Another post about Facebook? Yes, I’m afraid so, but this one has a slightly different slant to it. Instead of talking about privacy, let’s talk about identity.
Facebook’s increasingly cynical founder, Mark Zuckerberg, made a statement in 2009 that reveals itself not as a reflection of fact but, in Nicholas Carr’s words, “a clever and cynical ploy to recast the debate about Facebook’s ongoing efforts to chip away at its members’ privacy safeguards”:
You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.
I’m sure there are plenty of people — Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman), Bono (Paul Hewson), that woman who works near you who uses her maiden name professionally and her married name socially — who have a lot of integrity but also have, in effect, two identities. Children of divorced couples sometimes bounce between preferring or wearing maternal or paternal last names depending on which side of the family they’re with. Authors use pen names. Songwriters have aliases depending on genre.
People can have more than one identity.
Zuckerberg hopes we only have one, but, as Jeff Jarvis writes on the Buzz Machine, he must confuse “a” public with “the” public — and this leads to mistaking sharing with publishing.
They are not the same thing.
If you’re on Facebook, think of all the myriad “you”s that are there — your high school persona, your college persona, your business personae, your family persona, and others. But they are, in aggregate, not you. Rather, they are “the small societies we create on Facebook,” as Jarvis puts it.
Facebook is also confusing “identity” with “identification” in the sense of affiliation. We identify with certain people for certain reasons, and know certain things about them because of these affiliations. But the mirror-ball of identity shouldn’t be captured, frozen, and published through an algorithmic compilation of affiliations.
We’ve discussed here before Jaron Lanier’s insights about the extended childhoods the force-fit of social media is creating for our kids, who never lose touch with each other and might have something closer to a single identity. This has a conservative societal force.
Or, as Danah Boyd says in her excellent rant on the topic, “it’s about monkeys vs. robots.”
And I’m saying that in my identity as a blogger. It’s not my only one.