So recently I decided to “renew” my relationship with Facebook. I logged back in, as a part of restarting my current commentary stretch here. To my surprise, the interface desktop wise has gotten very- busy visually, to say the least. But, today’s commentary isn’t about my gripes with Facebook’s current desktop layout.
For those aware, I haven’t actively used Facebook in about 4+ years. Back when I used to use it daily, people had a bit more leeway in terms of what they could put as their usernames. People changed names all the time on my friends’ list, so much so I stopped keeping track of names and went more my profile pictures. I recently decided to create a secondary account for my MMO (online gaming) endeavors under my in-game username and was promptly kicked off Facebook a few days later. Now, I should have seen in coming when I wasn’t able to find the section in the settings that allowed you to update your name in the demographics. I did remember vaguely seeing stuff about this over the past few years, but when you don’t use a service, it’s easy to ignore the changes.
I won’t lie: I was pissed for all of .02 seconds. Then, I started to do some research; the more I dug, the more comfortable I was keeping that account disabled. I think I hadn’t used Facebook in so long that they’d become an IPO in my absence – and didn’t own Instagram either. Now, in my absence, because Facebook now has investors and a slightly different focus on surface delivery, the name issue is more prevalent.
So, what’s in a new? Quite a lot, actually.
Facebook, if one looks at them from a purely social media space perspective, is one of the longest running threads in the social media age. Lots of people use it for the basic reason it was invented: to communicate and keep up with other people in a more unique manner than the traditional phone call/occasional meet up. For some of all ages, it is a very helpful tool. With many of these folks, they use the me that best identifies with them – their government name, and that’s that.
With others, it gets a wee bit more complicated.
Some people in the LGBT community, for instance, use social media sites like Facebook as great outlet to express their evolving identity. Some of those people want nothing to do with their government name and would prefer to use something that doesn’t meet the “traditional definitions” of a name. Some valued the right to change their names because different names may hold different levels of significance at various points in their life course. Now, Facebook could argue (and may have in recent memory) the following points: a lack of a “real name” doesn’t allow them to effectively meet certain obligations by being able to provide a targeted experience to end users (which is important to their business model). Another point is that because some have used Facebook for nefarious means (cyberbullying, coordinating violence and illicit activities), if people could use fake names easily, it makes identifying these people offline more difficult.
While I get that, it still sucks we are having this debate over what qualifies for a “real name” on Facebook. My intent was to not to use my real name because I didn’t want any of Facebook services, outside of accent to content for that MMO. My real account is cluttered as is and didn’t want to add it there. But while my reasons are somewhat superficial, there are others who having access to that ability to use the name they see fit due is of much more significance.
Have social media institutions like Facebook (and Twitter, since these two are some of the oldest), gotten to a point where they should conform more to societal trends? Well, Facebook within the past two years have tried to relax some of their restrictions on what constitutes a “real name” on their site. Yet there are folks who will clamor such concessions do not go far enough. I guess when you’re dealing with a still private entity, you’ve got to play by their rules to access their services.
For some, it’s just another entity trying to pigeonhole people into something they don’t want by dictating to them what names they are allowed to use.