One of the less pleasant aspects of Google’s Google+ rollout has been an insistence that everyone using the service not only have a public Google profile, but also have a “real” first name and last name. It’s not hard to come up with scenarios where that’s not realistic or fair.
Here’s a few obvious ones for starters:
- Traditional Australian Aboriginal cultures don’t have a first name/surname structure as Western societies would understand it; family groups are identified by skin names, which work quite differently. Google+ has no way of handling this scenario that I can see.
- Many people develop a separate online identity which has just as much social capital as their “real” name (the prominent example being quoted in the news at the moment is iPhone developer MuscleNerd. To argue that they’re being deceptive by using this name in Google+ shows a profound lack of understanding of online culture.
- Using a pseudonym allows you to interact online without people making presumptions about your gender, which can have benefits.
- Users who have used a Google account with a pseudonym for years have found themselves blocked not just from Google+, but from all their Google services. I can’t think of any way that this can be reconciled with the company’s often-quoted “don’t be evil” mantra.
How do you identify yourself online? Is your main online identity quite distinct from your “birth identity”? Are you happy to be identified as yourself? Do you have different approaches for different online environments? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.