There are seven more posts about the book. I’m not sure if I’m going to write them all back-to-back, or pause sometimes to talk about something else, but they all relate to the blogosphere and social media. In other words, by being online, you can participate in the discussion. The book itself is irrelevant in that regard.
All the posts are labeled “Opt-ions.” The reason I divided the word as I have will make sense with the last post, which is the only other one I’ve written at this point. So… uh… that’s how I know that it will make sense.
Image: Ali T via Flickr
So we’ll start with the concept of accountability.
When you sign up for Facebook, you agree to use your real name:
Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe … The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.
A bunch of people on my Friends list aren’t using their real names, and they’re clearly not using their real names, unless they’ve legally changed their name to match their blog’s title. Some people are less clearly not using their real name. I had someone send me a friend request, and I had no clue who it was until I saw the picture. She was using her middle name as her last name since it was the sort of name that sounded a little last-name-ish.
I’m not sure how/if Facebook enforces their name rule; if people who aren’t using their real name as it appears on their credit card or driver’s license will have their name automatically changed on the site once the algorithm can link you to your real name based on an online purchase, since Facebook tracks you on non-Facebook sites. If they’ll bump you from the site entirely, which I don’t think will happen because they need users. Or if they’ll let it slide, figuring what harm does it do if people can’t identify you.
Except that they claim that using your real name keeps “our community safe.” Well, that isn’t a small thing. Safety. I mean, if they believe this really comes down to safety, then shouldn’t they enforce that rule?
The Verge had a post a few years back about just that: the enforcement of Facebook’s rules and why they need you to be using your real name. It’s an interesting read.
Facebook depends on its users to be honest. With 239,000 users for every Facebook employee, it’s logistically impossible to verify all the information that is submitted. Fake names, fake ages, fake interests — all these inaccuracies interfere with the company’s ability to accurately target advertisements. Facebook wants to build the world’s most comprehensive database of people. If the information is current and correct, Facebook could eventually become a place where people bank or vote or even file taxes. If it’s filled with errors, it nears uselessness — at least, as far as advertisers are concerned.
So, yeah, real names matter to Facebook. Instead of focusing on the financial benefits for the company, one of the arguments made is that if we are all operating under our real name, accountable for our behaviour, it will help us make better choices. We’ll think before we speak. We’ll own our words and actions.
And that good behaviour could travel offline, ensuring that we won’t commit tiny crimes like stealing toilet paper from work, or larger crimes knowing that our actions will be tied to our names in a huge, transparent way. How many people would have an affair or purchase porn knowing that in the interest of full transparency, everyone they know and love would know about their actions? If all your activities were listed on your Facebook profile, and your profile was linked to your name, then it would follow that it would be a deterrent — at least with smaller, embarrassing-if-discovered actions.
But here’s the thing: if we know that idea is possible, even if it’s not in effect, why do we still continue to make bad choices? Why don’t we live our lives as if everyone can know everything we say and do, in the same way that people drive slower through areas that could be policed by speed cameras, even when speed cameras aren’t there?
The Verge article sums up an interesting idea: “The real-name resistance could be significantly reduced, however, if real names benefited users as much as they benefit Facebook.” And in the case I listed above, knowing how much you can trust the people around you, would go a long way in being beneficial to users. You’d no longer need to guess whether someone is trustworthy. You could look at their profile and know.
Do you think people should have to use their full, real name online — to comment, to use social media, to make purchases — and do you think in doing so, would it curb behaviour and make us into better versions of ourselves? Do you think the comment section of certain posts would be filled with the same kind of bile if people were forced to be accountable for what they say under their real name? Do you think anonymity brings out the worst in us? Do you think you act differently when you think you’re being watched and monitored?