Want more identities online?

I came across this interesting – and at times slightly vitriolic – video from the founder of 4Chan, Christopher Poole who criticises Facebook’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to identity. He purports that everyone has a range of different identities in their lives – how they behave amongst their friends is different to how they behave amongst their colleagues or even their families at times.

Facebook’s natural response to it’s uniform, identity-offline-is-identity-online system is that when people are forced to use their own identity online this minimises the instances of cyber bullying, anonymous attacks and general antisocial online behaviour. It makes you wonder how long they can ring that bell when critics come knocking with alternatives to this monogamous identity relationship that users are forced to have with Facebook.

Considering we have the option to track people down, to monitor what they say and what they’re like both during the week and in their spare time, it makes you consider whether there’s some merit to what Poole says. A human being’s identity is far more complex than what can possibly be acted upon under a Facebook handle that is both knowingly and unknowingly being distilled down because of how ubiquitous it is. The TRUE identity may be getting lost because of the self-conscious nature people now have towards what they share – especially on Facebook. How true a representation is that of ourselves?

Personally, I’d prefer some sharing options that aren’t buried away in a labyrinthine privacy settings menu – how much easier would it be to just share a pet peeve under a different handle that only a select, trusted few were privy to? I think this is becoming apparent in the proliferation of Twitter users starting up alternative Twitter accounts in order for them to comment on topics that may jeopardise their professional brand.

Interested to know your thoughts – in the meantime, take a look at Poole’s address at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit.