Should Facebook users be allowed to have fake names?
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 6, 2016
Before we get into the debate of whether or not having a fake name on Facebook is justified, we must first understand why people would want to use an alias to begin with. The Internet is a public place, and like all public places, once we choose to be there, we cannot control what other people will do around us. The way we dress, the things we say, and pretty much all our actions can be visible. Visibility is sometimes seen as a vulnerability. Some people want fake names so they can conceal their account from stalkers, exes, co-workers, family members, etc. Other people just want to be funny, and use joke names to do so.
Facebook’s policy is not heavily enforced, so if you do want to use a fake name, you can do so and probably never get caught for it. However, I don’t believe you should. Facebook is equipped with numerous security features that enable you to block certain people from viewing your account, in addition to a privacy setting that cloaks all your activities until you give permission not to.
If you have a public persona, like a stage name or pseudonym, you can create a Facebook Page—which pretty much acts the same as a profile—with some limited functionalities. This is great for interacting with those who don’t know you personally. You can monitor and moderate it as you please.
Some worry about the security on Facebook. The fear of Big Brother is one that lingers on their skin every time they enter their real name into a computer system, but believe me, there is more data locked in your credit card and smartphone than there is on your Facebook account. Who cares if the government sees what you are posting? As long as you aren’t plotting a terrorist attack, you’ll be fine. On top of that, if someone wants to find out your real identity, they can do it; a fake name is the crappiest form of security. You don’t need a front door to break into a house; there are many ways to get in.
For the other point, joke names are funny, sure. But as far as comedy goes, it doesn’t have strong sustaining power. After a while, even the friends who found your joke name humourous will become a little annoyed, having to think twice when trying to invite you to an event because they are used to thinking of you by your real name. If you have a nickname that everybody uses to refer to you, that is a different story.
Our names are a part of our identity. While I believe there should be a certain amount of freedom on the Internet, I also believe that we should be visible in a space with so many dark corners. We can add locks, but we shouldn’t add to the shadows. If you don’t want people to see pictures of your vacation, don’t post it. If you are getting harassed, inform the authorities. If you are having an identity crisis, seek help. Remember that on Facebook nobody knows you are a dog—but they should if you are, shouldn’t they?