Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beneficial MPD (or Why I Hate Facebook)

No, this isn't going to be a post about the happy side affects of Dissociative Identity Disorder. It's going to be about why using a fake name on the internet is not a bad thing. In fact, I believe it is a good and healthy thing to do, and I recommend it to everyone.

A lot of people seem to use their real names (or some simple permutation thereof) for things like e-mail addresses, twitter accounts, etc. If this isn't a new phenomenon, it's one I've noticed increasingly as I've entered the professional world. To the degree that I'm usually taken aback when someone's primary e-mail address isn't some derivation of their real name. Also, it seems like most people use one username as the pipeline for all of their online doings. Obviously, some groups are less apt to do this and others more, but in my experience, a significant amount of people

I can understand why people do this type of thing. In the same way that many people use the same password for all of the sites they visit, having one username - particularly one that is naturally easy to remember - simplifies getting around the internet and into the various sites they use. It's easier to be JohnSmith on Twitter, Facebook, and every other site that requires you to sign in and have JohnSmith (or more likely JohnSmith41484) as your e-mail, than to be FunkyHat on Twitter, John Smith on Facebook, BigBarbells on get the idea. Not to mention it makes it easier for your friends and family who use the same service to find you.

But it makes it easier for anyone to find you. I mentioned before that Bobby Archer is not my real name, but is a pseudonym I use on the internet. I use it on various sites and forums - mostly gaming related - and on my Twitter account. I use my real name for things related to my family and profession. I have other pseudonyms that I've used for other things in the past, most of which have fallen by the wayside.

There is a very simple reason I do this: I am not the same person to all people. The person I am to my friends and at many sites on the internet is different - very different in some ways - from the person I am with my family, or in a professional setting. These people are different from other people I have been. I am no longer the person I was in high school, but if I had used my real name in my doings on the internet back then, I'd still be saddled with some of the stupid posts I'd made and the embarrassing things I'd been involved in. There is some cringe-worthy fiction out there that I'm glad I don't have to admit to writing.

I don't think it's wrong to do this. No one I know acts the same way around their boss as they do at a party with friends. No one wants their mom to know everything they're up to on the internet. Everyone needs somewhere to go to get away from their family or their work or even their friends. It's perfectly natural.

One of the best examples of why we need this kind of disconnect (to me, at least) is Facebook. On Facebook, you are only allowed to create accounts using your real name. So, you wind up with one account which can be found by anyone who knows your name. And now that many sites let you sign in through Facebook, that same single account attached to your real name could be the only account you have. And I have no doubt that, for many, it is.

Even setting aside Facebook Connect, having just one Facebook account has its issues.

Yes, it is possible to restrict access to your pictures and whatnot to just people you've friended, but people can find ways around that. And even if you restrict your photos and no one goes to the trouble of digging for them, are you going to tell your mother she can't be your friend? How about your co-workers? Not to mention employers are increasingly checking prospective hires' Facebook pages.

Sure, you can avoid posting any pictures that you wouldn't want anyone to see. You can not join a group your employer might look askance at. You can even make sure your friends don't reference anything that you've done that might offend anyone. But then, why have the account in the first place? Is it really worth all the extra effort? Isn't this supposed to be some expression of who you are, not the most inoffensive you can be?

Everyone should have some small space where they can express themselves without having to worry about what other people think. Everyone should be able to be themselves; every self that they are. The internet offers the opportunity to do that. Things like Facebook Connect and RealId sound like great ideas on paper, but the trade off for convenience or accountability is that we have to be constantly censoring ourselves. And don't we do that enough in the real world?

1 comment:

  1. (oh my gosh Blogspot ate my comment the first time.)

    Yes, this. I am in full agreement, as you can probably guess by the name I'm using to comment here. I think it helps that when I was learning to use the Internet, everybody and their uncle was convinced that the Internet was full of Very Bad People who were going to do Horrible Things to you if you let on your legal name, where you lived, etc. so I don't have any foolishness from when I was bitty and dumb(er) to chase me around.

    More than that, though, not all of one's interests are relevant (or safe!) to discuss at work or with one's family. And just like it's important to have friends outside of work to keep you in balance, it's important to have people with whom you can share your less vanilla interests, whatever those may be. Sure, I share Internet-me with people whom I first met in a legal-name context, and vice-versa, but there's a "getting to know you" period in which I decide if that's appropriate for that person--would sie be put off or offended by interests I have? Do I think I can trust hir to not publicly connect my legal and cyberspace names? Obviously sometimes those decisions are wrong, but I've been very fortunate so far (partly thanks to the paranoia instilled by aforementioned learning period on the series of tubes.)