The issue of the “Real Name” policy, whereby users are told to use “real” names (not necessarily actual names, but “real-sounding” names), is problematic for social networking services (SNS). It’s especially problematic when SNS operators refer users to use brand pages – profiles which are maintained and moderated corporately by one or more users for organized purposes such as promoting a brand or a movement – as alternatives to using pseudonyms on their personal profiles. The reason is that such a solution is half-baked on the sites which most emphasize the use of “real names” for users’ profiles, particularly Facebook (and formerly Google+).
The suggestion by Facebook for preferably-pseudonymous users to use their pseudonyms on brand pages ignores the fact that pages on Facebook offer less interactivity than personal profiles. Facebook pages don’t allow pages – which are built to serve organizations rather than pseudonymous personalities – to form or join groups. In relation to this, Facebook also does not allow brand pages to automatically invite other users to events; compare this to Facebook groups, which allow for automatic invitations of all members to event pages.
Google+ Pages, in comparison, offer a bit more interaction, with the ability to create and join “communities” (equivalent to groups) as your brand page. In addition, G+ Pages can also add user profiles to circles (a more advanced version of Facebook’s “adding friends”) and invite followed profiles, circles of profiles and whole communities to events.
However, in the case of pseudonymous users being “nudged” to create pages for their pseudonyms, G+ and Facebook both suffer from a high learning curve and a lack of tailoring toward personal identity pseudonyms.
Facebook’s “Create a Page” has six main options: “Local Business or Place”, “Company, Organization or Institution”, “Brand or Product”, “Artist, Band or Public Figure”, “Entertainment”, and “Cause or Community”. The closest to a means of controlling a personal pseudonymic identity is “Artist, Band or Public Figure”, which is limited alongside other Facebook pages in its interaction abilities.
By comparison/contrast, G+ only has “Storefront (Restaurant, Retail Store, hotel, etc.)”, “Service Area (Plumber, pizza delivery, taxi service, etc.)”, and “Brand (Product, sports team, music band, cause, etc.)”, which is even more confusing from the outset by the grouping of so many options into just three categories.
The ideal page
The ideal brand page system which would work perfectly for personal pseudonyms at the intimacy perhaps most desired by drag performers in an SNS, IMO, is a combination of Facebook’s presentation and G+’s functionality and interactivity:
- Having at least 6 page-creation options including “Artist, Band or Public Figure”, or even a 7th “Character or Pseudonym” option.
- Having the ability to follow/be followed by users and create/join groups “as” the brand page.
- Have the option to switch to a preferred brand page identity upon login to one’s personal user identity.
- Have the ability to restrict access to one’s personal profile while simultaneously operating a brand-page identity.
In such a system, performance artists such as drag performers would have the full ability to interact with their fans as their pseudonyms or public personas, to organize their fans into discussion groups (both public, private and secret) under their personas, and to easily invite fans to events (or even games and apps), all without revealing or exposing any of their personal profiles to the public.
When the brand pages are not fully baked, not fully conceptualized as alternative identities for both individuals and corporated groups, the ability to control your presence is hobbled. Performers like Sister Roma offer an opportunity for Facebook, G+ and the SNS sites of our era to not only listen more to their users, but to make their brand pages more useful for more people. The “Real Name” policy (as well as the restriction against multiple profiles on sites like LinkedIn) only hurts privacy, doesn’t help the quality of conversations on Facebook, and is not remedied by half-baked brand page tools.