Readings for Tuesday’s meeting of my Social Media and Social Change class posed very interesting questions regarding privacy and identity on the internet. One of the articles I had to read was an interview with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. He seems to think that Facebook allows real identity and real relationships. It also shows real ability to penetrate identites and manipulate them through data companies like Acxiom, according to another article. This is where I find concern: who is creating the identity here? Are our ‘real-life’ identities in charge of our ‘online’ identities? Or our are ‘online’ constructions affecting change on our real life foundations?
One of the authors regarded the younger Facebook-using population a “net generation”. This is not as catchy as it is worrysome. We are raising generations of youth who will know nothing else but the realm of establishing your identity through online technologies. For my generation, it was a struggle figuring out what to put in our AIM profiles. Now, your personal presentation to the world of who you are is sectioned off in boxes, categorized specifically. If Facebook is to become responsible in the role of ‘identity-creator’, then maybe it should broaden its spread. Music, Movies, Activities, Interests and Quotes- are these to be the only things I need be judged by? These are all pop-cultural (money and advertising oriented) facets of life. Which is exactly why I am worried for what may be an onslaught of identity-crisis stricken generations to come.
Data companies like Acxiom gather their information from Your information. Is it pushing too far to ponder if perhaps the specific genres of information you are asked to share about yourself in your Facebook profile are not about finding out who you are, but what you’ll buy? Absolutely not, and advertising firms are the first to admit it. But this is clearly problematic. The more Mr.Zuck praises Facebook for growing as a global connection of ‘real’ identities and ‘real’ relationships he is fostering the growth of the very hidden, very fake relationships: between You and the Advertisers.
Little do we care to know that the people who seem to know us best are the people we can’t even see. Call it the Plague of Personalization and ask yourself this: Are You personalizing or are you being personalized?