(This is a repost from my ESC blog. I’m posting it here again because I’m going to write a second part on how to actually manage your Facebook identity.)
Who am I? Who are you? Who’s that guy?
Questions we are answering at all times throughout our lives. Whether we intend to or not.
I believe we are in a sort of “honeymoon phase” with social networking. Novelty has inspired generations to present themselves publicly to hundreds of observers at a time. Facebook and Facebook Connect present an interesting set of potential futures, some of which are explored in this slide show.
If a celebrity who has lost control of her identity becomes one thing in the public eye, yet that same person maintains a completely separate identity among her close-knit friends and family… then which identity is “real?”
All my connections, from professional to family are now able to view my Facebook news feed. By default, anyone can tag a photo of me, and even tag photos that aren’t me. If I stop actively managing my identity on Facebook, my account may end up with a life of its own through photo tagging alone. These settings can be turned off, and managed differently for different groups of friends, but by default everyone can see everything. The more friends I have on my list, the more I will be drawn to managing my identity.
In virtual worlds, I think the issue of identity is slightly more clear due to the obvious separation between the virtual identity as represented by an avatar, and the “real” identity of the person behind it. For most virtual world users, there is a clear delineation between the virtual and real persona. On a social networking site, the dividing line is less clear. The representation of self that comes through the Facebook news feed isn’t any more or less “real” than a person’s avatar in a virtual world, yet the use of photos and real-world connections makes it seem more real. This presents both opportunities and challenges.
In the second part of this article, I will describe how I actually go about managing my identity on Facebook through the various tools they provide (or in most cases fail to provide.)