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.
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