Stop Using Fake Names On Facebook

For many good reasons, anonymity is important on the internet. It's integral for unfettered discussion, whistle-blowing, and dissent under oppression. For the general preservation of privacy, it's nice to go nameless.

But Facebook isn't the internet. And using pseudonyms on Facebook is stupid, irritating and misguided. Here's why it's making Facebook worse for the rest of us.

Facebook is a place we go to have superficial interactions with people we sort of know. Or at least that's what it's supposed to be. People are key here. We're not browsing avatars in World of Warcraft, or debating iOS versions with some livid nerd across the globe. Facebook is anti-anonymity -- a super-graphical phonebook packed with trifling status updates and intimate photo albums. For all its banality, Facebook is deeply personal by necessity. It has to be about you. And that means using your real name.

Here are some handy rules:

  • Stop switching your middle name in place of your surname.
  • Stop sticking confusing adjectives in the middle.
  • Stop going by fake nicknames.

It might be cute, and you might think you're clever, but all it does is gum up the way the non-paranoid rest of us try to use Facebook as the functional social dollhouse it is. When you go by a fake or modified name, we can't keep track. Odds are, we don't know your middle name, and odds are, we'll have to spend extra time sifting through heaps of maybe-yous if we want to tag a photo, or just see what's up. You'll make our News Feed nonsense if we don't recognise who the hell it's referring to. It becomes unnecessarily challenging just to say hello on your wall.

The temptation to conceal one's identity usually stems from (real) privacy worries. The fear that someone, for some nefarious reason, will track you down. The most popular excuse for a name switcheroo comes from the terrified job seeker, spooked by urban legends and misinformation about Facebook allowing employers to read your profile. If they can't find me, the non-reasoning goes, they won't see all of the dumb and embarrassing things I've done. No one will know I like the Snooki & JWoww Facebook page. Nobody will see me dressed as a slutty bumblebee on Halloween in 2007.

This is partially Facebook's fault. The site still hasn't made it a cinch to decide who gets to see what. It's hard for you to easily keep the majority of the stranger web out. But ignorance also deserves blame. There is a widespread misconception that people can prod your intimate past, when they simply can't.

If your Facebook account is locked down, no one can look at your stuff. Period. You might want to make sure your cover photo isn't a panorama of you literally murdering someone, as that's public no matter what. Everything else can be hidden.

So please, adjust your settings, but quit hiding who you really are. Your future boss will be much more impressed by the fact that you know how the Internet works than by some nonsense attempt at privacy plotting. You'll still have the entire rest of the web to go by GooseCommanderXX or "Gracie Jean" if you like. Just let Facebook be Facebook.

User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette.

Photo: Jim Barber/Shutterstock



    WoW, Really? If you a friend in R.L. then finding you by a pseudonym should not be a problem. Facebook being owned/started or run by the CIA, its looking more and more likely.

      oh man i really really hope you're being sarcastic

        a more realistic example is recruitment agencies now offer a 'online vet' which means they check out your facebook etc for anything like heavy drinking or drug use

          Which is why you don't make things public. It's no reason to use a fake name.
          If I'm looking for my mate John Citizen (not real name), and for some messed up reason he uses the Facebook name of SexyDude Citizen and uses a picture of a duck, then I won't be able to find him.

        no i doubt he is being sarcastic my rl freinds know the majority of my pseudonyms

    I can't decide whether I should dignify this with a actual response.

    Doesn't really matter what name you use on FB, eventually you will be found by friends and foes alike by all sorts of means; any attached email addresses, friend networks, cross-posts, face recognition in tagged images, location and app data...

    "If your Facebook account is locked down, no one can look at your stuff. Period."

    FB has in the past, had a real habit of changing your security settings, to give others access to stuff that was previously not viewable. WIthout checking with its users first. So I'm not sure this statement is accurate.

    I don't have a problem with users not adding their real name. It's completely up to them. It just means that I won't be able to find them. And that's THEIR choice. Maybe they only want people they know to find them.

    Wow, your arguments for how annoying a psudonym is on facebook seem misguided and petty. Here's a tip. Spend less time on facebook and care a little less about other peoples descisions that really don't affect you!
    If I or my friends choose not to put their full legal names in facebook it shouldn't affect you at all. And if I want to be able to view certain web pages that require me to do so in connection to my facebook account I am happy to do that without sprading my name. There is no reason facebooks privacy settings cannot be changed to sell your details even more than your "likes" and other information are already sold and used for advertising. Seriously, shut up.

    and the point of this rambling was....?

    It's Facebook Dooood, get over it.
    No one really cares, all I see on Facebook is DRIVEL, it's taken the place of gossiping over the back fence.

    but my real name is Peter File

    I'm not looking for you, you aren't looking for me. So what does it matter?

    Lol at Sam Biddle. Someone needs a hug. And a clue. What a silly article.

    But what if you want a facebook account and also want to hide from a psycho ex ?

    I have a friends FB account which is a pseudonyms for my fun side of life and a real name for my work side... if you know me (and by that I mean are real friends with me) you will know my fake name - others it's work me and you get boring work stuff... simple...

    sam, perhaps you should have just emailed this article to YOUR friends.
    The rest of us will continue to use FB in our own way.

    If the only reason I have a FB account is to access content on sites that require a FB login, then excuse me for using a pseudonym to keep the spammers at bay.

    Look im sorry but if you cant handle me having a fake last name on facebook, unfriend me its not going to affect my life that much.

    I understand the point Sam, but people will use Facebook however they like.

    People like to muck around with things.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    . <- world's smallest violin playing just for you (under it's REAL name)

    Previous comments have pretty much said it all.

    Facebook is the new generation 'Tourist Trap' where they own, collect, save and sell all of your information, pictures, comments and any interaction you ever had with other users.

    Another annoying thing is that you cannot even delete your account, they just 'deactivate' it and tell you that whenever you want to go back to this awful time-wasting and stupidly addictive social environment it will be there waiting for you. What kind of rubbish is that?

    And today on Gizmodo, a "reporter's" opinion on how other people should live their lives.

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