Various debates around source of identity creation revolve around three aspects - self, society, and government. While Foucault argued that societies create identities, so that they can discipline people by forcing them to adhere to the norms associated with the identity, others like Deborah Stone have explored the role of government in creating and perpetuating identities through census. In fact, the seeds of Hindu-Muslim rivalry are said to be sown when British conducted a census. It brought the poor state of Muslims into light, which increased Muslim's self-consciousness.
Twitter provides us a setting that helps us pursue our thought experiment without the challenges of security associated with "physically bringing people together without an authority". It's because Twitter brings people together for all practical purposes by easing peer-peer communication; it has no centralised authority to either discipline or to give oneself an identity; it provides equal access to everyone for anyone. The question now is - what will happen in such situations?
1. Daily Outrage: When people are brought together, stripping them off their real life identities, without any central authority, it creates a vacuum of identity. Who are you when you make an account on Twitter? Your profession doesn't matter, your wealth doesn't matter, your real life details don't matter. There's no centralised authority that labels you as BPL/APL, nor are you compulsorily labelled as belonging to particular caste or belief.
This identity vacuum is filled up by creating a phenomenon, where an outrage is manufactured and people can take sides, giving them a temporary identity. To put it in other words, vacuum created by imperfect penetration of real world identities into virtual world is filled by the dynamic identities, associated with daily outrage waves. The highly networked setting of Twitter facilitates this.
2. Extreme Polarisation: When there's no society and government to give you an identity, the only person who can give you an identity is yourself. In such cases, one tries to create identity for themselves by associating themselves strongly with a particular idea or theme, making it part of their identity. The need to be associated with such ideas or themes creates polarisation because identity formation through association works in binary eroding the grey areas.
The combination of extreme polarisation and daily outrage is what makes today's Twitter. The same is not prevalent to this extent in Facebook despite the prevalence of "creating self identity" because Facebook restricts access to unknown people dampening the intensity of outrage wave, thereby restricting the utility of identity creation through outrage.
The next question is - how do we test this hypothesis? Any ideas?