Category Archives: identity

syndicated self +1.

If I ever write one, my book is going to be called The Syndicated Self. I will attempt to explain after a hard day at work.

Google’s recent move to insist that all +1 accounts be registered under “real names” made me very angry. Over the weekend, the monolith started to wipe accounts out of existence if they appeared to be using a pseudonym, or as most of us would understand it, the names we go by in our digital lives and, often, in meatspace too.*

Three years ago, I was booted out of Facebook for “failing to use my real name”. And I still haven’t forgiven FB for its lack of understanding about on/offline/thereisnodifference identity and the right to exert any name (read, side of an identity) one wishes. It affords some semblance of boundedness between public, private, and semi public selves – yes, perhaps only conceptually, but still. Three years ago, I think I was more angry about the issue itself than the *real* issue which was that FB and others alike wanted to compel me to use my “real name” so that they could pin me down, and “productise” me more.

It prompted me to start thinking again about how much we the people have become (and have always been I suppose) the product, not the products that are advertised to us through FB etc, and not the services that purport to offer us something. They are buying *us*: they buy *our*  attention and activities. We are the products.  @ianbetteridge tweeted earlier today (which in turn prompted me to write this post):

If you’re not paying for a service, you’re being sold by it.

My response was that we are all products, and that “all our actions, musings, clickings, chattings, playings, voicings: all being harvested to make the fuel for money.

We know why Google has done this. Google has since “revised” its policy but it goes no way far enough for me, and many others still maintain the right to use other handles. My online name is part of my identity. An identity. Of course, nowadays, you can still find what other names any given name of mine is linked to. But by choosing which name to go under, to connect to, in a particular context, I also actively assert and give you permission make assumptions about me, to know what my boundaries are.

I think it is my right. As is my right not to tell FB any other details about me than my online handle.** And it is my right continue to make it hard for the market to make me any more of a product than I already am. I have the right to have some control over how I syndicate my selves. I know I may be naive about whether this makes a true difference, but it is the principle I stand by.

* I have just bought an Etsy necklace of my online handle.

** yes, this does mean than FB thinks I am 76 and so the ads I get served are… well…weird.

Facebook and me getting booted out

So Facebook and I might be over. Really over. I am currently engaged in an email “discussion” with them about their attitude to online identities which I consider naive and not very well thought through.*

They disabled my account two weeks ago because I was not using my “real name”. Apparently. Although who made them the all-seeing, truth knowing entity who can decide what a “real name” is and what is not, I have no idea. The email address I signed up with does not tell them what my real name is, nor does any other information I gave them when I registered. I only give over that info online a) when I am buying something or b) when I am writing as a journalist.

Anyhoo. It all started when my profile page was borked for about a week. It happened suddenly after adding an application. No idea which one did it, but I could see and do everything else: update my status, participate, play Scrabulous, add my Three Little Words and so on.

I just could not see my profile page. I ummed and ahhed about emailing them because I knew they might have an issue with my online handle (which is not this one, but is my original one from c. 1994).

I eventually caved in and emailed them. Sure enough, the reply mentioned nothing about what the problem was, just that they had disabled my account. “Fake names are a violation of our Terms of Use”, they proclaimed. It is not a fake name, I argued, but my online persona.

I can detail our argument when I am not so tired and angry. But here is an abstract of my response:

This is not a fake name. This is my online handle/identity. I completed my Doctorate in online communities, young people and identity in 2000 and believe we have the right to present ourselves in different contexts – on and offline – in ways of our choosing. Choice is the key here. Most will choose to represent themselves with their real names, others will not. I know several people in the public eye who are given this choice by Facebook.

my point there was why are they so arbitrary about this? At what point do you have to “become” a brand? What about pen names as someone pointed out to me?

and so on. Anyway, this is now an important point of principle about the blurring line and choice of who and how you are in public, in private, and in that liminal space online. What I have realised however is: I really don’t need Facebook and they certainly don’t need me. And I am blogging again. That’s got to be a good thing right?! ;0)

*We have already seen Facebook make several booboos around this in its very short life. Like this. Oh and let’s not forget this. Ahh the follies of youth.