Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today, I found out I don't really exist!

Update: I want to make something abundantly clear, after reading some of the comments about this matter on Blue Oregon. The 98 people in my Facebook account KNOW ME, including my last name. Generally speaking, we have spent some time together IN PERSON. I don't accept anonymous invitations from people who I have NEVER physically met (with one or two exceptions). So, as far as Facebook goes, I AM NOT ANONYMOUS. I hope this is clear. I merely control who I am friends with and I generally restrict it to people I KNOW.

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I want to just say something at the outset here. I bear no ill will towards BlueOregon or its proprietor Kari Chisholm. I wish the site nothing but success. Lord knows, we need more blogs for Progressives and Liberals and we need to value and protect the ones we got. We've already lost a few aspiring and fledgling Progressive blogger sites over the years here in Oregon so,... Godspeed man. Whatever.

However, as of today, apparently I am not welcome to post there. A while back, Kari made the decision to switch from anonymous comment posting to Facebook-verified posting. As a policy, I have no problem with this. Yes, it had the unfortunate effect of cutting down the number of posts by 2/3rds, easily, because many people are not on Facebook. The "old" Blue Oregon had so many commenters, there was absolutely no opportunity for discussing the issues. And then there was the problem of the anonymous "troll" flamers. Yes, it was as bad as any anonymous posting site you've ever seen, but I guess I wasn't so bothered by it because the sheer number of comments out numbered and overwhelmed such comments. But in the end, someone has to moderate all that, and I can see where Facebook-verified comments assists greatly in minimizing the work involved in comment moderation. The switch to Facebook-verified comments just makes sense from a practical standpoint. Here are BlueOregon's stated rules of participation.

However, Kari has more faith in Facebook and the Internet in general than I do, because when I mentioned in a post about Facebook that I keep much of my personal information on Facebook private, including my last name, Kari removed my posting privileges. I have been posting there as either Sonya Lee or ChickieBlue for the past 5 years. The reason he gave me (in an email response to me when I discovered I could not post) was: "We have a rule at BlueOregon -- we're requiring real identities for all commenters."

Real identities? On the Internet?

The lack of a "real identity" he is referring to is, of course, the fact that I freely admitted that I dropped my last name. Now, any internet security expert would tell you that, as a woman, this is only smart. Also, I have a business in my small town to protect. Plus I write this blog and another blog and I absolutely have a right to determine who knows me on the Internet. I also have a right to my views and I thought BlueOregon was a safe place to post them along with other people who shared my views. The fact that Kari could not ascertain that I was really "someone" based on my Facebook account strikes me as missing a point: I can be anybody I want. I can call myself anything I want. I can pretend to be anyone I want. I can open a Facebook account right now with a real-sounding last name and have my privileges restored without a question. Facebook does not legitimize the person I am. It does not lend its stamp of approval that I am a good person, a Liberal, a Conservative, a real person at all. I could have taken my husband's name when I married him, but I didn't. Facebook does not legitimize my marriage. No, I admitted that I omit my last name for the sake of my privacy and to protect other people in my family with the same last name. And for that, I am deemed as not using a "real identity".

Sonya Lee is my first and middle name. My parents gave me those names as a baby. When I was in trouble as a child, I knew it because my mother would address me as "Sonya Lee", and you knew a scolding was coming next. My friends and family on Facebook know my names. All of them. The ones I use on the Internet and the ones I don't. There is no reason that anyone posting on BlueOregon needs to know my last name. What matters more is my behavior while posting. I am consistent. I have never been disrespectful or flamed anyone. I am not a "troll", which was apparently the reasoning behind BlueOregon's switch to the Facebook verification. I had a two-hour lunch with one of the editors of BlueOregon last week, and I am friends with one of their regular contributing writers, who ironically also goes by a pseudonym. A real human being went to lunch last week, and a real human being regularly meets with the writer. But, hey, rules are rules. And "REAL" Fakebook identities are real identities.

But here is the thing: I have been Sonya Lee with a kitty avatar on the Internet for close to 2 years now. In lieu of telling the world my last name, I've effectively branded myself. I seldom change my avatar on Twitter and I almost never change my photo on Facebook because I want to be known and TRUSTED by that. That name and avatar is ALSO an identity. And these days on the Intenet, it is as much of an identity as knowing my name. Many people know me ONLY by my Internet identity and that is as much as they will ever know about me. They have learned to trust that I am presenting my ideas honestly here, on Facebook and on Twitter and on every blog where Sonya Lee and her kitty in the sink shows up and that a real human being stands by them, regardless of whether or not they know my last name or even my name at all. Hell, I have been using the nickname "bujeeboo" for 10 YEARS!

Is Blogger Sonya Lee any more or less credible than Sonya Lee with a last name on a Facebook account? In this day and age, is ANYONE who they say they are? And must we sacrifice our privacy (and even our personal safety) for the right to speak publicly?

Kari also said this to me in his e-mail: "Do let me know if you decide to do it differently, as I'll need to manually remove the block.". Decide to do it differently... I guess that means tell the world who I am "really" in order to post on BlueOregon. Sorry, Kari. I don't know you or anyone visiting your site well enough to tell you that information, Facebook accounts not-with-standing.