation has lead me to believe this may not have been the best idea, and I may have inadvertently subjected myself to a phase of pseudonymity that has rendered – Me – invisible online. That is to say, the “Me” which is ‘real world’.
Don’t get me wrong, I always use my real name when it comes to social media, I’ve grown out of the phase of having the catchiest screen name while waiting for the next online game to begin. But how I’ve gone about associating my real name with my online handle & pseudonym has caused one of my identities – my core identity – to fade into the background.
I don’t often google my name, mainly because I never considered the importance of an employer being able to quickly find me through a search, but I was actually disappointed that when I Googled my name – the name employers would be looking for – and I didn’t even appear as a result on the second page. Now someone might think this a good thing, being ‘invisible’ or hard to find online, however, with the effort I’ve put into building an identity, I started to wonder where I went wrong.
While I understand my handle isn’t as much a pseudonym as it is a reference point for finding me easily online, it is still THE name to search for if you want to look me up. @MarneyWasTaken rather than Ben Mahoney, despite both names being interchangeable and always displayed side by side each other, has risen to be my identity in the virtual world – but is this the name I want to be known for?
Stuart & Dark (2014) make the point of discussing, “While pseudonyms often connote disguised identity, the conceptualisation found in Post (1996) is useful in thinking more carefully about pseudonyms and their relationship to identity,” (Stuart & Dark 2014, p.1). They then go on to say how a pseudonym isn’t necessarily a misrepresentation of one’s “true” identity, but it’s only a piece of one (Stuart & Dark 2014).
Imagine my relief when I found that one identity hadn’t been overwritten by the other, but instead, worked in tandem to store information from all aspects of my online self. Knowing this, I had to consider my actions to make sure that both identities remained separate in their content but retained similar searchability online. I considered the platforms I was on – t0o many to say, and with flashbacks of Pinterest haunting me – and found some inspiration in my About.me where I began to see a method in how I could start to see Ben Mahoney appear on the first page of a Google Searches, while still being associated with @MarneyWasTaken.
— Ben Mahoney (@MarneyWasTaken) November 27, 2016
I changed the available link in my Twitter bio to my About.me rather than a direct link to my blog. I made the conscious decision to separate my audiences and allow myself to see how they stood apart from each other, and then when I understood that, I would begin to work out ways to integrate them. With being able to link all my accounts to About.me I am able to , in one way, set up a HQ for my social accounts that I can link back to and also send out in an email signature for people to visit and then, in turn, THEY chose the channel they use the most to consume my content.
Why I did this relates to Smith & Watson and their toolbox about online Self-presentation. They list a series of questions relating to Audiences, “Online venues assume, invite, and depend on audiences, sometimes intimate, sometimes not… what kind of audience does the site call for? Who does the site explicitly address and its imagined audience?” (Smith & Watson 2015, p.74). But how does this relate to my battle with pseudonymity? Well, because I have multiple accounts across several platforms, It’s hard for me to narrow down my audience and create content for them on all desired platforms. So, in asking myself these questions I help myself in understanding how the two names I go by on the internet interact with the platforms that I identify with them on.
— Ben Mahoney (@MarneyWasTaken) November 29, 2016
When I looked into my Facebook page I found there was some confusion between my Profile page and the Facebook Page I had made to post videos and blog posts too. I realised, again, I hadn’t quite grasped the necessity of refining identities, and while they still needed to be similar, the content on both differed greatly. This lead me to make a change in name and cover art of the page to help solidify the brand of the page compared to my profile. Ben Mahoney – Content Maker was born and since it’s inception has been gaining a following over the course of several weeks. The spikes you see being the days I uploaded my weekly videos.
In building my brand I’m also developing my understanding of “The intercommunicative self” as explained in Marshall. My online activity runs closely parallel to Marshall’s concept, seeing online culture as a “Spectrum of communication registers that produces an array of connected forms,” (Marshall , p.42) and in being a creator of various forms I need to learn more about the effect posting such varied content has on my intercommunicative self. In saying that I have no fears, I like to experiment with content and see what it can do for me.
One such venture I’ve taken is a series of weekly reflections all done while wearing a robe where I talk about my week and highlight the small moments of comedy through my days. Now that’s content.
— Ben Mahoney (@MarneyWasTaken) December 4, 2016
So where does this leave my current online identity? Well, to wrap it up, Kennedy (2014) paraphrases Turkle by saying online identity changes – becomes fluid and fragmented (2014, p. 28) and as I’ve discussed, my online identity is just that – fragmented but remaining fluid in its consistency and presentation. I still go by @MarnyWasTaken on Twitter, Instagram and in my URL on my Facebook Page, but that is only in handle alone, otherwise I am Ben Mahoney by name and Content Creator by title. My future goals will be to work on my brand some more, continuing to create content, and slowly build a greater fellowship across platforms. My battle with deciding who I want to go by online will still teeter between names, but when I consider my war on pseudonymity, I consider this a battle won.
My broader online identity
Aside from Twitter I’ve been experimenting with working out the best Instagram Bio I can come up with while also learning more about Facebook Pages and Analytics. Being able to interact with other students has given me the chance to look into another passion of mine which is understanding Social Media behaviour, and interacting across various platforms required for this unit has enabled me to do that. I’ve also maintained a video series which this Unit has helped me in persisting, as well as a regular blog, both of which I will be upkeeping throughout the Trimester and as time goes on.
(1100 words – Not including captions, in-text citations, reference list or “My broader online activity”)
Kennedy, H 2014, ‘Beyond Anonymity, or Future Directions for Internet Identity Research’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 25-42
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
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
Stuart, L, & Dark, M 2014, ‘Pseudonymity and structuration: Identity, interaction, and structure in online communities’, 2014 IEEE International Symposium On Ethics In Science, Technology And Engineering, ETHICS 2014, Scopus®, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 December 2016.