Flipping the virtual coin-

This piece was written as an academic blog for one of my university modules- hope you enjoy!

‘Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are building a new habitat

(infosphere) in which future generations, living in advanced information

will spend an increasing amount of time.’ – Luciano Floridi, 2011

I am this future generation- in 2011 I was in year seven and nine years later I am a university student whose life as I transitioned from child to adult has been defined by technology.

It is perhaps, natural then that as Floridi anticipates in The Construction of Personal Identities Online, that I have had a varying relationship with online and offline identities.

In the years spanning my early teens, my online self was non-existent. I watched YouTube videos, I had a phone, but my social media presence simply didn’t exist. It was around the time I turned 16 that I became a late bloomer to the world of social media. I owned several accounts that became vital when I moved out of my hometown of London and into Norwich. This should (emphasis on should) have been the time that social media was my lifeline- as it was quite literally my only way to stay in touch with school friends and meet new college mates.

In a college where the vast majority of students lived an hour or more away, most socialisation occurred via messaging apps- my entire world existed in a space where I couldn’t define who I was and unfortunately, it became somewhere that the people I met defined me. I became Amy from London, Amy who started college later than everyone else, Amy the ‘angry feminist’, Amy the …... Floridi writes in his article that there are two sides to experiences online. If I had to define this period it would undeniably fall into the ‘wrong kind of onlife experience.’

For the next few years, I was somewhat of an online recluse, keeping all social media accounts open but rarely using them until… university. I was 19 with a quiet presence online, one which grew through little choice of my own because I felt like I had to virtually connect with other students to make any friends. Yet, as I spent more time constructing a personality online, I realised how detached from myself I was becoming- if I was going to spend an increased time here, it was going to have to be a space where I could be myself. A space where I didn’t feel I was putting my best foot (or selfie) forward to impress the ‘cool kids’ of my course.

So, I created a blog and an Instagram account to go with it. Over a year on these are the only places where I now have an online personality, the ‘personal’ accounts of my past have been abandoned for the performances they were as I talk to a community of followers and friends about things I actually enjoy. I have connected with like-minded individuals; I have made friends I never would’ve met offline and I’ve learnt an abundance of skills. In other words, I’ve had Floridi’s ‘experiential enrichment.’

I’ve seen both sides of the coin, and I’m lucky to be someone who flipped it to a point where my head is held high because sadly many stories do not end that way. Almost everyone I know has social media accounts. Perhaps the question no longer should be how is this affecting us? But instead, how can we flip more coins?