Making the rounds today is a Guardian article on journalist Laurie Penny’s banishment from Facebook for using a pseudonym; Facebook mandates users playing within their concentration camp do so only while displaying their “real name.” This should tip off the masses that Facebook is foundationally, greatly interested in your identity, not your participation or your content. But, we need to ask, as Facebook’s real name policy has been steadily inspiring outcry for months now, why do the people who claim they need a pseudonymous Internet presence also seem to be outraged at their banishment as if they have a natural right to use Facebook? There is much to parse here.
Facebook claims its “‘real name culture’ creates more accountability,” which is a corporate culture’s attempt at branding their product as safe. Safety, especially in the post-9/11 world, holds Most Favored Possession status in the capitalist socioeconomic commodity hierarchy. Consumers want products, but only if they are safe. Cars, swing sets, plastic bottles, pharmaceuticals — the moment products indicate they are or have become known to be unsafe, become hard-to-sell and are recalled. Parents especially hate unsafe products; when celebrities counter-endorse products as unsafe — say, vaccines — suddenly consumption wanes. Studies show that introducing brand name goods to children at young ages fosters loyalty to those products. Even Major League Baseball knows this. In her essay, “Understanding Loyalty and Motivation of Professional Sports Fans,” Victoria Wilkins underscores why corporations need little consumers’ attention: “Appeal to children. A true bond that lasts a lifetime starts in youth. A child will become a fan of a team … and will retain fandom throughout his or her lifetime.” Team Facebook, aware of the digital future children face, having bought out the futures of Teams Friendster, Myspace, and Google+, knows it must advertise a safe digital playing field if it wants to convince parents to allow their children to sign up.
The claim that real names will create a safer Internet experience is specious at best, distraction. The claim certainly serves its theatrical purposes inasmuch as the Transportation Safety Administration purports to create a safer travel experience, despite what the masses experience and know.
And despite what Facebook claims about its purpose — “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” — it is a publicly traded, billion-dollar corporation, operating to make a profit. Facebook is a mall, selling its visitors’ presence to advertisers and selling its visitors’ actions as the content-product that visitors come to consume. The whole operation is also one of surveillance, in that every action within the mall is seen and recorded. This is why Facebook wants children in their mall, to accurately learn and record what other loyalties these new consumers are psychologically forming at each milestone of their youth.
Unlike traditional shopping malls, however, Facebook demands you identify yourself, with your real identity, before entry, just like the TSA. Facebook, to this effect, is a private, privileged space. Yet, the TSA doesn’t want to know your real name, the TSA — and Facebook — both want to know your legal name. There is a difference. Drag queens know this. Chinese academics know this. Everyone reading this knows that who you really are is more akin to the words that your lover calls you than the ones the Internal Revenue Service does. Just like government administration, Facebook wants to keep its accounting records organized by single legal identities. It wants to account for historical facts. But, unlike the IRS, it seeks to retain an inescapable lifetime accounting of actual persons’ expressions and interactions.
I’ll take the IRS instead any day.
Can you imagine driving up to a dank gas station, late at night, and the greasy cashier who has been staring you down the aisles refuses to sell you $10 worth of gas and a bottle of water, paying cash, unless you show some state ID?
“We prefer to thank you by your real name instead of calling you ‘ma’am.’ Sorry, just store policy.”
Has the Internet become so desperate that Facebook is the last gas station, late at night, on the information superhighway? Do you really need to piss beside everyone else congregating in its ripe restroom?
ALL URINATORS MUST IDENTIFY THEMSELVES PRIOR TO USE OF COMMODE
If you are someone who claims to be oppressed, to be “at risk ‘of rape and death threats,'” if you need anonymity while communicating with your associates, and there are well-lit, locking-door pissholes across the street, that care not whether your real name is Mark Zuckerberg or RuPaul, why are you getting mad at the gas station for being so dank?
Would you send your child in to pay instead?
“Pick up mommy some cherry vape, too, sweetie. I love you!”
If the government banishes the public free-speech right to call yourself or anyone by a real name, a truer description of the person we embody, and rather mandate self-representation solely by the words scribed on a State’s legal document, the uproar would be furious. Hopefully people would loathe the loss of a civil right. The question of the State’s motive would surely publicly arise.
It seems foolish for any public business to demand one’s legal identity in order to consume its advertised free products, but the sign stating so is on the door. Don’t like it?
And yet, the vociferous complaints in the media describe users’ defensive opposition to Facebook’s real name policy and not to its larger purported motives.
Which makes me wonder: Given the growing evidence that social media corporations are less about connecting people and more about creating data-surveillance profits, and given Facebook’s especially egregious, known efforts at such, why are the ejected oppressed users so hellbent on getting back into the concentration camp from which they’ve just been thrown out? I’m not trying to purport these oppressed users are victimizing themselves; I am instead alarmed that there is something so perniciously attractive and appealing about Facebook that its corporately bullied users do keep trying to go back behind the bully’s fences, and worse, believe they should attack the fences.
Why would you purchase the pleasure products of an oppressive business?
Why do you want to hide your identity and earnestly use a platform whose whole business model is recording history so they can perpetually identify you?
Is there no alternative venue?