Creating Your Online Identity

onlineidentity.pngOnline identity is becoming an important part of our social, professional and educational lives and This section provides information about Online Identities and how you can create and manage your profile online. It includes information, links and resources to support your learning. Click on the links below to explore further:

  1. What is an Online Identity?
  2. Online Profile Tips
  3. Etiquette - Using Your Online Manners!
  4. Tools To Manage Social Media Profiles and Identity
  5. Further Information About Online Identity
  6. What Next?

Activities for this topic

Learners who are completing the Social Networking Course should refer to the Moodle site for more information about the activities provided:

1. What is an Online Identity?

An online identity, internet identity, or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. 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.

(Sourced from Wikipedia: Online Identity -, Accessed 15 June, 2010.)

As social networking sites and search engines become an increasing part of our personal and professional lives, it is important to ensure that your online identity is accurate and well-defined. Remember that your online profile will likely be made up from data from many social networking sites (and other websites). By carefully creating profiles and content that is appropriate, you can create a positive online identity which can be used for professional networking.

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2. Online Profile Tips

jokay's Profile on
It's important to understand how to manage and maintain your online profile so that you can ensure that it is accurate, up to date and reflects positively on you. As search tools become more and more effective, and social networking sites become more interconnected, this is becoming even more important, and when badly managed can have personal and professional impacts.

However, by managing your online identity, you can also create extremely powerful resources to promote yourself professionally, enable useful connections with others which support sharing and collaboration, and connect more easily with family and friends.

Consider the following tips when creating online profiles on social networkings sites:
  • Using your real name: This is something every user needs to consider carefully when signing up for online services and establishing profiles. If you are using the site for professional use, it's probably a good idea to use something that is appropriate for the workplace and ensure that you are identified as the real you. However for many other online services you could decide to use an alias to protect your privacy.
  • Choose appropriate aliases or screen names: Consider your audience and ensure that you are using something appropriate. Remember that Google makes it easy to connect your various online profiles via search, so this is an important issue.
  • Publish appropriate profile pictures: Choose images which are professional and appropriate. Consider using graphics for your avatar if you have concerns about privacy and publishing images of yourself online.
  • Include bio information which is relevant, up to date and accurate. A few short well-written sentences that describe you is much better than a 3 page description!
  • When filling out profile fields like personal 'likes' and favourites, ensure that you choose answers that you’d say if someone asked you for your favorite in a face-to-face conversation. If it's not ok to share with your friends or colleagues offline, you probably shouldn't share it online!

Online Profile Tips for Students

Managing Online Identity is a key digital literacy, and an important thing to discuss with students when using online tools for learning and teaching. Additional to the tips above, it's worth considering the following when discussing online profiles with your students - particularly if you are working with young people who are under 18 years old:
  • Using Real Names: In general, younger students should be taught to protect their privacy online by avoiding publication of their full name and other personal details. Using first names and/or aliases can be a good way of managing this. Ensure that you discuss privacy and the implications of publishing personal details online with your students.
  • Choose appropriate profile pictures: Younger students should be encouraged not to publish identifying images online. Rather, they can be engaged in a range of activities to create representational avatars and profile images.
  • Students should only share only information that is safe for the Internet. Establish a classroom policy that teaches students to avoid publishing a specific addresses or names that a reader might use to locate them.
  • Ensure students understand how to respect the privacy of others by obtaining permission before publishing images of and information about their friends or family.
  • Discuss the issues around internet safety and ensure students do not provide personal details to others online. There are lots of Internet Safety resources available - check out our Social Networking Safety for further information .

Consider holding a class discussion or online activity to assist students in understanding the issues around publishing personal details online and online profiles. Creating Codes of Conduct or Rules of Engagement with your students can be an effective way of establishing appropriate classroom policies which provide them with a clear framework.

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3. Etiquette - Using Your Online Manners!

Online Etiquette is important whenever you are sharing comments, information or feedback online, and of course this applies to social networking sites as well. Practicing good manners and respect when communicating and collaborating with others online will also enhance your online identity, demonstrating digital literacy skills and strong online communication skills.

Consider the following etiquette tips when using social networking sites:

  • Introduce yourself when offering friendship: If you are using social networking sites for professional or personal networking, making 'friends' with other users can be an effective way of extending your connections. However, don't offer friendship without also offering an introduction and some information about you and why you are following. For example, if connecting to another educator who you know via their work online, but not personally you could try an introduction like 'Hi, I'm a regular reader of your blog, and have enjoyed your work. I teach in a similar field and would appreciate being able to connect with you in the future'. Include links to your personal identity online - eg. your blog, wiki or preferred online profile page so that person receiving the friendship request can identify you.
  • Respond to 'friendship' or 'connect' requests: Ensure you respond to request from others for friendship. If you choose not to make friends, offer an alternative or reason. Eg. "Thanks for your friendship request but I only use facebook to connect to my family members. Feel free to connect with me via my blog, or you can follow me on [insert your preferred social networking tool here]."
  • Don't abuse group or games invites: It's fine to invite your friends to join in on a group or online game via social networks. However - one is enough! Don't send repetitive requests or invites as they are annoying to other users and can be considered spam.
  • Respect the privacy of others: Respect the privacy of others. If your friend is using an alias online, don't share their real identity or post content which could 'out' them. Remember that all users of social networking sites make different decisions about how they manage their privacy online.
  • Use good tags: Apply tags to text, images and video appropriately. Tagging other people in unflattering pictures can create lots of tension with friends or family members, so remember to consider the implications when tagging content which is associated with or depicts others. If someone requests to be untagged in an image or page, ensure you act swiftly and respect their wishes.
  • Leave good comments: One of the best ways to connect with others via social networking sites is to make comments. Ensure your comments are clear, respectful and well written. Don't use inappropriate, sexist, racist or foul language. Provide constructive criticism when appropriate and respect the opinions of others. Robust debate is wonderful - abusive tirades are not! When leaving comments on blogs or fan pages, ensure to check for 'rules of engagement' or site policies about commenting.
  • Private conversations should stay private: Don't republish a private conversation or exchange (via email, instant messaging or other private communication channels) without permission.
  • Share appropriately: Don't share any information online (including text, images, audio and video) that you wouldn't be happy to share with distant relatives, friends, work colleagues and your immediate family. A good rule of thumb - if it's ok to say it to your Grandma and your Boss, it's ok to share it online!
  • Connect and Engage: Don't use social networks as a one-way announcement tool. Remember to engage with your 'friends' and follow-up on comments and feedback.
  • Balance Personal Vs. Private: If you are using social networking sites for professional purposes, make sure you balance your personal comments, images and messages with useful professional information. Consider your audience and share information that is useful to your networks.

Watch this humorous take on social networking etiquette. Although it focuses on Facebook, many of the points it raises are relevant to all social networking sites.

Consider how you will address social networking etiquette in your learning communities. What strategies will you put in place to ensure students understand the 'rules of engagement' on social networking sites.

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4. Tools To Manage Social Media Profiles and Identity

jokay's Google Profile
There are a range of tools you can use to manage your Social Media Profiles and Identity. Some of these tools allow users to create an aggregated list of all of their accounts at various social networking sites, whilst others can be used to create a centralized profile.

Consider the types of information you share online. A profile page could be a really handy addition to your toolset for linking all your different social networking profiles to one central location. For example a Google Profile allows you to add links to personal websites, maps of favourite locations and feeds from various social networking sites like Flickr and Twitter - allowing users to find all your online content in online place.

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5. Further Information About Online Identity

Click on the links for further information and resources to support you in developing your online identity!

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6. What Next?

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