Sep. 15th, 2011

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It's been a long time since I've posted here and I doubt I'll make it a habit, but I was very touched by this, and wanted to record it:

My friend, I'll call him T, wrote the following:

Thanks for the invitation to D*. This looks like a wonderful community of free thinkers. More and more the big dogs of social media are making me feel like an outcast from Minority Report. Let the web be free of identity scalpers! Kudos to your efforts.

I responded:

Awwww! *hugs* A big high-five on your Minority Report reference! Yes.

I don't know that I can take any credit for shaking my tiny, powerless fist. ;) I just think "Why does Google want to know this?" I think I'm old as far as the 'net goes, and I'm accustomed to the fact that I can enjoy a great conversation with someone without knowing his or her real name. In fact, from my perspective, I view it as a privilege to know someone's real name, rather than a right.

Somewhere in one of Miss Manners' books, she talks about the trend of people using their academic letters socially, and laments the fact that people are now deprived of the delight of surprise, such as the joy of talking with someone at a party, and finding out later that the lovely lady who adores gardening also happens to be the president of the local college.

I feel a little like that about pseudonyms and friendships. These days, one so rarely gets the opportunity to invite intimacy by saying "Please, call me Jane," when someone has politely addressed you as "Mrs. Baker." I considered it a real honor, as well as a progression and recognition of our friendship, to gradually learn each of your [guild members] real names ... but the point is that you, as people with autonomous control over your own names, gave me that friendly permission. You weren't pressured into it by Google or Facebook. It was an act of respect and affection between friends, and I think that's awesome. I don't think the power and meaning of that action of consent should be taken away and rendered meaningless by Big Social imposing its will just to sell us as a product.

Maybe I'm a perfectionist, but I don't think Facebook and Google+ are good enough. I'm not on board with "good enough" just so I can talk with family and friends. Those are valuable, treasured interactions: shouldn't I entrust them only to a network that is seriously invested in protecting our privacy?

I still love the tweet I saw that pointed out that "The bank only asks me to show my ID to the teller. Google wants me to show it to everyone in the bank and beyond."** I also like this post about having good reasons for not wanting to cross the streams, and that Google+ doesn't respect the compartmentalization that long-time netizens have already done to manage the separation between their public and private lives.

Over the course of time, my dear guildies have learned just about everything about me that there is to know -- more than many of my real life friends, particularly those who don't game. That trust has been earned during a decade's worth of laughter and adventures together. Those relationships are far too precious to hand over to business entities that want to monetize them.

I also think about the fact that I want my niece and other children to grow up in a world that still has some concept of privacy. We're already filmed almost everywhere we go. Should my young niece's future employer be able to find photos of her perhaps doing something embarrassing when she's sixteen? I don't think someone's process of individuating into adulthood in their late teens should be a determining factor in whether or not they're hired for a job at 30. I'm going to do what I can to protect them from being tracked everywhere they go and in everything they do.

Ummm, I went longer with this than I intended. :) Thank you for reading, though, sweetie, and thank you for coming over here.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

PS: You make a very good point about D* being a community of free thinkers. I'm a little emotionally divided: I want D* to succeed in a huge way and triumph over Big Social, but I also want to guard and preserve the cozy atmosphere present in the dialogues with early adopters.

I don't suppose I can have my cake and eat it, too, huh? No? Didn't think so. ;)

T responded:

As usual, your critical thinking skills are poignant and enviable. They also illustrate how easy it is to become naive and complacent in the world of "Big Social," as you so aptly name it. You are very brave in standing up for your ideals, and there is much to learn from it. Thanks for sharing your missives, I enjoy reading them. :)

*blush* :)

I've just been trying to do what I feel is right, just the same as when I left Facebook to protest their handling of users' data. Still, these are some of the nicest compliments I've ever received in my entire life, so I wanted to record them. :)

Maybe his kind words mean so much to me because T is someone I've met through a nym -- he got to know the real me's ideals and beliefs, and liked that person. This post by Emlyn explains it really well:

The types of people with a pseudonymous online life tend to live, I think, in geographical environments very unlike their online worlds. These are conservative, sleepy parts of the world, where the normal people they meet in everyday life, the family members that they love, the work colleagues they go drinking with, are largely clueless about and uninterested in the online world.

Separate Identity netizens aren’t participating in online life as an economic activity, or for networking per se; it’s really purely social. They are doing it for fun, for connection to other people who get it, for self expression. To that end, a Handle is a badge, a marker to say “I belong”. It also communicates something about the online personality (probably often as distinct from the offline personality).

I currently work in a job where my views on certain subjects differ from those of my departmental head. That's fine, and I generally keep my mouth shut there, but using a pseudonym enables me to voice my opinions with less fear that said employer will find them and associate them with me, despite the fact that I voiced them outside of my place of employment.

A compliment to my face in the real world can be, and often is, impacted by a lot of different factors. A compliment from a long-time friend online is based on my own sincerity, and thus, has a certain purity. It is untainted by perceptions of how I look, what I'm wearing, and so on. Given that, I value it especially highly.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I believe we have the capacity to be our very best selves online, unfettered by preconceptions about race, economic standing, geography, and the like. Someone who has a bias against Polish people in real life might not realize for a long time that one of their best friends online is Polish. Wouldn't it force the biased party to reevaluate his or her perceptions if he or she found out after the fact, rather than up front? Wouldn't that individual be less likely to befriend someone named Jacob Jaworski on an identified web site like Google+, thus reducing the chance to narrow the divide?

I'd say that there are times when we're better off without real names. In this current partisan climate, it seems just another way to categorize and separate us by our differences, rather than uniting us through our commonalities.


** I must confess to beginning middle age on this one. I check the #nymwars on Twitter about once a day, sometimes twice, and in the flurry of tweets, I blanked on to whom I should attribute this quote. I am even more embarrassed because it was made by my new friend AdmiraliPhone. I should've done better! Here is the link to his original awesome tweet. My sincere, wholehearted, and humble apologies, Admiral. Thank you for letting me know in the most tactful and kind way possible, and I hope you'll forgive me for the oversight!


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