Definition of ‘Online Identity’

An online identity, internet identity, or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. It can also be considered as an actively constructed presentation of oneself. Although some people prefer to use their real names online, some internet users prefer to be anonymous, identifying themselves by means of pseudonyms, which reveal varying amounts of personally identifiable information. An online identity may even be determined by a user’s relationship to a certain social group they are a part of online. Some can even be deceptive about their identity.

In some online contexts, including Internet forums, MUDs, instant messaging, and massively multiplayer online games, users can represent themselves visually by choosing an avatar, an icon-sized graphic image. Avatars, digital representations of oneself or proxy that stands in for a person in virtual worlds, are how users express their online identity.

The concept of the personal self, and how this is influenced by emerging technologies, are a subject of research in fields such as psychology and sociology. The online disinhibition effect is a notable example, referring to a concept of unwise and uninhibited behavior on the internet, arising as a result of anonymity and audience gratification.

The social web, i.e. the usage of the web to support the social process, represents a space in which people have the possibility to express and expose their identity (Marcus, Machilek & Schütz 2006) in a social context. For instance people define explicitly their identity by creating user profiles in social network services such as Facebook and Asiantown.net or LinkedIn and online dating services.

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