Facebook V. Stage Names

September 20, 2014

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” - Mark Zuckerberg

In the past few months, facebook has taken action against drag queens, burlesque performers and anyone else who goes by an alias by shutting down their accounts unless they can prove that their stage name is their legal name or they change their account name to reflect their legal name. When questioned about why he was taking such an agressive stance on the issue Mark Zuckerberg said that he felt that the days of regulating who gets to see what information online are coming to an end and that people should only be allowed one identity.  This statement is fundamentally stupid and inaccurate for two main reasons.

 

Firstly, many people choose to go by aliases in the name of protecting themselves. A burlesque dancer may not go by her legal name on facebook because an ex-spouse is trying to use her profession against her in their custody dispute. A drag queen may fear having her "real name" revealed because she is afraid of being the target of anti-LGBT violence. The fact that Zuckerberg sees "the days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know... coming to an end" means that he is oblivious to the physical and psychological violence that can require someone to protect their identity. He truly believes the primary reason one might need an Alias is to avoid being judged by our bosses and co-workers. Despite the fact that this is a completely valid and significant reason for having an Alias, it is definitely not the most important reason to have an alter-ego. Aliases in the public sphere can protect us from harm in the private one.

 

Now, let's talk about his position that we all have "one identity." From a sociological and a psychological standpoint, one is capable of posessing many different identites. One is also constantly regulating them based on your surroundings. For example, my reputation as someone who can put away a good bit of alcohol may be something I enjoy showing off out at a bar with my friends, but when I am at my mom's house, I'm probably going to talk a bit more about my work as a seamstress. I am proud of both of these identities, but I intentionally manage my speech and behavior based on my audience. Controlling our identities is a basic necessity. Suggesting that one lacks integrity for managing which of their identities is prominent on a social media site is just nonsense.


Unfortunately, Mark Zuckerberg and his staff can and will force us to change our names or delete our accounts, which makes them look ignorant and is definitely a bad business move. However, they have turned a deaf ear to our complaints and reasoning, so let us all take solace in the fact that Google+ has taken this opportunity to announce that they have no problem with the use of Aliases. Looks as though we will soon be crawling back into the open arms of Google+, apologizing for the way we doubted them and praising them for never trying to change us.

 

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