The Concept of Identity in Online Communities: The Rise of Faceless Creators

Recently — I caught this youtube video on the rise of faceless creators:

And I took a second to think about it — and thought about how this topic might be more widespread than we realize, and actually might play a role in how online communities evolve or are active online.

Do you carry the same identity from community to community? or does it evolve a bit?

Personally — for the large majority of platforms you can find me online at erinmikail however, there are a few that you may find me with a different identity.

Scroll through recent posts, and you'll surely be able to identify it as me, but there's sometimes not a tie back to other places you can find me online. And that's not out of secrecy, privacy or protection, but sometimes just a lasting impact from the inability to change usernames or my own evolution of how I grew up online (millennial here 👋 if someone could find my original myspace login that would be great!)

Communities where my online handle isn't the same:

  • Reddit - created an account in my teen years, can't change username 🤷🏼‍♀️
  • Early online games - see above, can't change username, (or heck forgot logins at this point)
  • USA Swimming Forum and registration - assigned username based on region, and name
  • Universities - username assigned by university

Where it might make sense to have some sort of alternate persona:

  • In spaces where privacy may be a concern
  • In spaces where tough topics may be discussed
  • Safety — sometimes folks cannot discuss topics or present themselves in certain forums.

What should community leaders know about private or faceless creators?

  • Community leaders shouldn't pry too much or get too wrapped up in someone's "real" identity, address folks how they introduce themselves
  • If you find out someones "real" identity behind their online persona don't disclose this to others. (this can be considered doxxing someone!)

✌️ Erin

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