By Evelyn Castillo-Bach
You have to wonder why it is that sites like Facebook and Google+ want to know your name. In a recent article on the BBC, Alex Hudson reported that Google justifies this rigid rule by citing effectiveness: "Users should be able to search for a friend or a family member as quickly and as easily as possible.....And that means demanding real names."
Problem with that argument is that it implies the engineers at Google have not been able to master the ability to code their platform to allow users to do both -- use your real name and post anonymously. Seems like Facebook developers must also suffer from the same ineptitude. That is clearly not the case, however, and anyone who pauses for more than 5 seconds, no matter how technologically challenged, would be hard pressed to buy into that probability.
Another argument often cited is that people will act more responsibly if they use their real name. Problem with that reasoning is that in daily life, when not online, people behave quite irresponsibly a lot of the time and everyone knows their name.
Then there is the third popular proposal that disallowing anonymous posting prevents people from posing as someone else. But is that the role of a social network, to police who is who and check your ID at the door?
As the BBC article correctly points out, some users hide their identity to shield themselves from ruthless tyrants, criminals or other unwanted contact. There are numerous examples of dissidents, political opponents, and vulnerable people posting anonymously to alert others about vital truths that would otherwise go unreported. Even in our own country, it is quite imaginable that some well known journalists and writers may choose to post anonymously as a way to report on matters that if attributed to them may well cause a loss of job or a demotion.
Or could it be, as the article suggests, that social networks want your real name because it makes them more money.
Hudson writes: "The more Google knows about its audience, the better it can target adverts of interest and therefore make more money," says Nate Elliott, vice-president principal analyst at technology company Forrester Research."
There is, however, another possibility. Maybe they want to make sure you don't get lost. We have Face Recognition to help you remember who your friends are. Photo tagging to help you spell their names. Places to tell you where you've been. All the while, we are reminded that this is for own enjoyment and social enhancement.
Most of us are too busy to think about how the accumulation of all this information about us can come back to do us harm. Some of us don't care if it does. For the rest of us, a favorite line from Forrest Gump comes to mind. "Are you stupid or something?'
Evelyn Castillo-Bach is the founder of UmeNow.com
UmeNow is a private social network. No ads. No data mining. No tracking.
We are a private alternative to Facebook and Google.
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