Late last week, Some of my friends in Facebook began talking about the social networking site erasing a number of accounts. How many is unclear, Hundreds, maybe thousands. But the statistics meant little to those whom couldn’t find their friends, or found their account vanished. The reason, Facebook’s dislike of members using anything but their “real names.”
Reactions among the posters varied. Some went ahead and changed their account names, “I changed it myself because I will NOT allow Facebook to delete my archive. It is making me physically ill to see my RL name here, but if that's what it takes.” I also saw some react with anger, “So, it seems Facebook is ‘ banning ‘ anyone who isn't using a ‘ real name ‘ or a ‘ real face ‘. As I refuse to use ... a name I despise and have planned to change in favor of the one I have spent 25 years existing under, I might be targeted.” "my name and pic is real so leave me the f*** alone FB" While a few may have given up in frustration and leave Facebook once and for all, it seems most simply started new accounts, either under their real names or continuing to use their Second Life Names.
Of social media sites, Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla. As of January 2011, it had 600 million users, which include more than 40% of the United States’ people as users. Compare this to Second Life having a total of 20 million, and among those, only a fraction regularly log on. Second Life’s page on facebook has 144,000 “likes,” and for some time pages on the official blog, as well as Marketplace have options to share. Facebook became too big for Second Life to ignore a long time ago.
Unfortunately, the two have different ideas about Internet aynominimity. Second Life fully embraced it at it’s beginning, and although there is now a little subtle encouragement to provide real-life information, people are known by their avatar names. In contrast, Facebook encourages users to post information about themselves, and reserves the right to boot anyone who gives it anything but their “real name.”
Facebook is not very consistent about disabling Second Life accounts. It seems to go by for long periods without doing much, then gets rid of a number at once. Indeed when I first signed on, I had the impression this rule of theirs was not enforced. Now, it looks to me like some kind of “bait and switch.” They encourage people to sign up, giving those attached to Internet Aynomonymity the idea they don’t need to compromise it, then weeks, maybe months go by before applying the banhammer, intimidating those who’ve grown attatched.
People have had various ideas about what to do. One friend told me she would move on from Facebook if banned, but it seems most are prepared to stick with them either by changing their Facebook name away from their Second Life one, or starting over if booted. There was a statement from the Second Life page suggesting people instead of using their Second Life names on Facebook instead make a tribute page for their Second Life account. This idea seemed to fall flat with most. Someone in one group chat suggested convincing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman to use Second Life and develop an appreciation for it.. But others didn’t think he would be up to it, “he probably thinks SL is so last decade.” Then there are alternate social networks. But I have my doubts they’ll catch on unless these mass deletions happen more often.
Myself, I got on Facebook to help spread the word about the newspaper, but it’s my Second Life name connected to it, not the one I use away from the computer. So for now, the account name stays as it is.
I may put up another picture soon, though.
For more, check out comments at Daniel Voyager's Blog, and Kim Randal.
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