No, this isn’t one of those repost-this-or-Facebook-will-make-you-pay-for-your-account scams. This is Facebook beginning to crack down on enforcement of its longtime policy of requiring its users to use their full, legal name.
That’s annoying if your legal name is Robert but you’ve been known as Bobby your entire life. That’s DANGEROUS if you’re a survivor of rape or abuse and don’t want your attacker to have access to your information or a way to contact you. And it completely disregards the identity of LGBT people who don’t go by the name that’s on their legal record. And apparently Facebook’s most recent crackdown has been targeting drag queens.
But Facebook says requiring legal names helps keep their community “safe.” Bullshit.
And Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted saying, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” (Ugh.)
Facebook isn’t the only social media account that encourages/requires its users to use their legal name. We all heard about Google+’s annoying attempt to get everyone to register with their real name. It backfired for them and they were forced to change their policy.
I get the sneaking suspicion that the people in charge of these policies are cisgender and have never been afraid that someone abusive in their past could find them again. Just a suspicion.
You can find people’s stories at #ResistRegistration on Facebook. My story is that my abuser found me on LinkedIn — the social network that shows you a photo of the person who looked at your profile. And when your abuser hasn’t seen you in 13 years, you don’t exactly want them to know what you currently look like, where you work, where you went to school, etc. And I didn’t really want to be reminded of him either.
But yes, I will continue to use my real name on social media. At least for now. Because my career is improved when I use my real name, and I won’t let him stop me.
But while I may decide to use my full name on the Internet, I consider my case to be pretty mild compared with the stories I’ve heard. There are those who have been stalked, transgender people who continually have their identity rejected, people who are trying to escape abusive relationships, etc. Can you really blame any of these people for knowing it’s best for them to use a name other than their full, legal name?
Why is Facebook pushing back so hard about this legal-name crap? Easy. Why do companies ever do anything? For the $$$$$$$$$$$$! Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast writes,
More likely, this is about money. Facebook now admits that “performers” should establish pages, rather than profiles. There’s a significant difference. Pages can “promote posts” by paying Facebook. They can purchase a variety of tools to expand their audiences. They can buy ads. None of these are available to profiles.
Listen to your users, Facebook. Your policy is transphobic, dangerous, unnecessary, and straight-up annoying.
Update, 10/2/2014: Facebook has come out with an apology to its LGBT and drag-queen users and has now said users can use whatever name they use in their lives on their profile. It’s not perfect, but we’ve clearly pressured them into a vat of common sense.
Cover photo by Jessi James at CraftyCrookshanks.typepad.com, used with permission.