May 20, 2010

“You have one identity. 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. Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Guess who said that? Yep. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame. Because everyone’s favorite social network is back under the microscope. I already wrote my reaction to the change in my profile. However, I only addressed the UI changes, not the privacy implications. Why? Frankly, I didn’t outwardly notice any changes in my sharing – this is probably due to the fact that I refused to link to public pages and therefore, nothing is on my profile anymore. However, it upset a lot of people when all of a sudden, their likes, interests, movies, books, education, etc all became public. Per the quote above, Facebook has this grand idea that people are ready to commit to a single online identity.

But shouldn’t there be a distinction between your professional and personal life? Or the difference in personality when you’re with your grandparents versus your friends versus your significant other? Is Facebook really suggesting these are all the same – that these can all be managed through one online profile? I can’t imagine. Zuckerberg’s not saying you have to be one person all the time. He’s recognizing that, as various websites begin to interact, it’s harder and harder to maintain separate and distinct identities. When you want to send your blog posts to Tumblr, and Tumblr posts to Twitter, and Twitter posts to Facebook – well, it seems all the various sites suddenly are really just one. Everything starts to bleed together.

The end result will be that your online identity is not an exact mirror of your real personality. People will learn to contribute certain information to their online profiles and some information remains offline (and ultimately private). It’ll get to the point where every minute thing we do, think and say doesn’t have to be posted in a tweet or status message. But the things that really define us – our interests, our opinions, our history – it’ll be there, and it will be everywhere. That’s what Facebook is saying. That’s where things will go, whether Facebook continues down that road or not.


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