Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

I understand that Facebook has announced that it will be cracking down on users who do not use their legal names, and that you will specifically be targeting drag queens to begin with. As many critics have rightly pointed out this will have a disproportionate effect on drag queens and transgender persons as many people in those subcultures use pseudonyms for reasons ranging from wanting to be known by their performance identities, to not wanting not to be stalked and potentially killed by bigots. I'm not going to go into the specifics of how this policy specifically hurts and targets members of the LGBTQ community. Bloggers, such as FlowerGirlXy10c41n3 at Jezebel have done that issue much greater justice than I could. Nor will I go into how this policy will put people in danger who are trying to hide from those that would do them harm, as Heina Dadabhoy has done a much better job of that at Freethought Blogs.

No, Mr. Zuckerberg, I want to focus attention on a comment of yours from an interview you gave a few years ago:
"You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” (
Now as one privileged white man to another vastly more privileged white man, your comment belies a complete lack of empathy, compassion, and understanding cloaked in a pseudo intellectual philosophy of radical transparency. A friend on Facebook, Steven Sagan Olsen, summed up where your philosophy falls flat with the following comment:
Facebook's philosophy of radical transparency only works if all agents are well-intentioned and reasonable. We don't live in that world, so anonymity and pseudonyms are a tool that good people can use to protect themselves
Those that use pseudonyms do it for myriad reasons that seem to elude your myopia, and lack of integrity is rarely one. As noted above, many people in this world are not well intentioned and reasonable, and most of us don't have the advantages that you have to shield yourself from those people. I use a pseudonym on Facebook because I work in public education, and certain aspects of my personal life and my political opinions could very well damage or even destroy my career. This does really happen. Let's take for example Ashley Payne, a teacher from Apalachee High School in Georgia, who was asked to resign after her principal found out that there were pictures of her drinking alcohol on her private Facebook profile, as well as a post in which she used an expletive. A pseudonym may very well have helped her avoid this. I'm not even going to get into the fact that her profile was set to private, hence the principal having no right to tell her what she can and cannot post.

I do not use a pseudonym because I lack integrity, I use it to maintain my integrity. The aspects of myself that I share on Facebook are those parts of me that I feel most passionate about, those that allow me to express myself as fully as I can without fearing for my career. Not being able to speak freely is a direct assault on my integrity and autonomy, and that is why I use a pseudonym. Yes, I am white and male, so that shields me from a lot. But I don't have your billions of dollars to protect me from wrongful termination and the inevitable lawsuit that would follow.

Mark Zuckerberg, please reconsider this name policy and show the world that you have empathy, understanding, compassion, and integrity.

Erasmus P. Sinclair
Brian Lehrer

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