Being Your Authentic Self…Online?

This week, I read Constructing and enforcing “authentic” identity online: Facebook, real names, and non-normative identities, as written by Oliver L. Haimson, Anna Lauren Hoffmann. I found this piece to be quite interesting and informative, offering Facebook insight I hadn’t previously given much thought to. This article explores the contradictory balance of authentic y and discretion. The general expectation is that Facebook user accounts should display the exact, full names of their respective users. However, many users view this expectation as irrational and unjust, due to the negative consequences that have resulted.

Throughout Facebook’s 14-year history, this aforementioned authenticity has backfired for many users who did not exercise discretion with their posts. Sure, we could easily make the ‘devil’s advocate’ argument that there must be accountability with the users, who should ensure that they aren’t posting content that could be offensive and potentially damaging. However, those same users could argue that, if Facebook wants users’ accounts to reflect their authentic selves in display name, shouldn’t their accounts also reflect their authentic selves with regard to personality, interests, and viewpoints? Furthermore, isn’t it hypocritical, contradictory, and disingenuous for Facebook users to not post directly from their respective minds and hearts?

Regardless, in our technological society, we have made significant progress since the term ‘2.0’ was coined more than ten years ago. By ‘progress’, I mean we no longer imply that platforms have an original, ‘boring’ version followed by an improved, ‘fun’ version. Instead, we are trending away from a black-and-white view of technology as bad and good. As a result, we are trending towards a more open-minded approach to software development and implementation. For example, these days, a development team is unlikely to ask such questions:

  • What types of functionality and navigation could we seamlessly build into this software?
  • What’s the coolest layout for this type of software?
  • What’s the fastest method for implementing this software?

Instead, a development team is more likely to ask the following types of questions:

  • What types of functionality and navigation would most likely be preferred by this software’s user base?
  • What type of layout would be most helpful for users of this software?
  • If we begin developing our sprint enhancement list next week, what is a potential timetable for pushing this enhanced software into a beta environment for testing?

Technology continues to evolve across the globe, making the term ‘2.0’ obsolete and archaic. Instead, every day, developers are gathering user feedback to continuously fix bugs, implement enhancements, and improve the user experience. Software can no longer simply be ‘fixed’, as the process is ongoing.

 

References:

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Posted on October 14, 2018, in Blogs, Digital, Social Media, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’m surprised at the number of students I meet who have dual identifies online: one for their family members and work presence and another for their friends. The ones they create for their friends usually use a moniker, and there they are more free to post “riskier” content and pictures. I think it’d be hard to keep up, but they seem very adept at switching personas.

    I also find it troubling that there seem to be many double standards with social media about what constitutes harmful content. For instance, a breastfeeding mother gets her photo banned for indecency, but recently Megan Mulally (of Will & Grace fame) did an Instagram livechat, and a man in another country exposed himself during the livestream. It took Megan asking her followers to contact Instagram repeatedly before they would do anything about it.

    • Hi Amery,

      Thank you for your follow-up thoughts.

      Like you, I also know people who maintain multiple social media accounts depicting different personas within a single platform. I have one friend whose “recreational” account features her full name spelled backwards, minimizing the chance of current/future employers finding her page. Personally, I have never maintained multiple accounts within a single platform, nor do I think I could do so successfully.

      Also, I agree with you regarding the double standard for social media content. You provided a great example of Megan Mullaly, which I was previously unaware of. Upon further research, it is very unfortunate that Megan (I’ll always know her as the gal with the voice) initially received zero cooperation from Instragram following such a disgusting incident. Shameful, indeed.

      ~Jeff

  2. In regards to Facebook names, authenticity, and dual identities – I am one of those people who has dual online identities. I have two facebook accounts, one personal account and one work account, this is primarily for logistics reasons of managing business social media accounts, but it has turned into two sort of separate groups of “friends” on each page. Since my work account is public and is my full legal name it is easily searchable, this is the account our students and faculty members add me on to gain access to secret facebook groups I manage on behalf of my company. My other account is under my name, but does not include my last name. I still am accountable for what I post on there, but is in under much higher privacy settings that my public account so that when people are searching for me, they first see my work account. I think it will be interesting to see how this develops as the web continues to develop and change. Should it be possible for users to have more than one account on an application? Is this more complicating that helpful? I’m not sure. But as applications try to limit the number of fake or other accounts, it’ll be interesting to see what other tools they put in place for people like myself who manage a variety of accounts and pages.

    • Hey there,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with maintaining multiple Facebook accounts. Just out of curiosity, what challenge(s), if any, have you faced while maintaining the two accounts? Is it tricky to bounce back and forth between the different digital voices? Is one of the accounts more challenging to manage than the other?

      To answer your hypothetical question, yes, I personally believe it should be possible for users to maintain multiple accounts within a single application. In fact, when users such as yourself maintain multiple accounts for security/privacy precautions, I think it portrays responsibility and general awareness.

      Thank you!
      Jeff

  3. Jeffrey,

    I have often thought of reasons I wish I had another “me” on Facebook. I have encountered a lot of customers sending me friend requests through Facebook. I would love to have one account that I could allow my customers to friend me on and another, private account for in-real-life friends only. I often post pics of my kids or and my family on my personal page, and while I do put most customers and people I do not know personally on “restricted” (so that they can only see the posts I make public but we show as “friends”), sometimes I miss one or two. I worry that I will miss restricting the wrong one some day. This world is full of crazies! So, for people like me who run a business online, it surely would be nice if Facebook lifted that rule about having more than one identity online. It wouldn’t be a “different” me, just a less private me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

    Rebecca

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter, as well as your personal experiences with it.

      It is understandable that you are frustrated with Facebook’s strict identity/account rules. Sure, as you stated, we can restrict/adjust our page privacy settings. However, this is certainly not a foolproof strategy. In fact, a friend of mine recently learned a painful lesson about the dangers of ‘tagging’ others, who may not maintain such tight privacy settings themselves…yikes!

      I dimly recall Facebook being a bit of a mess prior to its implementation of strict identity/account rules. Sure, there are still plenty of fake/spam/robot accounts, though I do feel this was a far greater issue pre-crackdown. Therefore, I can understand why Facebook has such rules in place, though it’s unfortunate that a few bad apples have ruined things for the well-intentioned, including you.

      Thank you for your insight!

      ~Jeff

  4. Much of what I read in Net Smart and our other readings highlights the importance of personal responsibility when using Web 2.0 technologies. If we don’t know how to stay safe and responsible while using these tools, it is much like going to the gym and exercising without knowing what we are doing, how to use the equipment or how to stay safe. It’s obvious we can get physically injured if we don’t know how to exercise and use gym equipment. But, the web is a little more abstract. We can’t always see the threats or even predict them. I also think that we have advanced into this new age of Web 2.0 very quickly. So many new tools and applications are available to us. Many are free and easy to get started with. Nothing stops us from diving right in. There aren’t user manuals to read first. There aren’t requirements to take classes or to understand anything. It’s largely a world where people just begin doing. I really liked the perspective Reingold took in Netsmart. He seemed to have a great perspective on the dangers and pitfalls as well as giving his audience some practical ways to use the web.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your excellent feedback.

      I really like your gym/exercise analogy, which helps bring clarity to this ever-growing issue of technological mindfulness.

      You are absolutely correct that we can’t always see nor predict interactive threats. I’ve heard malware described as a “worm that burrows its way through your system, eventually disappearing deep into your hard drive”. I’d call that a terrifyingly perfect analogy!

      Also, great points about technological access and the forgotten art of user manuals. Yes, we surely have access to endless digital platforms, many of which are free to use. Accordingly, user manuals are largely irrelevant in our 2.0 tech-ciety. After all, thanks to technology, we don’t even NEED to spend time reading through boring manuals, correct???

      Thank you for your awesome, thought-provoking feedback!

      ~Jeff

  5. You make some very good points. Until recently, I used my full name on all my social media pages. Now, they are all initials or abbreviated. I am not entirely sure what pushed me to change except that I felt the need to have more anonymity. I agree with your statements regarding the balance of authenticity but then also privacy. Yes, we risk posting online and should be aware of that. However, don’t the platforms also have responsibility to protect users, to a degree? Great blog!

    Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you for your feedback.

      Yes, I agree that social media platforms are at least partially responsible for protecting users with regard to privacy and security. However, I have also seen such involvement backfire, as users occasionally are wrongfully accused of rule violations and, subsequently, are unfairly reprimanded. For example, I have a friend whose Facebook page was randomly shut down by the platform’s administrators without them providing my friend with specific reasoning. She simply received a vague message indicating that she had violated Facebook’s terms of use. As a result, she was never able to reactivate that page and, instead, created a new one from scratch.

      While I can appreciate and respect social media administrators helping to regulate their digital environments, I do feel there is much room for improvement with the penalization process.

      Thank you!
      Jeff

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