An Internet Where Everyone Knows You’re a Dog

by Henry on May 14, 2010

So I deleted my Facebook account about a week ago – the most recent changes to their privacy policy were one step further than I wanted to go (and it seemed certain that there were going to be many such steps ahead). This post today by Michael Zimmer does a nice job of capturing the reasons that Facebook was making me ever more uncomfortable.

But, today, I found a new statement that brings Zuckerberg’s hubris to a new level.
SocialBeat has a very thoughtful piece urging Zuckerberg to be forthright and explain what he truly and genuinely believes about privacy. While searching for evidence of Zuckerberg’s broader philosophy of information, a passage from David Kirkpatrick’s forthcoming book, The Facebook Effect, is quoted:

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “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.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

… Zuckerberg must have skipped that class where Jung and Goffman were discussed. Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives.

To Goffman, I’d add Richard Sennett, whose brilliant but elliptical The Fall of Public Man (Powells, Amazon) is all about the collapse of people’s ability to create public personae for themselves that differ radically from their private selves. Sennett’s idealized version of coffee house culture is in a way an idealization of the Internet before its time – a place where no-one, as the New Yorker cartoon put it, knows that you’re a dog. Facebook appears to be deliberately and systematically making it harder and harder for people to vary their self-presentations according to audience. I think that this broad tendency (if it continues and spreads) impoverishes public life. Certainly, the self that I present on this blog is very different from the self that I present in private life (I’m a lot more combative, for better or worse, in electronically mediated exchanges, than I am in person). It’s also very different from the self that I present on the political science blog that I contribute to. Both differ drastically from the self I present to my students. I don’t think I’m unique in this. And one of the things I like about the Internets is that I can present myself in different ways. This isn’t the result of a lack of integrity – you need to present different ‘selves’ if you want to engage in different kinds of dialogue.

As an aside – this may be a good place to note one of my other selves. I now do a lot of the round-up ‘this is interesting but I don’t have time to blog on it’ link selection that I used to do on Crooked Timber when I had time via a Google Reader feed (apart from the brief Buzz debacle, I’m generally more comfortable with the ways that Google intrudes upon my privacy than Facebook). People who are interested can find my feed at http://www.google.com/reader/shared/henry.farrell (if you have Google Reader or whatever, you can subscribe to this in the usual ways). The latest item shared is this great Boston Review symposium on the corrupting influence of money on medical academia.

{ 100 comments }

1

Pat 05.14.10 at 4:45 pm

What are the chances that, even though you deleted your account at the last change in the terms, that he’s not keeping and selling your information according to those terms anyway?

2

praisegod barebones 05.14.10 at 4:51 pm

It’s probably worth noticing that for some people being able to present different facets of their identity in different contexts is not simply something makes their life a little bit more pleasant or interesting, but a fairly essential survival strategy.

If, for example, I was a gay student – or indeed a gay faculty member in this institution, I might regard the ability to present a different identity in different contexts as essential to maintaing some sense of integrity.

3

engels 05.14.10 at 4:52 pm

Didn’t Facebook start with Zuckerberg hacking into a university server and copying private photos of other undergraduates onto his website? Given that beginning it would be surprising if respect for people’s privacy was a big concern of his.

4

praisegod barebones 05.14.10 at 4:54 pm

5

W.P. McNeill 05.14.10 at 4:57 pm

My gut is to agree with Farhad Manjoo’s latest column on the subject: people are going to grouse about Facebook’s privacy policy for awhile but ultimately accept it. This will be in part because social networking sites are prompting a redefinition of one’s public persona. But maybe this redefinition is not just a matter of their eroding some traditional notion of privacy, but also a greater willingness among all of us out there in the public to take part in the compartmentalization of each other’s projected selves.

People will always display different personas to different audiences, and a piece of communication technology that doesn’t acknowledge that fact is going to generate friction, as is happening here. However, how much of the ability to maintain different personas relies on those personas being completely concealed from their unintended audiences, and how much is a cooperative effort in which the audiences take part? Seeing your boss do an idiotic dance at the office Christmas party doesn’t inevitably eviscerate their authority. You might just think, “so that’s a peek behind the curtain” and then resume a professional distance on Monday. Or look at the examples Henry gives about himself here: he feels that he has a different persona on Crooked Timber than on The Monkey Cage, even though it’s no secret that the same person is contributing to both. Plus if everybody has a drunken college picture somewhere online, the shock value of drunken college pictures will go way down.

6

J. Fisher 05.14.10 at 5:09 pm

This is mostly anecdotal, but I’d actually like to, kind of, play the Devil’s Advocate here just to complicate things. I’m relatively new to FB, and I use it mostly to goof off for a few minutes between email and “real work” every morning. As much fun as it can be, I’m a bit lukewarm on the whole thing, mostly because I have little interest in “friending” long lost people from high school with whom I never conversed when I was in high school.

What’s been most interesting to me, however, is that the way the friends on my feed might actually unkowingly construct a singular identity for themselves. FB often provides people a measurable soap box: “Now all of my friends can read my opinions on health care!”, has been the way my feed has read as of late. In one particular instance, a friend of mine just stopped allowing people to comment on his feed after some of my mutual friends took issue with his politics.

So I guess what I’m saying is this: Yes, FB allows for social networking, but it, like blogging (I’ve made this point on on other CT posts), can be self-selecting. It also just allows the soap box to be put on risers, so-to-speak. In other words, I’ve found very little difference between the types of things that my friends say in reality (interpersonally, professionally) and the things that they say in virtual reality. (No more than they would criticize the boss in the office do they criticize him online; no more than they would champion BP in person do they champion BP online.) The only difference is that those people can share their throughts–their identites–with hundreds of people all at once–again, the sop box is up on risers.

So in short, might Zuckerberg be right? Are people really making an effort to manage the presentations of themselves?

7

W.P. McNeill 05.14.10 at 5:10 pm

Now I’m curious: what kind of information would people be willing to have visible to their Facebook friends but not to the world at large?

My answer to that question is “Nothing”. I have always assumed that Facebook is a public medium and posted accordingly, and as a result don’t care about their privacy policy. What’s the sticking point for other people?

8

lige 05.14.10 at 5:12 pm

Will it go the way of Friendster and MySpace? And if so is there another social networking site in the wings?

9

The Raven 05.14.10 at 5:20 pm

In other words, “You have no privacy. Get over it.” If “you have one identity” is the rule, the only identity is the public identity, and it will overwhelm all else in a stifling conformity. In Zuckerberg’s internet, not only does everyone know you are a dog, but what breed of dog you are. Most people look down on you for it and some people want to eliminate your breed entirely.

I suspect that, if sufficient detective work were done, we would find that Zuckerberg has a private life which he jealously guards, and will fight very hard to keep private. Every snoop I’ve ever known or heard of takes pride in knowing while not being known, and I doubt Zuckerberg is an exception.

10

Vance Maverick 05.14.10 at 5:33 pm

lige, there’s no reason to think the privacy concerns are scaring any meaningful fraction of Facebook’s users.

W.P. McNeill, you’re being naive (probably deliberately). Perhaps you’re implying that of course one’s circle of Facebook friends is just as public as the workplace and the street, but that’s assuming the conclusion. I think it’s not unreasonable to want a forum that is less public.

11

Steve LaBonne 05.14.10 at 5:34 pm

What are the chances that, even though you deleted your account at the last change in the terms, that he’s not keeping and selling your information according to those terms anyway?

p = 0

I suspect that, if sufficient detective work were done, we would find that Zuckerberg has a private life which he jealously guards, and will fight very hard to keep private.

p =1

This has been another edition of “Fun with Certainties”.

12

engels 05.14.10 at 5:41 pm

Will it go the way of Friendster and MySpace? And if so is there another social networking site in the wings?

Let’s hope not.

13

praisegod barebones 05.14.10 at 5:49 pm

Engels @ 11

Well, there is Orkut…

http://www.orkut.com/Main#about.aspx

14

paul 05.14.10 at 5:55 pm

In a lot of ways, it’s a perfect double bind. If you don’t disclose a goodly amount about yourself, you end up cut off from a lot of the social exchange that makes life workable. And if you do, you’re at the mercy of some random marketer or opposition researcher who will make your life hell (or cause a million others to do so) when you can least afford it. And it will be your fault.

For the opposition research threat, it’s mostly a case of pride going before a fall, otherwise known as someone getting ideas above their station.

The solution, of course, is to construct (and become) an identity that has just the right amount of apparent disclosure and advocacy of apparent opinions that are mostly in line with the perceived beliefs of one’s friends and the people one wants to be friends with. In other words, a universe that make america in the 50s look like a free-spirited heyday of counterculture and open debate.

15

Doug K 05.14.10 at 5:58 pm

http://www.joindiaspora.com/project.html

is a project to build a secure social network, where you get to keep control of your data. A fine shining idea, remains to be seen if it will survive implementation.
As Vance notes, it’s not as if anyone but the privacy geeks seem to care about Facebook’s policies.

16

The Raven 05.14.10 at 5:59 pm

Other social network: Diaspora. It’s a cypherpunk’s wet dream.

I suspect, though, that the designer’s of Diaspora have too much of the atomistic anarchism of the free software movement, and will pay a high price because of it. If, let us say, Facebook represents a totalitarian collectivism, cypherpunks represent Randian individualism. I believe that moderate compromises are possible, but so far the energy required to create them, funding, physical resources, interest has yet to be gathered.

17

The Raven 05.14.10 at 6:01 pm

I note in particular that none of the founders of Diaspora are women.

Croak!

18

Steve LaBonne 05.14.10 at 6:02 pm

If you don’t disclose a goodly amount about yourself, you end up cut off from a lot of the social exchange that makes life workable.

Funny, I prefer doing that with actual people rather than electrons. But then I am an old fogy.

19

Yarrow 05.14.10 at 6:06 pm

As Vance notes, it’s not as if anyone but the privacy geeks seem to care about Facebook’s policies.

On the other hand, at the moment 3853 people have pledged a total of $139,982 for Diaspora, a wee bit more than their $10,000 goal.

See http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/196017994/diaspora-the-personally-controlled-do-it-all-distr.

(‘Scuse me, make that 3857 people have raised $140,047 — not a huge difference until you realize that it happened while I was writing this message. Oops, now it’s 3859 and $140,077. I mean 3860 and $140,102. And I’m not going to look again!)

20

ScentOfViolets 05.14.10 at 6:06 pm

Now I’m curious: what kind of information would people be willing to have visible to their Facebook friends but not to the world at large?

My answer to that question is “Nothing”. I have always assumed that Facebook is a public medium and posted accordingly, and as a result don’t care about their privacy policy. What’s the sticking point for other people?

To name a few examples, how about if you’re gay or if you’re an atheist, or even, shudder, a Democrat? I’ve heard of cases where facts like these coming out about themselves was deleterious to a person’s financial health. Do you really want to have your job or your business contacts adversely affected by what is supposedly your private life?

That being said, I think it’s important to distinguish between lies of omission and lies of commission. The latter are to my mind far less acceptable in these sorts of situations than the former. If I was a fifty-something man posing as a fourteen-year-old girl on the internet, I’d say this was a problematic situation. If I was a closeted gay woman who was being hit on by her boss at work reaching out to other like-souled people on facebook, this would bother me much less, if at all.

21

Vance Maverick 05.14.10 at 6:16 pm

Yarrow, I’m not at all arguing that the privacy concerns are wrong. (Indeed I just “deleted” my Facebook account.) I’m glad people are supporting Diaspora. But on the question of whether any of this matters to Facebook or its user base, I’m from Missouri.

22

Chuchundra 05.14.10 at 6:53 pm

Well, I am an atheist and a Democrat. You can tell the latter quite clearly from my FB wall and the former could be reasonably inferred. Luckily for me, those aren’t things I’m trying to keep secret.

I don’t worry about privacy on Facebook because I don’t put anything on there that I particularly need to keep private. I chit chat with some friends, share pictures of my beautiful, baby girl and post occasional links/rants on political topics. Nothing that would prompt me to leave FB because I’m worried that unauthorized people might see it.

I mean, I do keep Facebook locked down as tightly as I can, just on general principles. I don’t friend people at work. I don’t install apps or play games.

I think that if you’ve got some secret life that you want to explore online, Facebook is probably not the best choice. There was a sad story I read recently about a sex blogger who lost her job because Twitter showed her real name and town linked to the alias she used to blog about her sex life. Another site crawled/cached that information so it was still available after she had fixed the Twitter settings and her boss found it while Googling her. She lost her job and had to shut down her blog.

23

The Raven 05.14.10 at 6:56 pm

“But on the question of whether any of this matters to Facebook or its user base, I’m from Missouri.”

Yes, certainly we must wait until disaster occurs before taking preventative steps.

If people would like to work with an apparently-honest social networking service, I recommend Dreamwidth. Google, as usual, is not-so-evil.

An issue not usually mentioned in these discussions is that various government security agencies and criminal organizations probably monitor social networks. Likely No Such Agency mines all data posted on Facebook, privacy-flagged or not and who knows who else does? The spooks are watching, and so are the mafia, the tangs, and Odin knows what-all else.

24

chris 05.14.10 at 7:23 pm

@22: To me, that demonstrates a need for stronger laws against firing people for non-work-related reasons.

Although I would also agree that you shouldn’t put anything on Facebook that you don’t want the entire population of the Earth to know; that’s why I don’t use Facebook.

As far as the general point, though, it’s obvious why, say, George Rekers or Ted Haggard would want to present a public persona completely disconnected from certain parts of their private life. In those particular cases it might be considered publicly beneficial that they can’t, but exposing *absolutely everyone* to the same kind of omniscient scrutiny seems far more alarming.

The least frightening scenario is the one outlined in _The Transparent Society_: people will discover that most of their secrets are actually pretty ordinary and boring, and so are most of their neighbors’ secrets, so the death of privacy won’t actually be that bad after all. Something about that seems psychologically wrong, though, however banal most secrets may actually be in fact.

25

Guido Nius 05.14.10 at 7:30 pm

Henry, thanks for that – any further suggestion for a recent work in the line of Sennett and/or Gofman?

I have never been on Facebook and everything everybody else said to me about it has convinced me I missed nothing. I also think this ‘true identity’ thing of Zuckerman is a clear example of a lack of humanity.

But I don’t agree we should be secretive about our identities. Like Henry did, it’s quite possible to be open about it – without neutralizing them. The world would be far better if we could not think of examples like the one of the gay person above. I know it is not like that and until it is we need privacy but this does not mean privacy is a goal; rather the absence of a need for privacy should be the goal.

The absence to have to argue against the Zuckermans about one’s integrity is an added bonus.

26

Henry 05.14.10 at 7:38 pm

bq. Odin knows what-all else.

As well you should know (are you Huginn or Muninn in real life?), indeed he does ;)

bq. I don’t know of anyone who has written an updated book on this (esp wrt the Internet) – anyone else know better than me?

27

Jason Treit 05.14.10 at 7:40 pm

“Seeing your boss do an idiotic dance at the office Christmas party doesn’t inevitably eviscerate their authority. You might just think, ‘so that’s a peek behind the curtain’ and then resume a professional distance on Monday. Or look at the examples Henry gives about himself here: he feels that he has a different persona on Crooked Timber than on The Monkey Cage, even though it’s no secret that the same person is contributing to both.”

This. One identity does not mean the end of privacy, imagination, or discretion. It does not mean all-revealing, monolithic selves. It means the end of multiple distinct public selves. Any illusion western society may have furnished of cleanly segmented social spaces, in which we are all Don Drapers alternating between lives and expecting anyone who witnessed a line-transgression to shut their eyes and ears, is over. Social spaces overlap. Groups function better as conduits of disclosure than containers of secrets. That’s not an unqualified good, but neither is it some foreign seed planted in our culture by evil Internet companies.

28

Chris Bertram 05.14.10 at 7:48 pm

I read _The Corrosion of Character_ and _The Uses of Disorder_ on the strength of “brilliant but elliptical” endorsements. It would take a lot to persuade me to take a third drink from the well of Sennett.

29

culri 05.14.10 at 8:01 pm

I think you’re not actually allowed to, but I made up an alias when I signed up to Facebook. Boy did that ever make much of this debate irrelevant. Of course, you probably can’t find me if you don’t have my e-mail and all you remember of me is my name. I’m totally fine with that.

30

cate 05.14.10 at 8:04 pm

I might add that Facebook is committed to cultivating singular personas because they make for more coherent portraits for advertisers mining data. From this perspective, one is neither public nor private–one is configured only in terms of consumption habits (seen and unseen).

31

Tim Lacy 05.14.10 at 8:07 pm

I’m going to head down a contrarian path with a few thoughts that have occurred to me after reading this post and its comments:

What if all of “our” fears (i.e. expressed in this thread and via what’s been hyped in the print media) are precisely the opposite of why Facebook might fail? I mean, isn’t the problem with electronic media its mere two-dimensionality? In other words, might it be the case that Facebook fails because it can’t deliver on its “promise” (read: Zuckerberg’s apparent dream) to collapse, or unify, our identities?

Take, for instance, comment flaming and out-of-control comment sections. To me, they seem indicative of people’s frustration with ~not~ being able to express themselves fully.

And Facebook can be frustrating in precisely the same way. The medium allows you only a glimpse of the “latest” on someone, and briefly at that. That kind of presentation lends itself to incomplete readings of others, as well as to incomplete presentations of the self.

And this inability to communicate ourselves—via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or even in standard paper letters—is ultimately based on our ability, as a society and world, to educate ourselves and our youth to read and write properly. All communication media are inherently limited by our education deficiencies.

So even if Zuckerberg wanted a grandiose unification of identity via Facebook, the things that would make the unification possible are completely out of his control—outside the realm of mere media. Facebook is only as good as the in-common ability of its users. And as it grows to include those who are less interested or able to communicate themselves, Facebook’s ability to expose us—to undermine our privacy—will be diminished due to the inability of its new members to understand properly the limited identities presented on screen.

In sum, the fears about Facebook’s ability to undermine privacy are dependent on factors (e.g. user energy, user communication ability, etc.) well outside of Zuckerberg’s dreams and the fears of a Zuckerberg Big Brother.

My apologies for any rambling you detect in this comment. I’m writing off my virtual cuff. – TL

32

Vance Maverick 05.14.10 at 8:47 pm

@Raven — sorry, sloppy writing on my part. When I questioned “whether any of this matters to Facebook or its user base”, I meant not whether privacy concerns affect them but whether they care.

33

Mise 05.14.10 at 8:58 pm

This isn’t an issue I’ve given any thought to, but I’d hate to see any attempt to defend the legitimacy of “public man,” as it existed in the past, gloss over the fact that his existence was possible only so long as “private woman” existed. Certainly I would agree that the idea of having some “one true self” which is more genuine or legitimate than other parts of your ‘self’ doesn’t hold up. But these ‘selves’ can’t be clearly separated into ‘public’ and ‘private’ without playing into very male conceptions of society. Any benefits society gained from those distinctions are surely outweighed by the price paid in terms of inequalities of gender roles.

I’ll be interested to have a closer look at Sennett’s book, and hope that’s an issue he addresses; it would be good to see how.

34

Henry 05.14.10 at 9:08 pm

I haven’t read it in a few years, but as best as I recall, Sennett is Not Sound on this question – there is a strong hint that one of the good things about coffee houses is that they are an excuse for the blokes to get out of the cramping confines of domesticity. There may be some extenuating arguments that I have forgotten. I don’t think that this cuts against the major point (although it does suggest that there are problems with his exegesis of 18th c coffee house culture).

35

bread & roses 05.14.10 at 9:18 pm

“what kind of information would people be willing to have visible to their Facebook friends but not to the world at large?”

My politics. I don’t put them on my facebook page, precisely because facebook will share them with the world at large. But I would love to have a social network that would actually only share what I want it to share to the people I’ve designated. I try to use facebook discreetly, because I only joined recently, and therefore I understand how irrelevant any restrictions on privacy have become. But I would LOVE to have a forum where I could construct an honest identity to my friends, online.

I don’t want a person who has just met me, a person I work for, or a person who works for me, to find out what my politics are, because I understand the corrosive effects that it can have on working relationships.

A case in point: my sister-in-law is being bullied by her boss. He gives her unreasonable assignments, criticizes her constantly, and applies stricter standards on her than on anyone else in her group. He used to be fine. Her husband’s mother is suffering from ALS, and, as is culturally appropriate in her social world, they have discussed assisted suicide with mom, since by the time comes that she might want it, mom won’t be able to talk. She mentioned this at work; work that used to a place where she didn’t need to worry about concealing things like dealing with dying parents. Her boss immediately started treating her very badly. It appears that he thought that her approach was morally equivalent to publicly discussing an eagerness to murder her mother-in-law.
Now, she made an identity-revealing mistake here; she didn’t know to conceal that information. But Facebook makes that mistake for us.
Facebook feels to me like a great social interchange where I would present myself similar to at a neighborhood potluck, a family reunion, or a wedding- lots of happy chit-chat, none of it deeply personal, but social. The fact that my employees can see what I say there keeps me from engaging in it in that way, and I would really like to.

I am a female, liberal boss in a 3% female, overwhelmingly conservative industry. The guys who work for me probably figure that I’m pro-abortion and pro-gun control, but there’s a world of difference between them suspecting that and me actually telling them. I work with some fundamentalist Christians, and I can guess at their beliefs based on subtle cues. We get along fine. The month I had to work with a fundamentalist Christian who filled me in on his beliefs periodically throughout the day remains the worst month of my working life.

36

Keith 05.14.10 at 9:51 pm

I’m guessing Mr. Zuckerburg isn’t married (and has never dated) or else he’d find out very quickly that you need at minimum, two persona. You can’t go around treating every acquaintance, friend and family member like your spouse (or significant other). That violates not just boundary issues and decorum but in some states, is illegal.

37

Maria 05.14.10 at 9:57 pm

The Zuckerberg comment about having more than one’s public identity is pure hypocrisy from a guy whose profile is locked down. The rest of us can’t keep up with FB’s constantly changing rules and preferences, let alone its self-writing ‘privacy’ policies.

I applied for a lobbyist job with FB a while back and am increasingly thinking I really dodged a bullet in not getting picked. It was weird applying for a job THROUGH facebook, knowing the people who got the application were going to read my whole profile.

I hope FB’s org-wide privacy meeting yesterday may knock some sense into those who clearly need it. On the policy side they have some really great people working there, and I get the impression the company would do a lot better by actually listening to these people’s perspective before launching these misguided and tin-eared changes rather than just pay them to clean up the mess afterwards.

38

b9n10nt 05.14.10 at 10:37 pm

This seems like a rich vein of Hegelian-Marxist analysis to mine.

First we have the communal peasantry with their singular, communal, identity. Various Medieval institutions nurture a public-private polyist identity onto the masses, fully developing in bourgeois society in which public/private dualism is necessary and “natural”. High Capitalism then allows for the bourgeoisie masses to be empowered enough to proactively create public selves (and, as nascent celebrities, bring these creations to market) until the contradiction between self-as-communal-construct and self-as-capital foster a political crisis: the inability of democratic republics to form a coherent public that will implement collective solutions to public problems.

Then something happens and a New Person is born. I guess Nietzsche gets a verse too…

39

ScentOfViolets 05.14.10 at 10:59 pm

This. One identity does not mean the end of privacy, imagination, or discretion. It does not mean all-revealing, monolithic selves. It means the end of multiple distinct public selves. Any illusion western society may have furnished of cleanly segmented social spaces, in which we are all Don Drapers alternating between lives and expecting anyone who witnessed a line-transgression to shut their eyes and ears, is over.

Going back to my sins of omission as opposed to sins of commission: I think it’s perfectly okay to have multiple public personas as long as they are not contradictory public personas. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be orthogonal, of course: in one setting I’m mostly an algebraic geometer talking in the language of schemes and using homological algebra; in another, I’m part of a parent network that shuttles the kids to and from various extracurricular activities. There just isn’t a lot of intersection there except insofar as it affects my scheduling.

Otoh, I also know some fairly unpleasant people (don’t we all) who will, for example, adopt an extremely fundamentalist persona on one group, but will also pose as a shout-out Randite atheist on another. We have a name for those sorts of creatures :-) I don’t see how tolerating that sort of behaviour is good for anybody.

40

Eric L. 05.14.10 at 11:41 pm

I’ve always thought the internet Henry wears a bowtie and suspenders and always tucks in his shirt. I don’t want to let that go.

41

Henry 05.15.10 at 12:51 am

Eric is a colleague and is referring to my notorious nattiness and exquisite dress sense when I louche my way (can you louche in motion???) around the department. Political science’s Beau Brummel …

42

Colin Danby 05.15.10 at 1:44 am

Hope you all are right re google — I’m still worried from the “buzz” fiasco, which seemed to revolve around a similar issue.

43

tomslee 05.15.10 at 2:20 am

The justifications for multiple identities are all well and good, but surely the answer to Zuckerberg is “F*ck off, it’s none of your business how many identities I have. And if you’re going to start calling me names because of my choice, well f*ck off squared.”

44

Henry 05.15.10 at 2:32 am

bq. Hope you all are right re google—I’m still worried from the “buzz” fiasco, which seemed to revolve around a similar issue.

With Google, I don’t get the sense of the continual relentless push on this stuff that you get with Facebook. They do do the data mining and predictive marketing thing, but that doesn’t bother me too much. danah boyd suggests, in the post that Kieran links, that they have explicitly told her they screwed up – which is probably not very trustworthy, but since they haven’t been pushing similar wheezes since I am giving them the benefit of the doubt for now …

45

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.15.10 at 3:37 am

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
Integrity being a modernist trope, Orwellian ne0liberalism is the apotheosis of Modernity.
Sounds about right to me. But not to get to Zizekian about this, by protesting Facebook policy you’re merely protesting yourselves. Does your intellectual ideal really offer any alternative to the flatness Zuckerberg prescribes? Not really. There aren’t really varieties of rational actor, nor do they leave room for “perspectives”. With all the past focus on universal knowledge this colloquy of multiplicities you envision (in opposition) is already beside the point. But maybe this is buyers remorse?

46

parse 05.15.10 at 4:34 am

I note in particular that none of the founders of Diaspora are women.

At least not in any of their identities that we’re aware of.

47

parse 05.15.10 at 4:47 am

If, for example, I was a gay student – or indeed a gay faculty member in this institution, I might regard the ability to present a different identity in different contexts as essential to maintaing some sense of integrity.

This is certainly the case, but one of the arguments of gay liberation in the 70s was that the solution to this kind of oppression was to manifest queer identity in every context. Regardless of whether to conceal or whether to celebrate, what’s key is the ability of the individual to manage their identities. what scares me about Facebook is that by selecting from thousands of single data points, unseen others can construct identities for us that are “true,” in some sense of that word, but nothing that we would recognize as being ourselves. The ubiquitous “Which Spice Girl Are You” quizzes that abound on FB are caricatures of a more sophisticated process that’s going on invisibly.

48

praisegod barebones 05.15.10 at 7:51 am

Parse – you’ll note that I said that it was the ability to construct separate identities that was vital for integrity. While I understand the point you’re making about being able to have a queer identity in every context, I don’t suppose that it was ever part of gay liberation thinking that a rich twenty-six year old American man should get to make that decision for everyone.

Or, to put it another way: if you’re prepared to come and live in the city that these students are living in, or indeed the sorts of town they grew up in, and manifest a queer identity in every context, then I might be prepared to take that dismissal a little more seriously. Only a little though – unless you are, like them, under twenty-two years old, living away from home for the first time, and if you’re a man, liable for two years compulsory military service…

49

Doctor Science 05.15.10 at 1:01 pm

I am in complete agreement with The Raven — Facebook is a feminist issue, and so far Dreamwidth is the solution.

For instance, WP McNeill said:
what kind of information would people be willing to have visible to their Facebook friends but not to the world at large?

My answer to that question is “Nothing”.

And this answer proves that you have never had to worry about being sexually harrassed.

But a majority of Facebook’s users are female, and a lot of them are young. I guess that the lifetime risk of being stalked or systematically harrassed, for a teenage girl, is probably 50% or higher — that is, at some time in the present or future course of her life, she has at least a 50:50 change of having to dodge someone persistent, creepy, and potentially dangerous.

Zunderberg — and you — are using a “reasonable man” standard for the expectation of privacy, except that Zunderberg actually locks down his profile quite tightly. I’m sure he says that it’s because he has an exceptional risk of harrassment, he’s a special high-profile snowflake who deserves special rules.

But really, he’s not more vulnerable than a typical teenage girl, and FB’s defaults should match the “reasonable teenage girl” standard. Any social network that doesn’t is DOIN IT RONG, and the reason The Raven and I favor Dreamwidth is that it’s the only platform being built by former teenage girls, who don’t have to keep reminding themselves to stick to that standard.

The single-identity, let-it-all-hang-out approach is libertarian — the kind of libertarianism that leads to thinking of 1880 as the Golden Age of Liberty (because only straight rich white males are real people, after all — everyone else is just support staff).

50

Doctor Science 05.15.10 at 1:02 pm

edit fail — My answer to that question is “Nothing”. should have been in italics.

51

Bruce Baugh 05.15.10 at 2:43 pm

Doctor Science, that’s a wonderful rule, and I’ll swipe it with acknowledgement.

Parse, it turns out – unsurprisingly – that ’70s ideas of gay liberation were flawed. Not so much wrong as incomplete, both for a fair number of people then and for more now after another generation of crony capitalistic and technological evolution.

52

bianca steele 05.15.10 at 3:25 pm

Doctor Science has it exactly right, but if she has documentation for her statistic of 50% girls eventually getting harassed, I’d like to see it. If you search newspaper archives for cyberstalking crimes, you will find the police’s attitude follows a similar pattern: girl put up a personal website, giving criminals access to her, naturally she was targeted. If you don’t have a commercial reason to be making information about yourself public, why are you? (And even then: if you put too much personal information out about yourself, and you work in a field where most hiring is done through professional placement firms, some recruiters will put together a CV for you and circulate it without your knowledge, which for a few reasons you don’t want.)

53

Earnest O'Nest 05.15.10 at 4:06 pm

Isn’t it at least as appalling for employers not to want to hire people based on an involuntary CV as it is for Suckerberg to want to condemn everybody for behaving the same all of the time? Or, as it is for people to abuse the anonymity they have behind a screen to barge in somewhere – on someone – without even bothering to knock?

54

The Raven 05.15.10 at 4:24 pm

Thank you, Doctor Science.

Another point not yet discussed: what, in Zuckerberg’s world, how is identity theft to be prevented when so much information can be tied to a single identity and there is no control over the distribution of that information? And what are victims of identity theft to do? If one has only one electronic identity, and it is stolen, what is left?

Bianca, “If you don’t have a commercial reason to be making information about yourself public, why are you?” Because communication is a human need, just like food and water, and maintaining public personas is part of being an adult. A service like FB provides the illusion of privacy only, and people share more of themselves than they would without the illusion. It is especially risky for teenagers, who are still learning how and what to share.

55

Doctor Science 05.15.10 at 4:47 pm

if she has documentation for her statistic of 50% girls eventually getting harassed, I’d like to see it.

Such documentation doesn’t exist, because today’s teenagers haven’t had their lifetimes yet. 50% is a personal, conservative guess at a lower bound, based on (a) the fact that a woman’s lifetime risk of rape is something like 25%, and harrassment is much more common than rape, and (b) my personal knowledge of the life histories of assorted women in our 50s and older. My *actual* estimate for women in my cohort (born in the 1950s) is that 80% or more have been harrassed or stalked at a level that would be dangerous if our lives had been lived at current levels of electronic record-keeping (FB, email, cell phone pictures, etc), but that’s a highly hypothetical number and I don’t even know how you’d get a concrete one.

56

bianca steele 05.15.10 at 4:49 pm

Ernest:
I don’t want my CV circulating without my knowledge, as a professional. I don’t want it to get around that I’m looking when I’m not. I don’t want my resume sent to places I would never want to work. I don’t want multiple copies of my resume sent to the same place, which is bad form. I don’t want a version of my resume floating around that I feel misrepresents me (I’ve been on both sides of interviewing someone with a recruiter-drafted resume that made the candidate look less qualified than she was*). I don’t want my name sent to places where I obviously am not a good fit. I don’t want to send my resume someplace only to find that someone else has already sent it (because it’s bad form). Yes, companies also don’t want to waste time on resumes of people who aren’t really looking, either.

Raven:
I was thinking of the difference between a professional author who has a personal website with information for fans and publishers, and some personal info too, and someone who puts their diary online. There’s a lot in the middle, and it isn’t always easy to know where to draw the line.

There’s also a difference between Facebook the corporation being able to use or sell your personal information, and setting your permissions too wide. The phone company is not supposed to use your calling patterns commercially either.

And there’s another distinction between what you think is right and what you can trust other people to do (both people who don’t know you except online and people who primarily know you offline). Trust doesn’t become justified just by your deciding to be a trusting person.

* This was the same agency in both cases, and I know of a third case where the same agency sent a totally wrong person for a position. I don’t recommend to people I know that they use that agency (I don’t know whether they’re still around). But I’m not going to name them here for the same reason radio hosts tell their guests not to name specific firms.

57

Earnest O'Nest 05.15.10 at 6:09 pm

bianca, if you want that much control over what happens maybe the internet should not be your first worry. Do you think none of that happens outside of Suckerberg’s (& similar) sites? On this here internet it seems I can have more control since I can call myself Earnest and I do not know anybody that finds Earnest interesting enough to find out whether his creator is or is not O’Nest.

58

bianca steele 05.15.10 at 6:21 pm

Earnest,
I’m not sure what your point is. Yes, those things could happen using no more advanced technology than the telephone, and did. The point is that many (not all) people know not to give out personal information about themeselves and others over the telephone, and nobody says don’t get a phone at all. And nobody says, “you should give any information you’re asked about to anybody who asks, because that’s the nice, trusting thing to do, and only a twisted control freak would try to influence what’s going to happen.”

59

Earnest O'Nest 05.15.10 at 6:35 pm

Ah, you mistook me for Suckerberg then. I can assure you: I am not him. As to what my point is here: I don’t think many people are out hacking my comments to trace my IP address to my real home. If they are, I’m sure they are being very criminal about it.

60

bianca steele 05.15.10 at 6:44 pm

That’s good. I’m not Rapoport either.

61

aaron 05.15.10 at 6:46 pm

The single-identity, let-it-all-hang-out approach is libertarian—the kind of libertarianism that leads to thinking of 1880 as the Golden Age of Liberty (because only straight rich white males are real people, after all—everyone else is just support staff).

This is exactly right; Zuckerberg’s position really reflects a privileged majoritarian position in a society where “wealthy white male” is sort of the default, since a wealthy white male like him has the privilege of assuming that no one needs to maintain much distance between their private and public lives; wealthy white males like him have the least social need to do so. But when Sennett talks “about the collapse of people’s ability to create public personae for themselves that differ radically from their private selves,” he’s describing a kind of differentiation that has a very particular value and salience to minority communities (of every sort), for whom that schism describes very important and basic kinds of double consciousness. To the extent that one is not society’s “default” type, one has not only the most opportunity to make use of different personas (the Obama in ben’s chili bowl, after all, is not the Obama of the state of the union, whereas W and Palin get most “American” when they pour on the Texan or Alaskan), but often the most to lose by failing to differentiate between them. As much as being in the closet might suck, lots of people lose really important things when they get outed, which is why it’s so important that they make the choice themselves, but that’s just an extreme example of tsomething that obtains at all sorts of levels of society. In short, privacy means something very different depending on where you stand, and it’s non-majority communities that best understand the value of double consciousness, however one theorizes it.

By the way, one thing I think it’s useful to remember about Zuckerberg is that he’s a 25 year old billionaire. Such people are not normal.

62

Jody 05.15.10 at 7:05 pm

I may be very comfortable sharing my religious beliefs, family status, employment prospects, latest author kick, and random other information with friends, and even friends of friends, without wanting that information data-mined for the benefit of corporations large and small. I use/used Facebook as a forum for largely private conversations/catch-ups with distant friends and family. I did not want eavesdroppers at the party, and I did not want to have to sell my name, age, family composition, or location in order to throw it.

Facebook needs to make money, so of course, now that I’ve seen the usefulness of their site, they are trying to get me to let them sell information about me in order to justify Zuckerber’s billion-dollar net worth. As much as I liked the friends-and-family connections possible on Facebook, it’s not worth the price they now want to charge.

I’ve requested the magazines and newspapers to which I subscribe not to sell my name and address to third-party lists. The one that didn’t offer that option lost my business. As far as I’m concerned, what Facebook is doing is the same deal.

So, for me, this is not about privacy or personae — it’s about money, and whether I’m going to give Facebook a lot of personally-identifiable information about me so that they can make money.

63

a.y.mous 05.15.10 at 7:21 pm

Does Zuckerberg owe any one of you anything? More to the point, should a (ab?)normal 25 year old majoritarian white male American billionaire owe any one of you anything? You folks spit on the crown, only to polish it.

64

bianca steele 05.15.10 at 7:23 pm

Aaron, but it’s not just the cultural thing where the “default” is white, male, and wealthy. It’s also, for example, something else Doctor Science alluded to: that there are two standards for defining stalking, one for vulnerable girls, and a different one for celebrities and more generally, people who hire security firms. This is the stuff that goes in the middle between “culture” and what really happens.

65

Earnest O'Nest 05.15.10 at 7:49 pm

‘Rapoport’, I don’t get it. But it sure sounds funny ;-)

66

tom bach 05.15.10 at 8:26 pm

Google apparently collected all manner of information during the creation of its street view.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/technology/16google.html?hp

67

Rick Calvert 05.15.10 at 8:56 pm

Facebook is no different that any other amoral corporate entity. They are in business to make money. That is what feeds them, and it is the god they worship. If sacrificing your privacy brings them more money, so be it.

But unlike most corporations, Facebook is in a very rare space with members like Google Microsoft, and wanna be Apple. They have the very rare opportunity to make more money than any other company in the world via a monopoly. Like Big Oil’s monopoly on energy, Facebook and friend’s monopoly is information. If they control all of your information, they control you and can charge you whatever they see fit. By the way that information monopoly doesn’t just allow them to control individuals but every other business in the world.

It can be a difficult concept to get your head around but when you do it is a very scary thing.

68

parse 05.15.10 at 9:03 pm

Parse, it turns out – unsurprisingly – that ‘70s ideas of gay liberation were flawed.

Certainly, but the particular idea that gays coming out of the closet would be a powerful weapon again oppression turned out to be a very good one. That’s not to suggest that praisegod barebones was wrong to point out the importance for gay people of having the ability to control the extent to which a queer identity becomes public is crucial. And I think it’s pertinent to the discussion about Facebook–even the people who are saying “Well, I would never put something on Facebook that I wanted kept private” are acknowledging the importance of individual control over aspects of our identity. And I think some are being naive if they assume that independently innocuous bits of information can’t have unexpected results when combined and exploited by consumers of data mining.

69

parse 05.15.10 at 9:12 pm

This is exactly right; Zuckerberg’s position really reflects a privileged majoritarian position in a society where “wealthy white male” is sort of the default, since a wealthy white male like him has the privilege of assuming that no one needs to maintain much distance between their private and public lives; wealthy white males like him have the least social need to do so.

Don’t wealthy white men, many of them Republican office holders, find that the collapse of distance between their private and public lives pops up to bite them on the ass on a fairly regular basis? It doesn’t look to me so much like wealthy white men don’t need to maintain the distance as that they are confident (and sometimes overconfident) that they have enough power and money so that other people wil maintain that distance for them.

70

Unlearner 05.16.10 at 1:00 pm

The ability to present yourself differently isn’t important just because you want to give some presentations a refuge from social repression, is it? Come the revolution, will everyone start living the same presentation all the time? Will multiple identity wither away as part of the prehistory of human society? Is it really the effect of capitalism and other forms of domination to make people present themselves in a *less* homogenous way?

71

bianca steele 05.16.10 at 3:46 pm

Facebook is no different that any other amoral corporate entity.

Rick, no argument on most of what you say. But your first sentence gets at the problem pretty exactly. Zuckerberg could sell what his customers want, following ordinary business and legal ethics, asking experts for their advice, and recognizing that a college student with no experience in the business world might have something to learn from people who do have such experience. That wasn’t good enough for him (to judge by his recent public statements). It seems he wanted to sell an emotional experience, to be the rah-rah freshman orientation facilitator who’s going to tell everybody how they should interact. He wanted to be moral; he wanted his corporation to do moral stuff; he wanted to sell a product that nudged people towards being moral–as he understands what “moral” means.

Now that’s fine, I guess. We can just use another product that provides an experience that matches what we think “moral” means. And we can make our own public statements, demonstrating that his opinion is not really very widely held at all.

72

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.16.10 at 7:08 pm

“And we can make our own public statements, demonstrating that his opinion is not really very widely held at all.”
But it is widely held that the amoral is moral… in the long run. It’s a belief defended even here.
But then I agree with Unlearner @#70

73

Salient 05.16.10 at 7:30 pm

But it is widely held that the amoral is moral… in the long run.

…Eh. This is pretty far afield. I’m still pretty sure that Tom Slee won this thread, squar’d.

74

bianca steele 05.16.10 at 10:20 pm

C L-S: It doesn’t matter much whether the people espousing a view are privately moral or what, or whether they hold those views sincerely or are giving the public what it wants, just as it doesn’t matter much whether a corporate CEO’s morals correspond to those of the majority of the population or a minority.

Although, I’ll play devil’s advocate for just a moment. It is arguable that “integrity” is really important, psychologically, morally, and intellectually. It’s arguable that this kind of integrity is possible only for people who aren’t subject to ordinary social rules.* It might then be taken to follow that it is morally better for people who–for social reasons–aren’t capable of this kind of independence and integrity to keep out of public life and intellectual discussions, because the discussion just won’t work if that isn’t the case. That seems to me to be an interesting result, and not trivial.

The question then is, what is this integrity? If it is the same as being the same person everywhere, not being subject to doubleness, then it is restricted to men, white and wealthy or at least upper middle class, mentally sound, morally sound by generally accepted standards, financially independent to the extent of not having to subordinate themselves to a patron or boss, and professionally independent to the same extent. This sounds a lot like what I understand of Sennett’s seventeenth century coffee house culture.

* This is part of the reasoning behind monastic celibacy and also behind academic freedom and tenure.

75

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.16.10 at 11:15 pm

I don’t defend “integrity.” at least not as much as it applies to the intentions of the actor. Integrity is for an audience to judge, not the speaker. But integrity, and sincerity etc. are central to the assumptions of modern liberalism, which likewise defends “objectivity” and “reason” all judged by the speaker and his friends but not by outsiders/others.

“It might then be taken to follow that it is morally better for people who—for social reasons—aren’t capable of this kind of independence and integrity to keep out of public life and intellectual discussions, “

And there have been plenty of arguments from liberals for just such a policy, hence my snark about JS Mill. There was even a defense on this page of academic freedom as predating and therefore more important than freedom of speech for the public, and arguments here calling explicitly for limits on the latter. To answer those and your own assumption: there is no relation to the priestly celibacy and academic freedom. Academic freedom is not idealistic at all and strictly speaking it’s not about freedom. If it were anyone could become an academic by arguing for anything. Academic “freedom” is no more than the independence given those who have followed the rules long enough to be free of the reins. Its beginnings are in freemasonry, in the stone cutters who were granted the right to cut their own details. Celibacy is idealist law for a priestly caste in a monarchist rule. Academic independence at its fullest is the democratic understanding that its better to risk error than restrain curiosity. It’s granted by a democratic society to a group, not by that group to themselves.
Google says their golden rule is “Do no evil” and to you that means something.
In fact it means nothing. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” That’s your own puritan modernism and idealism coming back to bite you in the ass.

You put it right out there: Teachers as the new priestly class. And anti-democratic.

76

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.17.10 at 12:24 am

As far as doubleness is concerned it’s what women show men as opposed to each other, what jews show gentiles, blacks show whites, children show adults, employees show bosses and each of us show others. There’s also what we want to represent to ourselves and others as opposed to what others see. That’s the doubleness of the cafe revolutionary, and it’s why perceived integrity is more important than the integrity we may claim for ourselves. Consciousness is at least double.

77

sg 05.17.10 at 7:19 am

It’s interesting to compare facebook’s approach to these multiple personae, and privacy, with that of the Japanese social networking site mixi. Facebook isn’t yet that popular in Japan, but mixi is, and mixi is incidentally much stronger about privacy and disguised identity. No-one uses their real name and it’s very easy to completely hide your real identity – it’s generally assumed that you are. It’s also possible to lock the entire system so that only friends can see anything about you beyond your public profile (and this is the default setting), and they have strong rules for reporting or blocking anyone who contacts you.

Japanese have a very strong concept of tachiba, a kind of notion of position interpreted literally as “standing place,” and are very comfortable with the idea that you have different behaviour for different tachiba, and they are naturally averse to any kind of social interaction (digital or real) which forces them to mix these. They don’t mix work and family life, they don’t mix clubs and drinking friends, and so on. Their social networking sites reflect this distinction very carefully, whereas I notice that facebook users often mingle friends and work in what can only be a very dangerous combination.

The facebook creators clearly see this as a feature of their site, not a bug, but I much prefer the mixi approach. I am surprised that so many people allowed facebook into their lives given it’s lack of privacy and anonymity – I thought that these were things most people valued on the internet.

78

VV 05.17.10 at 9:24 am

Re japan: the tachiba concept fits in with the heavy and complex-sounding use of honorifics in speech. In such an environment, it sounds reasonable to want to hide your identity. I wonder what kind of speech prevails on mixi, polite, respectful, humble, or “regular” without use of honorifics?

79

frankdawg 05.17.10 at 10:43 am

I have had a facebook account for about a year now. I opened it using a sockpuppet email account I keep for IT security work I do. On facebook I am a minor character from a 50′s sit-com. People that know me & I want to have contact with know who my sockpuppet is – as for “old friends” or High School jerk-offs finding me – who cares?

I had none of my personal info on it until about a week ago when my college age son decided to list me as his father on his page. He does not see the privacy issue. I see that itself as a problem with his generation, they are so used to facebook levels of exposure that privacy has become a minor concern.

80

Anderson 05.17.10 at 11:25 am

Re: whether Facebook continues to use one’s data after account “deletion,” they certainly *keep* the data. I quit a couple of weeks ago, and got a happy message assuring me that if I ever changed my mind, my account would be right there waiting for me when I came back.

81

tomslee 05.17.10 at 11:51 am

@sg – I had never heard of mixi, but it is great to know that there are alternative privacy architectures for social networking sites.

82

Hogan 05.17.10 at 2:03 pm

#62: It’s just like broadcast TV: the viewers may think they’re the customers, but in fact they’re the product.

83

Phil 05.17.10 at 2:48 pm

I am surprised that so many people allowed facebook into their lives given it’s lack of privacy and anonymity – I thought that these were things most people valued on the internet

Since I first got online in 1996 I’ve always hated “walled gardens” like Compuserve, AOL and, er, Facebook; I’ve always worked on the basis that I was putting stuff out there which could in principle be seen by literally anyone. At the same time, I’ve never really liked pseudonyms; with only a few exceptions, I’ve always either used my full name or made it fairly straightforward to trace my full name, e.g. by putting it on my blog. Putting the two together, I’ve always seen myself as a single person with multiple social circles (pretty much as I am in real life); the Phil Edwards who comments on CT looks a bit different from the Phil Edwards who writes about Italian terrorists, the one who sings folk song, the one who used to write about WebSphere, the one who used to work for Red Pepper, the one who’s into real ale and the one who used to hang out on comp.software.year-2000 and devised the Edwards Scale of anticipated Y2K severity (widely criticised by the survivalist tendency among our regulars for stopping at 5 (TEOTWAWKI) rather than going into detail on the possible gradations of the coming doom)… But I’m not ashamed of any of them & wouldn’t want to conceal any of them from potential or actual employers, friends or partners; they’re all me.

So I don’t really understand anonymity, let alone the use of multiple ‘identities’ – it seems like a lot of hard work for a benefit I’m not sure I even want. On the other hand, I do understand compartmentalisation & multiple personae – I certainly don’t want to have “Phil Edwards the blue-suited folk-singing ale-drinking pinko Y2K geek who knows about terrorism” hung round my neck every time I open the virtual door.

84

sg 05.17.10 at 4:05 pm

VV, although those honorifics are important it’s worth bearing in mind that they lie on top of a culture of interaction which is both respectful, polite and humble. The language used on mixi is generally the language of friends – so “informal” language, but it’s also generally extremely polite and respectful. There’s a million entertaining ways of saying “I won’t reply to sexual invitations,” in a profile, for example, which include things like “I would appreciate it if you would humbly allow me to decline any dirty suggestions that you deign to honour me with.”

I find the world of mixi much gentler, less threatening and more engaging than the world of facebook, which is – typically of western styles of interaction – much more about brazen self-promotion. The farms on mixi are much cuter too.

85

Vance Maverick 05.17.10 at 11:15 pm

Was it our “Sebastian” who sent in Henry’s book cover to Photoshop Disasters”?

86

Henry 05.17.10 at 11:50 pm

Happily for me (if sadly for the story), they took the watermark out for the actual book – although the original mock-up still appears on Amazon and other places …

87

Vance Maverick 05.18.10 at 12:56 am

Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that the posting had merit (stray watermarks are thin stuff by their standards) — but to wonder, in this context, at the pseudonym.

88

Doctor Science 05.18.10 at 1:48 am

Phil @ 83:

So I don’t really understand anonymity, let alone the use of multiple ‘identities’ – it seems like a lot of hard work for a benefit I’m not sure I even want.

Does this sentence actually make sense to you?

Are you saying you don’t understand why other people have multiple identities, when they’re not necessary for you? In that case, you need to go back to The School of Paying Attention to Other People and How They’re Not You. That’s what Zuckerberg and his ilk are doing: setting themselves up as the standard for how everyone should act, and people who can’t accept their requirements for having an online life just need to shut up.

Or are you saying that you *do* understand why other people have multiple identities, but you think they’re over-reacting? In which case, I think you probably need to be harrassed at your job, your social network, and your home — and then told that “it’s not that big a deal, just ignore him”.

89

Vance Maverick 05.18.10 at 3:29 am

I also don’t understand the distinction Phil is drawing here:

So I don’t really understand anonymity, let alone the use of multiple ‘identities’ – it seems like a lot of hard work for a benefit I’m not sure I even want. On the other hand, I do understand compartmentalisation & multiple personae – I certainly don’t want to have “Phil Edwards the blue-suited folk-singing ale-drinking pinko Y2K geek who knows about terrorism” hung round my neck every time I open the virtual door.

What’s the line between an “identity” and a “persona”? Phil admits he prefers his personae not to bleed into one another; so at least a soft, provisional or ludic compartmentalization is all right by him. But evidently not a hard, permanent or serious one. For some reason.

90

Kaveh 05.18.10 at 4:09 am

@80 they certainly keep the data. I quit a couple of weeks ago, and got a happy message assuring me that if I ever changed my mind, my account would be right there waiting for me when I came back.

Though, I imagine if you were to delete the fields in your account by hand (or replace them with nonsense), that would work. A lot of trouble to go through, but better than not being able to do it.

91

Vance Maverick 05.18.10 at 4:36 am

Why do you imagine that, Kaveh? Not being conspiratorial, just wondering why you’re confident that the extra step of recording the change history of those fields rather than just their current values has not been taken.

92

Kaveh 05.18.10 at 4:53 am

Vance: True, I guess it depends on how you’re worried about your data being used. Although, it’s always been the case with anything you put up on the web that it may be out there for good.

93

Vance Maverick 05.18.10 at 5:10 am

I don’t really have an axe to grind here. On the non-alarmist side of the ledger, I’ll note that the note FB sent me on deletion did not say quite what Anderson reports: rather, it said I have 14 days from my request to change my mind. But on the other side there’s OpenBook.

94

Earnest O'Nest 05.18.10 at 7:43 am

Maybe not everybody noticed but ’82-Hogan’ tells something that is very true and will come in handy at dinner parties when people bore you to death about twitter and facebook & “how you just have to be a part of it”.

95

Phil 05.18.10 at 8:06 am

Vance: What’s the line between an “identity” and a “persona”?

I don’t know, but it seems like a useful distinction to me. Just thinking aloud, really.

I guess the difference is that the person who uses multiple personae is not necessarily covering his/her tracks – he/she is fairly relaxed about the possibility of any of those personae being linked back to him/her. If the connection between you and your ‘persona’ is a secret to be avowed only to close and trusted friends, then it’s an ‘identity’. Maybe.

Dr Sci: I’m intrigued by this “tolerance of different viewpoints” of which you speak. I wonder what it would look like.

96

alex 05.18.10 at 11:12 am

“Identities” are somewhere between a fiction and an administrative convenience. “Personae”, masks, much better captures the actual nature of human interaction, for anyone not deprived of interactional competence by some temporary or permanent condition.

97

Henry 05.18.10 at 3:31 pm

Oh no worries Vance – grateful to be told about it …

98

Doctor Science 05.18.10 at 3:39 pm

Phil: My sarcasm detector is beeping, but since I have not spoken (in this conversation) about “tolerance of different viewpoints” I don’t know what you mean, either.

99

belle le triste 05.18.10 at 3:45 pm

I think I calculated on Unfogged that I have routinely used seven different screen-names, in different communities, of which five are current. When I get a bit less busy (I so shouldn’t be reading this thread today) I might scribble down the rationale. I’m not especially bothered by exposure: I don’t troll, I don’t really get into fights and I don’t have a virtual papertrail of embarrassing details to come back and bite me.

100

Phil 05.18.10 at 4:21 pm

Dr S – you suggested that I “need to go back to The School of Paying Attention to Other People and How They’re Not You”. Which I took to be a gratuitously offensive way of saying I should recognise the legitimacy of viewpoints other than my own, partly because some of those viewpoints are based on experiences I haven’t had. (I guess it may have been a gratuitously offensive way of saying something completely different, in which case we’d better start this exchange again.)

Anyway, I’m really not doing what Zuckerberg and his ilk are doing. This is partly because I don’t even agree with Zuckerberg (as I said, or thought I did), but mainly because, unlike Zuckerberg, I’m not in a position to lay down terms that anyone else needs to follow. I’m just somebody expressing opinions and talking about my own experiences – an Other Person who’s Not You, you could say.

Comments on this entry are closed.