Friday, November 07, 2014

What is the Facebook struggle really about?

Some who support Facebook's decision to ban me, Pinky Shmekletein, the drag queens and countless others say Facebook is correct to expel us because they (the decision supporters) want to interact with "real people." But what does that mean? Is Pinky a bot? Am I a ghost? In what sense aren't we real people?

Ironically, what they are actually demanding is the opportunity to interact with people who are less real. When people use their real names they hide parts of themselves, especially when they are participating on a wide open platform like Facebook. How can you be real when an employer, or co-worker might be reading your thread? How can you be real when there's a chance your child might see it one day?

You've probably responded to the preceding paragraph in one of two ways. Either you understand exactly what I mean, and are nodding your head or you're protesting that the parts of your self that aren't suitable for public consumption don't belong on Facebook in the first place. But  the problem with that argument is that we can't know in advance which "public" will be seeing our Facebook activities nor can we predict how our future selves will feel about the views and behaviors of our present selves. Facebook behavior isn't like ordinary public behavior. After, I've e.g confessed my abiding crush on Keira Knightley to a friend in private, the experience fades and is soon forgotten. But if I do the same on a Facebook thread, its there forever, where anyone can find it. Under the current Facebook system your only choice is to conceal, ie, be less real or to roll the dice.

Those of us arguing for the right to be our authentic selves on Facebook, using names that we've chosen to represent those authentic selves, are asking for a third option. We don't want to participate on Facebook using our chosen names so that we can bully or intimidate. We have no interest in disrupting your experience. We simply want to use our chosen names so that we can share our true selves - our real views and our real behaviors - with friends who have chosen to interact with us.

Honestly, I think the only sort of people who would object to this, are people with very dark souls, indeed.  Because instead of simply choosing to block or ignore our Facebook presence, they want us to forfeit the Facebook experience entirely. Instead of tolerating (or ignoring or engaging with) our unconventional opinions they want us to stop talking, or to face social consequences for continuing to speak.  They're Monica of Friends, at her very worst, who needs everything just so and doesn't care about the damage her abiding need for order and control might cause others.

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