My Tinder account has zero functionality. Facebook figured out that N. Likes doesn’t exist. Tinder figured it out. They’re on to me: I’m not a real person with a driver’s license.
This probably is just as well. I’m kinda swamped right now. I’ve just got too much going on, between real life and the life you read about here.
But that doesn’t stop me from being annoyed.
I like Tinder. I like swiping right. I like being swiped right. And, I’ve met – and had my cock sucked by – four or five lovely women on Tinder in just a couple of months, and met, or gotten to know, but haven’t yet met, a few more.
And it annoys me that Facebook and Tinder have teamed up to deny me the possibility of existing anonymously in their little ecosystem. But, of course, it’s their ecosystem, and it’s their right. Facebook wants to be able to deliver to its advertisers as much information as possible about me. And Tinder, in selecting Facebook as its social network partner, presumably did so because they want people evaluating possible dates to know that they’re seeing real pictures, real people, with real names.
Google+ and Facebook (and thus Tinder) have each decided that something they can offer their customers (advertisers) is maximal knowledge about us (their product). Including, they both insist, that we are in fact who we say were are. I have now had two Facebook existences deleted by Facebook because I couldn’t produce a driver’s license. (Yes, they asked me.)
This decision on their part intrigues me, and I’m curious not just about the implications for their businesses of this decision (they know best, I’m sure), but about the implications for us in a bigger-picture kind of way.
N’s alter ego (N’), the guy with a driver’s license, birth certificate, credit cards, etc., exists in the world, and communicates with other people. He participates in discussions, online and otherwise, and is easily find-able using, say, the Google. He shares pictures with friends online, he tells his friends what he ate for dinner occasionally (if it was spectacular), and so on.
There are some online conversations, though, in which he might participate were he permitted to do so anonymously or pseudonymously, but in which, because he would be required to reveal his identity as a cost of participating, he doesn’t. These include conversations about sex, about politics, about life.
There’s rarely a news story I read to which I don’t have a reaction. But I rarely want the reaction that N’ had to a news story to be find-able by the Google by anyone who wants to know. Or, necessarily, by any of my friends. And/but, that doesn’t mean that my reaction might not be valuable to add to the conversational mix. N wrote a piece once for an online magazine about monogamish-ness. It was, I think, a good piece. But the piece was on a site whose comment system is linked to Facebook. So anyone who’s in monogamish-land who wanted to comment on the piece (including me!) was required to share her or his real identity with the whole world as a price of commenting.
Twitter and Instagram built hugely successful platforms informed by this fact: people like having the opportunity to say and share things without the things they say being easily trace-able to them by people who know them and/or are related to them. Or, the other way around: they want to share things with people they know and like, but don’t want their doing so to be linked to their identities by people they don’t know.
Google stands on both sides of this divide: some of their products – Gmail and Blogger, in particular – encourage and foster anonymity and pseudonymity, while others – notably, Google+ – prohibit it.
There’s been lots of discussion and lots written about the online disinhibition effect, whereby people when permitted to comment anonymously online say rude shit; about Godwin’s law, which posits that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”; and about the pros and cons for news sites of allowing anonymity among commenters. American newspapers permitted anonymous letters to the editor until Joseph McCarthy kindled the flames of hysteria in the country, and again took steps toward doing so in the 1980s. More recently, most papers permit online comments that are anonymous (or semi-anonymous, requiring screen names linked to an account of some sort, on one of many different social networks, including those like Twitter, which permit anonymity).
I understand why Facebook and Google want to be able to tell their advertisers not just my name, but everything they possibly can glean about me, and why they therefore want to channel as much of my online existence into the little funnels they use to gather that information.
I understand that conversation in which all participants are identified by their real names is, necessarily, more inhibited than it might otherwise be. This has advantages – civility – and disadvantages – candor. Newspapers rely heavily on anonymous sources in the news they report, and reporters understand intuitively the importance of that anonymity.
So Facebook and Google have decided they can make more money by stifling our conversations just a bit, and while that’s their right, it’s too bad, because they’re not just advertising venues – they’re also the public square, increasingly, and so this amounts to an attempt to quiet conversation in the public square. An unfortunate consequence.
And not just because it means I can’t use Tinder any more to get laid.