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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why I don't use my real name - here or on Facebook

I've toyed with the idea over the past three years of blogging to finally reveal my real identity. I was this close to doing so, perhaps in an effort for "transparency" (I hate that term) and then something happened. I think it was in the midst of Mrs. BWF's blow up over on her blog Birth Without Fear and all the trouble she was having with trolls that finally did it for me. I took a lesson from her: do not give out your real name except to those whom you really trust. We've either been in the middle of it or seen it from the sidelines, but you do have to admit - there is quite a bit of snark going on in the birth nerd world.

It's estimated that 27 percent
of users on FB are fake.
So what? 

Not that I don't trust all the wonderful people who read my blog, "like" my fan page and friend me through my anonymous account on Facebook, but you get the idea.

This morning when I logged into my Deranged Housewife FB account, I was blocked from entering, presumably because they are going through a "fake name" purge and decided I was on the list. Fine, whatever. I realize they have those policies for a reason, but it is not the paragon of security and honest social networking they'd like to think it is, and they're not really fooling anyone. It's often been said that privacy settings are hard to figure out, more complicated than they should be, and it's no secret to anyone that they purposefully try to get you to share more than most people would be comfortable with. (Just check out what they consider 'default settings' sometime and you'll see what I mean.)

I've heard people say, "I don't care, I've got nothing to hide." Perhaps. But yes, in some ways we all have something to hide: considering identity theft is a huge problem, and (from what I've heard) FB's new policies on harassment actually make it easier to harass people than hinder the process, I think many people should rethink how much they want to share. Some of us are having a hard time because of policies that immediately think you're spamming or doing something evil simply because you don't want to share what they consider relevant details (name and birthdate).

Who, really, needs to know my real birthdate? I mean, what does it really matter to the social networking world? I find it scary, considering if you did know my real name and birthdate, you could probably - just by those two kernels of information - find out where I live, and where I have lived, in the past decade. (Check out that site "Intelius," I'm sure you've seen it.) Is FB really that stupid?

Because of that brand new "ticker" feature, I can see content on fan pages that I'm not supposed to see because I don't subscribe (which is against their TOS, too, apparently). One classic example of why people use fake accounts is when they subscribe to groups - one such group is a haven for people with illness to connect and share ideas about their condition. The only problem was, because certain information can't be hidden, and thanks to that damned ticker, their problems were blasted to everyone on their friends list. They'd come back and say, "So and so said, 'I didn't know you were sick.' Or "You just use your illness as an excuse,' kind of thing," because they can read so and so's comments on that group. I responded, "Yeah, like I really want everyone to know that "XYZ Disease has killed my sex drive!" I'm sure that would go over well. Using a fake account means they can more openly share information without having to worry about "friends" listening in on the conversation. (Again, there may be super-duper complicated privacy settings to switch somewhere in the bowels of your FB account that can change all that, but who knows, really.)

I've read that upwards of 27 percent of people use fake names. Not all of them are malicious spammers; some just want to get around the 'filter' that means they can't vent their feelings, true thoughts and frustrations when grandma, Pastor So and So and perhaps a gossipy aunt are watching. And you know they are. Can't FB understand this? I have actually seen several custody disputes and family arguments unfold on FB, and it's sad and scary to think those people can't even say anything without someone jumping on the defensive. And honestly, if I shared half of the birth nerd info on my 'real' profile that I do on my "business" one, no one would comment, few would "like," and I'm sure I'd get unfriended several times over.

There is that "lists" feature (or whatever you want to call it) that separates people into groups based on your criteria - but I wonder if many people know how to use it. And if you have to go to a separate (non-FB) tutorial just to learn how to use some of their crazy complicated security features, then it means things should probably be simplified a bit. I bet many people don't even realize how much info they share on any given day and they would probably be horrified. We can tell them "Don't use it, then!" all we want, but for some, this is the primary - albeit flawed, perhaps - way they contact friends, relatives and business contacts. (When an older relative asks me "Should I get on Facebook?" I often bluntly tell them, "No - you'll never be able to figure out their privacy settings.")

As for my personal account, I've taken myself out of Google search, Facebook search, instant personalization (yeah, what a joke) and all the stuff I can think of and it still doesn't seem to help. On my anonymous account, I don't care who knows what I'm reading, when I'm reading it; on my private account? Heck yeah, I care, so stop sharing that info even though I've unchecked that stupid box 100 times already and it doesn't seem to change anything. Months ago, my relatives were getting fake requests from Facebook users who claimed to be friends with me, even though I had no idea who they were. How'd they know who to target? Who knows. (The only link I can make is that data between my email account and Facebook was shared. I never did find out the answer to that one.)

When it comes to the business of FB friends, it's rather perplexing. If you get too many of them, they don't like it. If they suspect that you've sent too many friend requests (even though you haven't) they don't like it. Apparently they want you to be a social butterfly, but only to a certain point.

Last night my husband and I were watching a movie about the Nazis, and at one point they mentioned how the gestapo were made up of very few people, who relied solely on the reports of common citizens to do their jobs. Well, it's kind of the same thing at FB: they have, apparently, very few employees worldwide as compared to the number of users, and depend on others to report every seemingly offensive political, religious, or breastfeeding post that just might offend someone. Sound scary? It should. If only we knew just how many people - people who are supposedly acquaintances and friends, otherwise people you trusted - "turn in" someone for content that just happened to make them mad. Yet the "F*ck Jesus/Christians/Islam" fan pages are still up and running, despite numerous complaints and reports. 

When you think about it, the age of internet use, sharing information and social networking is both revolutionary and some scary sh!t. Think for a moment about all the information you're required to submit when you sign up for an online account - whether it's with Facebook, a cooking website, even your bank - and then think of all the people out there who are trying, sometimes successfully, to gain access to that data. There have been security breaches at bank companies (my credit card number was compromised in just such a breach just a few months ago), and FB has admitted to losses of data in recent months and years because of hackers. And they get mad because there are some details you'd rather keep private, even though you can easily prove you mean no ill will?

If you're spamming people with bogus friend requests, porn pictures or other stupid products, it's going to show up on someone's wall. It will be obvious. But if you've never received a complaint from anyone, and have the public wall to prove that the links you share are anything but spam, then honestly I don't know why they get their shorts in such a bunch. They want to maintain credibility, says their CEO, because if it were loaded with fake accounts then "no one would take them seriously." Seriously?! I think it's way too late for that.

In the meantime, I'm not sure what I plan to do. I have considered trying to reactive my blogging profile, gather any pertinent information I need and close it, using FB under my fan page. I hesitate to send personal information to verify my name (although FB encourages you to blot out any other personal details and promises (pinky swear!) that they will immediately shred all details as soon as the information has been verified. I hate hate hate to lose the wonderful artwork I've posted, and all the friends I've made, if they don't get the memo, will go up in smoke. I really want you all to know how important you are to me: the wonderful connections we've made, conversations shared and ideas exchanged has been more fulfilling than you'll ever know! Many of you interact with me on a regular basis and have almost become friends (in more than a FB sense, I guess) and I would be terribly upset if those connections were broken forever.

Stay tuned and please, keep in touch!

More reading:
Why the number of people using fake names on Facebook is increasing (or something) - I don't know who wrote this article, but a lot of their assumptions are totally stupid.
Real users caught in Facebook fake name purge - God forbid your mother gives you a name like 'Anakin' because no one at Facebook will really believe you.
Facebook privacy settings are too complicated
Facebook Privacy: a bewildering tangle of options - NY Times


Kristen said...

Have you looked into Google Plus, you have circles. A feature that helps you organize the people you have on your "friends" list so they do not see everything you post unless you add their circle to the post. It is a great feature and one I kind of wish Facebook would adopt.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree 100%! I recently commented on an issue going on in FB world and my comment (suggesting that the person in question check into a glitch on fb) garnered me more than FIFTY nasty personal messages! Some simply said I was stupid, others said that I was vile, probably the person that posted the photo, called me a troll... some went so far as to suggest that I should not be allowed to parent my sons because I was too stupid, vile, etc.. Simply for suggesting that the problem I had been having for TWO WEEKS was identical to the "block" put on this persons account.. but I was not blocked!! I even had some women threaten to call Children's Services to have my children REMOVED because "I'm too stupid to parent". ALL FOR OFFERING A SUGGESTION THAT THE PERSON IN QUESTION BE POSITIVE IT WAS NOT A GLITCH! Thank GOD that while this is a name that I use (and have the legal right to use), it is not my "legal" name. Turning in my facebook name will not get you anywhere. Thank God. I could not BELIEVE that women would be so horrible! :( How would THEY feel if they were turned into CS for something not parenting related at all? Yet, it's the FIRST thing threatened by many women. :( It's sick. I will NEVER use my "legal" name on fb :(

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not posted, reported the photo.. was distracted by the baby wanting me to nurse his puppy dog while he nurses lol :)

The Deranged Housewife said...

I don't know anything about Google +, but I hear it has the same problem. FB has the "groups" feature where you can separate your lists or whatever, but the one time I tried this it automatically defaulted and made ALL my future posts go to that specific group of like five people instead of my regular wall. So if you forget to change it after posting, it'll keep it that way. Just annoying, as usual.

I'm thinking of just doing it and just saying eff it. I at least want my content back from my account and then I"ll decide. Bleh.

AtYourCervix said...

my anonymous facebook page is still there..........for now. I made up a birthdate, then made it hidden (especially aftern I got birthday wishes on my "fake" birthday!). If FB pulls my AYC fake name page, I don't really care.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I know, I thought of you, AYC. I just have a lot of stuff on that account that I want back. :/ I also want to let people know what happened. I think in this case they take themselves way too seriously... LOL

AtYourCervix said...

Thank you TDH. I appreciate it. I hope you're able to reclaim what you had on Facebook.