“You have one identity. The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly … Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.“
-Mark Zuckerberg, as quoted in The Facebook Effect
It is with Zuckerberg’s remarks in mind that I read a couple of conversations over the weekend about Facebook’s new comment system for blogs and other websites. Although many websites — including this one — allow commenters to sign in with Facebook, some high-profile sites, such as TechCrunch, have switched over the new system, which is run entirely by the social network. This requires commenters to write under their real names, provided they aren’t using an alias on Facebook, and by default displays the comment on the user’s wall and friends’ news feeds.
Not surprisingly, the switch had a chilling effect on TechCrunch, according to MG Siegler. Although the venomous remarks that once dominated the site’s peanut gallery are gone, in their place are “comments that gush about the subject of the article in an overly sycophantic way,” Siegler writes. There are also fewer comments overall.
The calming of TechCrunch’s comment section may seem like a net positive, but entrepreneur Steve Cheney sees it as troublesome. Facebook comments are a threat to authenticity, he argues, because people bottle up when their real-world connections are watching. “The problem with tying internet-wide identity to a broadcast network like Facebook is that people don’t want one normalized identity, either in real life, or virtually,” Cheney writes.
The proof is in TechCrunch’s comment section after the switch. It may be more hospitable, but it’s also less interesting. And the folks who aren’t commenting at all are probably the ones who refuse to open their Facebook identities to the world. They’ve been shut out.
All of this puts a dent in Zuckerberg’s vision of having a single identity for every aspect of your life. Maybe it’s something the world will eventually embrace, but with mixed results on a leading tech blog — which should be at the vanguard of Internet trends — I’m not holding my breath.
(And just to be clear, my intent isn’t to slag on TechCrunch or extol some other system. I have no say in how Technologizer handles its comments.)