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Before defining cyberidentity I think it is important to answer the question, what is identity? I believe it is how we see ourselves and how we are perceived by others. Identity is constructed of genetic and environmental influences like: gender, age, appearance, intelligence, activities, work, beliefs or spirituality, interrelationships with family and friends, personality, language, possessions as well as the society you live in.

One’s cyberidentity is not the same as their identity offline because it is who they are in the cyber or online world. Cyberidentity is built from his/her behaviours and actions online. This includes the sites one visits, the actions he/she may or may not take while there as well as the interactions one has with others online.

The true identity of a person influences their cyberidentity. For example, if my passion is snowboarding, I am likely to visit snowboarding websites and join those forums to interact with other snowboarders. Reciprocally, cyberidentity modifies true identity. Many people identify themselves as gamers, cybergeeks etc. The experiences people have online and the information gained from being online affect true identity.

However, just as there are people who mask their true identity in person, there are those online who do the same. It is easier to invent a fake cyberidentity due to participation in sites that ask you to clearly list your work experience, interests, education level etc. When meeting someone in person, one doesn’t usually have immediate access to this information as on these sites. It is common for identities to be stolen online or for people to be taken advantage of in other ways due to the vast information about and access to cyberidentities.

Cyberidentity can be revealed at a much higher speed and to more people than in person. It is easier to express certain traits of cyberidentity than identity. For example, some feel more comfortable sharing intimate details about their life in writing than in person. On the other hand, appearance, body language and facial expressions are not as clear in the cyberworld which can cause misinterpretation of one’s identity. Since a lot of communication in the cyberworld is asynchronous and not face to face, it is easier to purposefully communicate your thoughts and direct your cyberidentity than control your identity as you interact in reality.

True identity also has the ability to be developed at a faster rate due to the existence of his/her cyberidentity. For example, reading, banking, shopping etc. online saves time to pursue other activities or spend time with other people. Again, one can learn much from the online world, thereby further altering their offline identity. However, one needs to be conscientious of the time spent online or his/her cyberidentity could emerge as the primary identity.

Wikipedia uses the term online identity instead of cyberidentity. In the future, I think e-identity will replace cyberidentity, representing how one establishes an e-identity or alters their current identity by interacting with many types of electronic devices.

Irmake (2007) Cyber Identity. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqqLWZgP8a8

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