Single Identity

For a long time I’ve been critical of the way in which Facebook’s ideology and driving force is to seek to reduce people to a single identity online.

Today a video popped up showing Moot (founder of 4Chan) talking about this exact same thing. It’s worth a watch if you’re interested in things going on beneath the surface a little more than just the superficial interaction with these services.

As well as that, I’m going to reproduce what I said back then below:

Branding and a ‘single identity’?
Founder Mark Zuckerberg is reported to have said:

“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.”

which is something I not only disagree with fundamentally, but which actually annoys me the more I think about it.

People are not single, flat entities that fit onto one page.

People are dynamic, complex creatures with many different levels and sides that are impossible to be expressed at once. With Facebook, your most dominant characteristics end up being what define you.

For example, as a photographer, photographs would take up a lot of the content of my profile. As a result, I’d be known as… a photographer. However, there’s a lot more to me than just that one side of my life. I also play and write music… I study law, I’m an advocate of human rights but struggle with my conflict over the Marxist critique of them..

All of this stuff gets lost and downplayed by whatever is easy and accessible to the Facebook format.

Second to this, in order to get anywhere in a  particular field such as photography, music journalism.. anything.. You often need to be known and associated with that particular thing. Stephen the photographer.. or Stephen the writer.. or Stephen the guitar player… This is a necessary skill to be able to highlight your different attributes and layers to different people in different interactions in order to be a diverse person. People can’t take in the fact that you’d be good at or interested in more than one thing at a time.

I remember sitting and catching myself thinking that I needed to update my social networking profiles to get a wording that would really express who I actually was as a person. As soon as that awareness of self branding became so obvious, I knew it had to go. No longer was it about friends, if it ever was in the first place.

Ironically, instead of giving you more control over your image by which photos you upload or are tagged in, or how you describe yourself, by the mere participation in the Facebook system you are automatically giving up your control over your image. You get reduced to the sum of your parts. Facebook stifles your creativity and your mystery.

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