The Art of Being You Online

When I was asked to be a Spotlight Speaker at Online Educa 2015, I knew I wanted to talk about online identity and the concept of 'authenticity'. I also knew I wanted someone to present the talk as if they were me. Here's what happened...


  1. Luckily for me, I have a dear friend, Noor Yafai, who is game for most things, including taking the stage at an epic ed-tech conference, pretending to be me. To prepare for the talk, I changed the profile picture on my social media accounts. I wrote a script, created a set of slides, then worked on delivery with Noor. You can find her presenting it on the #OEB15 website. People tweeted during the talk, as you would expect:
  2. Some of the tweets had photos of Noor presenting, with explicit statements that this was me:
  3. After the script was read through, we did a 'reveal'. Noor opened up the floor for questions, and in response to the first one, she said she would have loved to respond, but couldn't because she wasn't Charlotte Webb. I then took to the stage...
  4. Some great discussion then followed, both online and offline. Stephen Gomez asked about the difference between wanting to learn and improve as an individual - to 'get better', and wanting to present our 'best selves' online. I'd argue that although distinct, these are both aspects of self-actualisation.
  5. The fact that we present superficial, 'edited' versions of ourselves was cause for concern, and several people felt that the notion of performing identity was at odds with an authentic state of 'being'.
  6. I would argue that we also perform 'being', and this feeds back into our sense of self.
  7. Harry T Dyer noted that we don't only perform ourselves online - we also try to present our 'best selves' offline. Harry recommended Erving Goffman's 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' as a way to think about this...
  8. Another audience member suggested that the demand for a single online identity is at odds with the ways in which we enact multiple versions of ourselves in daily life, depending on where we are, what we're trying to achieve or communicate, and who we are doing this in relation to.
  9. In the talk, I wanted to counter the advice given by brand identity experts about consistency. The more consistent you are, they say, the more people will come to trust and rely on what you say. As individuals, though - we should be able to change our minds, ask questions, deliberate and work stuff out online, not just hammer a ‘brand’ line.
  10. Chrissi Nerantzi threw this question about consistency and authenticity into the mix: