If you’re not in the mood for a debate, look away now.
I’m heartily sick of the complaints levelled against Google’s real names policy on Google+. And here’s why.
The straw that finally broke the camel’s back on this debate was a recent Mashable post by Jamie Beckland.
His argument rests in that the curation of different identities is a cornerstone of social media and allows us to truly be ourselves.
One single name will never be able to contain all of the aspects of any individual person, in all her complicated, contradictory glory
Goodness me, Jamie, but however did we as a species cope before the advent of social media that allows us to divide ourselves up in any way that we see fit?
I was born with one name. I will probably, like the majority of people, die with the same name. That one name, gifted to me at birth, has to contain all that I am, all that I will be and have been.
So why shouldn’t this be the same online? While I might be different things to different people – boss, son, lover, acquaintance etc – it’s all me and I show the different elements as I need to. But I look the same, sound the same and answer to the same name…
Social media is about authenticity.
This is what we’re told on a regular basis. Be yourself, be true to yourself and be authentic for your audience.
If you’re able to build a unified identity, then that’s truly authentic. Splitting your identity wildly across different platforms allows you some measure of privacy and free-reign.
But this splitting erodes your authenticity.
It was never a great secret that Stephen King was Richard Bachman. Just looking at Eminem and Slim Shady made it quite obvious that he was the same person.
But these are characters created for a purpose, not real people.
Let me say that again.
These are characters.
If social media is meant to be authentic, then do you really want to project a character out into the world?
I’ve never hidden who I am on any platform – with a bit of a Google you can work out who I am, who I work for and roughly where my office is in under 5 minutes – even if all you have got is “interacter” and “blog” as search terms.
Developing multiple identities isn’t a way to stop people connecting the dots. It’s merely a means of characterisation and obfuscation.
Characters are one dimensional.
Characters are created for a single purpose – be it business, different writing styles, different singing styles or to showcase the wild hard drinking side of you that some of your contacts wouldn’t approve of.
But that one thing that the character does is all at this can really do. it would find it hard to make use of the synergies between all of our different sides, which is what retaining our true identity allows us to do.
Interestingly, I watched a conversation unfold recently from my friend Andrew Schiestel about authenticity and how he uses Facebook – i.e. he doesn’t carve up his identity because he is keen for friends, co-workers and client businesses to see him as he really is.
Andrew is being true to himself and his integrity. His only character is the one he inhabits every day.
That’s a position I respect.
And if you have to carve yourself up, Google+’s circles allow you to do that.
Yes, you can share that picture with your friends, but not your mother by selecting which privacy option you’re going for (Facebook have now copied this functionality in their latest update).
You can let the whole world see your movements, or curate that information to a group of your choosing.
All while operating under your own name.
As in real life, you can be the individual characters that you need to be to different audiences without adopting a pseudonym.
There are those who worry that they’ve spent years in social media operating under their alias and that this identity is threatened by the real name policy.
And, as a final point…
Social media mavens such as Douglas Karr and Jay Baer are on Google+, Facebook and Twitter under their own names. I haven’t seen either one bleat about it so far.
All of my Facebook friends are on under their real names.
All of the people I interact with regularly on Twitter have their real names displayed next to their user ID.
We’re already living in a real name culture. So stop bleating about the one service that’s come out of the woodwork and insisted that the users retain a shred of authenticity in their online dealings.