Stop Pretending and Be Yourself Online

Today’s post comes from Brianne Villano.  Brianne is a great writer,helps organize the awesome PechaKucha Night here in Raleigh, NC, and also runs Mindful Media Management.

Randy Constan is a 56 year-old jazz musician who lives in Tampa Bay Florida and one of the things he enjoys more than anything else is dressing up and presenting himself as Peter Pan. He designed this site to find his Tinkerbell and he most certainly found her. “Tink” is his new wife Dorothy Constan. They met at an event at the Suncoast Resort in 2006 and were immediately drawn together amidst a sea of satin-clad fairies and lacy water sprites.

The wedding ceremony took place on the grounds of Tampa’s Bay Area Renaissance Fair (”B.A.R.F.”) and included cross-dressers and pinky swears. It was officiated by King Henry VIII and as they spoke lyrics from Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”, they exchanged rings. Following the service, there was some “fairy dancing” and I’m pretty sure the couple honeymooned “second star to the right, and straight on til morning.”

Wikipedia describes Peter Pan Syndrome as “an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level, usually coupled with too great a dependence on the mother.” I’ve always been called a “big kid” and I have to admit that I’m the first to gigglesnort if someone farts. But there is a big difference between someone who is emotionally unable to distance himself from that which makes him feel safe and comforted and someone who uses this one life as a chance to be filled with wonder and awe.

An adult can be responsible and still be able to enjoy the little things, the fun things, that life has to offer. When you stop having fun and merely aim to “get through it”, you lose a piece of your inner child. Randy respects and nurtures his inner child and tries to spread that knowledge wherever he goes.

While he and his site appear to be ostentatious and perhaps a little bit “wacky”, Randy takes donations that he receives for the site and money from sales of shirts and other items and donates them to various childrens’ charities. Just another reminder that looks are not everything and no one is ever truly what they seem.

Randy and Dorothy are proud of who they are and they create their own happiness. They don’t compare themselves with others in the rat race that even the quest for social media notoriety can sometimes become. They live and dance and pinky swear.

Sometimes you have to disconnect, stop living the majority of your life online, and start paying more attention to the richer, fuller life available to you offline.

Sometimes you just have to accept who you are and work with what you have, even if it involves green tights and fairies.

Simplicity Isn’t Enough, Facebook

Let’s imagine you’re the biggest, baddest social network at the dawn of a new decade.  Your size is gargantuan.  Your revenue potential is nuts.  You attitude is cavalier and daring.  You know what’s best for your users, regardless of how much they complain.  And they always complain.  Anytime anything changes, they roar.  

Welcome to the world of Facebook.

Facebook is under pressure from the US Senate about its privacy settings and information sharing with its new Open Graph.  While I’ve seen some social media professionals question if the Senate really needed to get involved in Facebook’s privacy settings, with a huge number of US citizens using Facebook daily, protecting those citizens is an important issue.

So, before Facebook faced anymore pressure from the government, they decided to simplify their privacy controls to placate the US Senators. Unfortunately, their simplification put a band-aid on after they chopped off your arm.  It’s a small step in the right direction, but only a small one.  I’m glad I can easily figure out what I’m sharing with whom and when. Still, there’s a lot more Facebook can do to make users feel secure online when using Facebook.

Here’s what I’d do to make Facebook’s privacy better:

  1. Commit to making new sharing features opt-in. It’s easy to get upset when you sign into a website and find out they added a bunch of a new, public features that you have to turn off one by one.  That’s what Facebook recently did with Open Graph, turning it on for everyone before they even knew what it was.  It could be better by setting it up so even if you personally aren’t opting-in, you’d still get relevant content from your friends who did opt-in.  That way, users can decide for themselves if they like the new features or not by seeing them in action.  The problem with this approach is people may never turn on some features, and then the platform grows static as people keep the exact same feature set.
  2. Clearly Alert Users When the Terms of Service Change. Facebook has a history of changing its terms of service often and without warning.  I understand the need to change the terms quickly, but what I don’t understand is that they don’t alert their users when they do.  Every time iTunes changes its terms of service, I have to click through the new agreement.  It’s annoying, but at least I know every time they are changed, and if I get screwed, it’s my own fault.
  3. Stop Letting App Developers have User Info Permanently.  I still can’t believe that Facebook allows this at all.  I see at least one virus app a week.  Imagine all the data those apps pull from my friends profiles, and then imagine that those computers can then download all the information they want, and keep it as long as they like.  I don’t see why there can’t be a compromise, such as holding the data for three months.  That way, user experience isn’t sacrificed by having to re-download all the same info, but that data is destroyed regularly so users are safe.

SImplicity is one factor to making users feel secure on Facebook, but we also need Facebook to grow up quicker.  Start realizing we want to share with those we connect with, not the entire internet, and stop giving away our information without telling us.

Why Facebook Will Never Win Online Identity, Part 2: Email

Maybe you think I’m nuts with my theory that LinkedIn has carved a niche for online identity.  I can’t blame you.  If you’ve been reading here for a while, or had the misfortune of meeting me in real life, you know I can be a psychopath strange person at times, and that theory just adds to my oddities.

However, there is another reason I believe Facebook will not win online identity:


An email address is the one thing you need before you set up a Facebook account, and as of right now, Facebook doesn’t provide those.  You have to go to Google or Yahoo or whomever to get one, then come back to Facebook.  Because of that requirement, Facebook not providing email is a stunning design flaw.  It instantly fractures your online identity.

It would be genius for Facebook to provide email.  Genius in the evil, mad scientist way, but genius nonetheless. Think how easy it would be to build an address book of friends. The current messaging system almost approaches an email system, and I bet there is little stopping them from converting it into a far more capable system.

Scarily, a Facebook email system has been talked about for some time, and will probably be coming before we know it. When it happens, it’s going to drop like a hydrogen bomb, and who knows what will be left standing afterward.

Why Facebook Will Never Win Online Identity, Part 1

There are many reasons why I believe Facebook will never win the war to control your online life and identity.  Today I present the strongest reason I believe Facebook will never fully control your online identity:


Yes, THAT LinkedIn.


Most adults can’t take Facebook seriously.  Sure, it’s great for keeping up with the Joneses, but beyond that what is there? Awkward wall posts? Pictures of you in college no one should ever revisit? Farmville? Give me a break.

LinkedIn provides everything it says it does, and does it very simply.  It lets you set up a profile of your professional life, and then connect with colleagues, classmates, and whoever you think can build your professional network. If you asked for more, you’d be crazy.

Also, LinkedIn doesn’t change.  The features of your profile stay the same.  The layout stays the same.  Even the most recent change, linking to articles, is pretty much just an enhancement of the status update ability they already had.  You don’t read about LinkedIn groups rallying about the layout changes or changing the User Terms, because they don’t.

As more and more people grow up with a Facebook profile, documenting them from middle school through adulthood, why wouldn’t they want another profile where they can remake their personal brand in a professional manner, not whatever wall posts and pictures their friends have tagged throughout the horrors of their teenage life?

Sure, LinkedIn only has 65 million users worldwide compared to Facebooks 400+ million.  But as the digital age spreads, think how many more professionals and students will start building their profiles on there to get a job or build their network without a history of unflattering content following them.  That number will only continue to grow.

I think LinkedIn has found a niche Facebook will have a hard time competing with.  Zuckerburg may have his online party, but the rest of us need to put a suit on in the morning.

Am I wrong?  Let me know what you think in the comments.