"The portrait of identity online is often painted in black and white," Poole said. "Who you are online is who you are offline." That rosy view of identity is complemented with a similarly oversimplified view of anonymity. People think of anonymity as dark and chaotic, Poole said.
But human identity doesn't work like that online or offline. We present ourselves differently in different contexts, and that's key to our creativity and self-expression. "It's not 'who you share with,' it's 'who you share as,'" Poole told us. "Identity is prismatic."
One of the biggest challenges for online social networks is to accurately convey the messy realities that make up our lives. So far, they've done an okay job, but there are many ways in which they could do better. Poole powerfully identifies one of them.