I can no longer be not-myself on the internet.
The internet has become a strange place over the last few years. I’ve been using the internet for around 13 years now, and while that certainly doesn’t make me one of the old crew who were amazed at things like “colour” and “pictures” on the internet, it does provide me with a good view as to the way it’s been heading.
The first thing that was revolutionary about the internet, something that was widely talked about – and praised – was that you didn’t have to be yourself. The concept of minorities didn’t really exist on the internet, as everyone was the same. Obviously this anonymity was abused by many to pretend to be people they’re not, but for most people it allowed them to express their true selves in ways they couldn’t in the real world. I know it did with me, and I’m still using the same alias that I have been since I started – the divide between my “online life” and “real life” is a clear line, as I think it is with many people. And that’s a good thing in most cases.
Recently, however, it seems that line is being blurred, if not removed altogether. Thanks to the rise of social media, including places such as MySpace and Facebook, we’re now encouraged to put our real selves out there, and tell everyone who we are and what we look like. Which, frankly, I don’t want to do. It’s not because I’m scared or ashamed (mostly), it’s simply because it’s taking away one of the best features of the internet.
The latest in this trend, and possibly the tipping point as far as I’m concerned, is the latest version of Windows Live Messenger that was introduced with Windows Live Essentials 2011. Aside from bombarding you with messages telling you to turn on your webcam so that you can make your display picture a picture of your lovely face and messages begging you to link it up to Facebook because the new UI is basically worthless without it (it’s a terrible UI but thanlfully you can change it back to mostly the way it was mostly), the worst mistake is that you are now forced to use your own name as your contact name.
In every other version of Messenger you could set it to whatever you wanted, and while this did of course lead to really bad usernames >>><<<>>tHaT lOkEd LiKe ThIs 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 !!!!>>>>>>>><<<, it was great because you could be whatever you felt like being. Now you’re stuck to whatever your Windows Live profile name is, which for the majority will be their real name. Add to that the only way of changing what you appear as on the Messenger is to change that profile name, which also effects emails. Now, 99% of my contacts on Windows Live Messenger I could class as “online friends”, i.e. people who know me as “Tomtrek” instead of my real name. And I don’t want to use my real name with them, it would just feel wrong. It’s been that way for decades, why must this change now?
Microsoft give this ‘reason’:
“For some, the move away from a separate display name will be perceived as a loss of functionality. But this change, along with numerous other enhancements, will help curb abuse and scams on our network.”
People will ‘perceive’ this as a loss of functionality because it is a loss of functionality.
Why is it that everywhere on the internet must be told who and what we are. The large amount of sites that bed you to link them with Facebook, for example. Aside from something like putting Facebook on your phone, which I don’t mind as much as Facebook is for keeping in contact with your real-life friends in the same way your phone is, every other website wants to give me another way to tell me that my friend CAN’T WAIT FOR THE WEEKEND. If I want to use Facebook, I’ll use Facebook. If I want to talk to internet-friends on the internet, I’ll use a messenger. Facebook is for real life. The internet is not. I still want my anonymity, but more and more it seems that your entire online presence will be based on the contents of your Facebook profile. Why can’t they just let me be Tomtrek?
Posted on November 4, 2010, in Rants that will probably put off new readers and tagged Facebook, Instant messaging, Internet, Microsoft, Usernames, Windows Live, Windows Live Messenger. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.