Social media has always had a real-names problem. Social media companies want their users to use their real names because it makes it easier to advertise to them. Users want to be able to show different facets of their identities to different people, because only a sociopath interacts with their boss, their kids, and their spouse in the same way.
Mark Zuckerberg (whose commitment to his own privacy is unchecked in its brutality) has frequently dressed up his business-need for Facebook users to have a single identity in halfassed moral philosophy, calling people who show different parts of themselves to different people "two-faced."
But kids hate this stuff. Amy Lancaster from the Journalism and Digital Communications school at the University of Central Lancashire studies the way that young people resent "the way Facebook ties them into a fixed self...[linking] different areas of a person’s life, carrying over from school to university to work."
But there’s no need for shock tactics now. Young people know their future employers, parents and grandparents are present online, and so they behave accordingly. And it’s not only older people that affect behaviour.
My research shows young people dislike the way Facebook ties them into a fixed self. Facebook insists on real names and links different areas of a person’s life, carrying over from school to university to work. This arguably restricts the freedom to explore new identities – one of the key benefits of the web.
The desire for escapable transience over damning permanence has driven Snapchat’s success, precisely because it’s a messaging app that allows users to capture videos and pictures that are quickly removed from the service.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s user engagement has fallen through the floor. After a conservative decline, it dropped significantly by almost a third between 2015 and 2016, research shows. This matters because user posts drive about six times more engagement than public posts made by companies on Facebook. In that same period comments, “likes” and shares on the network also fell by a third.
Cambridge Analytica scandal: Facebook’s user engagement and trust decline [Amy Binns/The Conversation]