Apparently Facebook doesn’t like Tobold. Google+ probably doesn’t like him either. Zuckerberg thinks it has to do with integrity. I say it’s about revenue, and “integrity” is just a pretty facade to hide behind. It’s harder to monetize a handle (yes, I wrote about this before, just in a different setting).
In a world where we still judge someone by what they look like instead of what they do, and where appeals to authority are more persuasive than logic, and prejudice fuels hate crimes, face value is a… flexible thing. Identity is similarly flexible. Choosing what face you present to the world seems to me to be something best left to the individual. Until Wikileaks takes an interest in you, anyway, all in the name of “disclosure”, another pretty euphemism with delightfully Patriotic overtones to browbeat dissent. Because really, only the bad guys have information to hide, right?
If nothing else, even the “circles” design of G+ stands as testament to letting the user control the flow of information, though their iteration of RealID doesn’t (link to an excellent article, by the way). Certain conversations and information simply isn’t meant for everyone; even if it isn’t really sensitive and “private” (and not really belonging online anyway), different circles of acquaintances won’t care about everything the same way those in other circles will. That said, G+ is about revenue as well, even though they talk a good game about trying to keep discourse civil because, hey, who can object to civility? They market information. The services need to be monetized somehow. Of course your identity has value, and they will tap that as well as they can. You can’t complain much about a scorpion, after all. Maybe that’s “lazy nihilism” to recognize that fact, but I prefer to call it pragmatism. Much like you can’t realistically expect a politician to refrain from lying (though they might call it “discretion”), you can’t expect a business to operate as a charity. Charities operate just fine, but businesses are different things. (Not that profit itself is a bad thing, to be sure. There are good businesses out there.)
In the meantime, though, for those like Samuel Clemens, Lady Gaga or even J. K. Rowling, the best solution seems to be to avoid those channels where your choice in identity is ignored. Certainly those of the faceless masses with petty prejudices won’t mind if you simply step out of the flow of society; you’re easier to ignore that way.
I’m idly curious about transgendered people… how do they fit in? What about the girl with the obviously Muslim or Jewish name? What about the guy who can’t seem to escape the melanin in his face? What part does choice have to play in identity, and are some choices more approved than others? It always seems to me that these social paragons have suspiciously squishy standards. Massaging the message by silencing certain undesirables that don’t share your worldview is certainly the prerogative of an information broker, but that doesn’t say much about “integrity” in conversation.
But then, this never really was about integrity. It’s about the value your face has, and who gets to control that value.