By Jason Thomas, Thomson Reuters
On a recent trip to Minnesota, I had the pleasure of taking a cab ride from Minneapolis to St. Paul. It’s about an hour and a half ride. As you can imagine, the driver Tony and I got to know each other during the trip. I particularly like to speak to cab drivers. I like to know their story. Most of them are not from the United States and they typically have interesting tales to tell. Tony was no different. He is originally from Nigeria (and by the way, Tony is in fact his real first name). He moved to the US thirty years ago, got married, and went to college at St. Cloud State University. Now he owns his own taxi service.
So what’s the interesting story?
Well for one, the only thing I previously knew about Nigeria relates to those lovely emails I get asking me to help them move money out of the country. So talking to a native Nigerian was refreshingly educational. But, more importantly, about halfway into our trip, I asked Tony if he considers himself more Nigerian or American.
I know that’s an unfair question, but I’ve been thinking recently about identity. What does it mean? Is there a difference in what we present in our real lives versus our digital ones? Can we keep them separate or does one bleed into the other? Is the digital world capable of supporting anonymity anymore?
Tony struggled with an answer. He explained that while he loves his native country, America represents the fulfillment of what the world can be. He launched into a condemning discussion of Nigerian politics (civil war, assassinations, tyranny) then settled on the response that ultimately he can’t choose. He is both Nigerian and American.
I think digital identity works the same way. It’s very possible to have two or more digital identities in additional to your real life identity.
Some folks disagree.