An online self is very different to a physical self. It’s self-constructed, rather than created by outside influences. We control ourselves online, like creating an exhibition of ourselves (Hogan, 2010), editing out the undesirable. Just like dressing for an occasion, one shapes their online persona to something they believe attracts others.
There are many theories behind the drive for an online presence, including narcissism (Leong, 2011). An interesting concept is power. Access to information indicates power (Donath and Boyd, 2004), and so two motivators for the rush to create an online self could be politics and power (Leong, 2011). Followers or friends = a network = influence. This operates on various scales, because different people want influence over different people or places. The need to be noticed is psychologically understandable in a society simply too busy for every individual.
Always consider your focus on your online identity. In a lecture I was in today, of around 100 people challenged to abstain from the Internet, only a handful attempted it. Those who did realized their use was compulsive and caused laziness in relationships. As Leong pointed out, you may be participating but you are physically alone (Leong, 2011).
So if you look around and realise you have 1000 Facebook friends and no one to pick you up from the airport, or a popular blog but you haven’t left the house all week, consider the benefits to constructing a real identity – I promise you, it wont crash when you get a virus.
Donath, J. and Boyd, d. (2004). Public displays of connection. BT Technology Journal , volume 22 (4): 71-82.
Hogan, B. (2010). The Presentation of Self in the Age of Social Media: Distinguishing Performances and Exhibitions Online. In Bulletin of Science,
Technology and Society, Volume 30, issue 6. Pp. 377-386
Leong, S. “KCB206 New Media, Internet, Self, and Beyond: Week 2 lecture notes.” Accessed March 10, 2011. http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/.