Ugh. Freakin’ Facebook, man. Just shut down my account because they “suspected” James St James wasn’t my real name. So I had to drop everything and change account information, and now my Facebook page reads “James Clark.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? How can they do that? Do you know how many people on Facebook are known solely by stage names, pen names, street names, nicknames or WHATEVER? And what if I identified as “Jane Clark”? Would they force me to post as the wrong gender? IT’S LGBT DISCRIMINATION IS WHAT IT IS! Or what if I was trying to escape an abusive relationship and changed my identity? WHAT THEN FACEBOOK?
Change.org has a petition: Allow Performers to Use their Stage Names on Facebook Accounts!
Sign it and SPREAD THE WORD!
Recently, Facebook has been locking many performers out of their accounts until they change their names to their “legal identity.” According to Facebook, this is to help build “authentic” community, but in fact it undermines the online communities we have built over the past several years using our stage names. Our chosen names are an important part of our identities and how we interact with our peers and audiences.
Although our names might not be our “legal” birth names, they are still an integral part of our identities, both personally and to our communities. These are the names we are known by and call each other and ourselves. We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain by preventing us from presenting our profiles under the names we have built them up with. People we have known (or who have known us) for years are unable to find us, communicate with us, or recognize us in our Facebook interactions now.
Additionally, many Facebook users – performers or otherwise – use names that are not their “legal names” to help protect their privacy and anonymity, with good reason. Victims of abuse, trans people, queer people who are not able to be safely “out,” and performers alike need to be able to socialize, connect, and build communities on social media safely. By forcing us to use our “real” names, it opens the door to harassment, abuse, and violence. Facebook claims that the restriction on using “real” names “helps keep our community safe” (https://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576), but in fact this restriction enables our communities to be attacked and degraded, both online and off.
Facebook has encouraged performers to create or transition to “Like” pages, but even Facebook admits that pages typically only reach ~16% of their audience, unless they pay to “promote” a post (https://www.facebook.com/marketing/posts/10150839503836337). We are not large companies with deep pockets, and we cannot afford to pay $30 or more per post to make sure that our friends and audiences see our posts. We are not businesses selling products, we are encouraging our friends to come to our events and performances, promoting charitable causes, and making calls to political action, with occasional mundane daily life updates like every other Facebook user.
Many (and, perhaps, most) performers use their Facebook accounts to network, get booked and book each other, produce events, and communicate with each other, because it is simpler, safer, and more effective than divulging our personal email addresses or phone numbers with others. By preventing us from accessing our accounts under our chosen names, this hinders our ability to make a living and develop our performance careers.
Finally, when getting locked out of our accounts, Facebook tells us that “it looks like you’re not using your real name,” before requiring us to change it. We cannot emphasize enough that Facebook is a poor arbiter of what is or isn’t a “real name.” Performers with legitimate-appearing names get locked out of their accounts while people with account names like “Jane ICanBeBadAllByMyself Doe” go without scrutiny. And, unfortunately, for those who choose not to use their legal names for reasons of privacy, safety, or preference, there is no way to access their account to download and preserve all their photos and information that they have built up on Facebook over the years without bypassing the name change requirement.
Please, continue to make money off the traffic we drive to your website by promoting ourselves and our events through Facebook. You’ve allowed us for years to develop communities and audiences under our personas, which has primarily been beneficial to your corporation, but this “bait and switch” that you are currently pulling on us only undermines both us AND you.
For all these reasons and many, many more, please allow us to use our personal profiles with the names we’ve established over several years. It is only beneficial for all of us.
ALSO REMEMBER: Instagram is owned by Facebook. They’ll be doing it there next! Stop it before it escalates OUT OF CONTROL!