When I read recently that the Facebook identity police were onto Bryn Oh, I knew my own time had to be limited.
Oh yes: I’ve known for a long time that this moment was inevitable. Huckleberry Hax is not the name printed on my passport or driver’s license, and Facebook’s policy is that only those names merit one of their profiles. The message came this morning. I have seven days and then my account will be deleted.
Note the word ‘profile’. An alternative to a Facebook profile is a Facebook ‘page’. Pages look very similar to the ‘walls’ you see when you click on a friend to see what they’ve posted recently. Anyone can set up a page to represent a business or a movie or a political party or a brand of soft drink. Or, indeed, an author. Pages have to be linked to at least one regular Facebook profile. I set up a ‘page’ for Huck a while back and since then have double-posted to both my profile and my page. Now, I’m in the process of transferring Huck’s page to my RL Facebook account. Don’t get excited, now: you still won’t be able to see my RL name when I post to Huck’s page.
So what’s the big deal? If I can post exactly the same things to my Huck page as I could to my Huck profile and no-one can see my RL name, how is it any different?
The difference is, I will no longer see the regular posts that you, my Facebook friends, write. We will no longer be friends, you see. You will just be my ‘followers’.
I look at Huck’s news feed several times a day. It’s true I my eyes do glaze over sometimes at the plethora of cat-related posts and the endless parade of article shares where the title goes something like “20 things you never knew about X! Number 7 is unbelievable”. But occasionally I see something I want to comment on. I might wish someone happy birthday or offer my condolences over a bereavement. I might wish someone a speedy recovery when they’re ill or send a happy face when they get better. I might just click ‘like’ every once in a while. After all, Huck is not just a ‘writer’; he’s a person in SL with friends and acquaintances, and shared stories. People know me as Huck. You know me as Huck. And I know you as whatever identity you have chosen to present yourself to me as. It means something to me that I know you that way.
Facebook’s long-contested policy is that it is “a community where people use their authentic identities“. What is inauthentic about the friendships and interactions I have with my friends in SL? “We require people to provide the name they use in real life.” Who are Facebook to decide what is ‘real’ in my life and what isn’t?
I won’t go any further into that debate; there are plenty of other articles which explore it more skilfully than I’m inclined to right now, including my own very first piece of writing for AVENUE magazine. Suffice to say, if you would like to follow me on Facebook from this time next week, you will have to ‘like’ my Facebook page. You can get to it here: https://www.facebook.com/huckhax
I do hope you choose to follow me. And I’m sorry it will just be a one-way street from now on.