Tuesday, 9:12am
17 November 2009

Secret identity

The anonymous, edited future of noughties social networking

I recently received a Facebook friend invite from a user name I did not recognise, writes Camilla Grey. Fortunately, the invite was followed by a message announcing that the unfamiliar identity had been assumed by a friend of mine.

In a time when privacy no longer exists or, as a recent Wired UK article asserted, ‘We’re almost at the stage now where it's impossible to restrict information [...] it is going to be made available to the public’, are fake names and fictional identities the last refuge? And, if so, are we as an ‘Always On’ society beginning to feel like new-age celebrities - hounded by brands desperate to get the ‘scoop’ on our preferences, buying habits, lifestyles, needs, wants, and desires?

Top: How will we paint over today’s online identities? (image from voodoovoodoo.tumblr.com)

Below: It’s only human.

it is human to want to leave everything

In the great scheme of things, the internet and its various portals for uploading and sharing pieces of personal information, is very much in its infancy. We are click happy, giving away our email address far more readily than our mobile number. Yet, while we can reject a call, whose inbox is not daily bombarded with newsletters from third parties we requested not to be contacted by? I cannot count the number of conversations I have had and overheard about Facebook stalking, and other relationship problems caused by social networks. We do not know how the internet, or we, will evolve, what our innocent tweets and updates will come one day to mean. In a utopian future, our great, great grandchildren will be able to ‘Friend’ us on DeadFacebook and see every photo, every comment, every poke spanning the many decades of our online lives. Our pasts will no longer be consigned to the memories of our children and friends, but continually accessible in all their brutal honesty and harsh reality. ‘Yes, Granny really did go binge drinking in Cornwall’.

facebook friendship

Above: someecards sums up the public sentiment

Below: Too much information is not always a good thing.

facebook status

Judging, however, by the actions of my privacy-hunting friend, this emergent trend hints at an alternative scenario. One where we not only shape the personas we aspire to be, but fully conceal our true identities to all but our real, off-line friends. Dot-com millionaires of the future will be a far cry from their rich counterparts who, today, help us to create connections and share information. In the 20-teens, successful entrepreneurs might well be the ones who help us selectively disconnect, creating internet hideaways as opposed to internet forums. Far from honest timelines which chart our lives via messages, photos, films and updates, we will de-tag, unsubscribe, and ultimately delete entire chapters from our online autobiographies. Our ancestral Googlers will find only the profile we chose to leave, peppered with the occasional nugget of truth that slipped through the net unchecked. Far from re-writing the history books, it seems we are editing the future too.


Above: Another over-share (from failblog.org)

Below: Entrepreneurs take micro-blogging into 2010 with Flutter

See Camilla Grey’s previous Eye blogs ‘Flash in the pan’ and ‘All tomorrow’s parties’.

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