Survey: Is a Digital Identity our ‘Real’ Identity?

Digital Identity

This past spring, I taught a graduate class titled “Exploring Intercultural Identity: An Ethnographic Approach.” The class was full of bright and ambitious minds, gearing up to change the world, and starting first with tools to better understand difference — across borders and groups. The ethnographic piece required that they conduct fieldwork — participant observation and interviewing, chiefly, over a five-week span and then regroup over a weekend to analyze findings.

During our discussions, one theme that kept coming up was this idea of a digital identity, and how that form of identity was separate from their real identity, or in-person identity. Social media affords us the opportunity to construct a representation of what we want people to see, so if they turned to social media as a sort of ‘data set’ of their participants, was that really authentic?

In my world of exploring identity and culture, we study markers that typically define identity — language, behavior, relationships, communications styles, etc. — to better understand diverse worldviews and values. But with the advent of social media, a whole new platform of expressing identity exists, and thus possible data sets to learn from.

All of this is background to explain why I’ve decided to circulate a survey on identity in the age of social media. In it, I’m asking questions that address: To what extent is our digital identity like our real one? Is it a fairly good representation of who we are, or is it more of a facade? Given this, can social media help us better understand difference — cultural or otherwise?

If you’re interested in these sorts of questions, or you’d simply like to contribute to my project, please take the survey. I will be releasing the results later this fall. Many thanks!

UPDATE: 11/1/15: Survey now closed. Results coming soon!