"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Juliet's identity crisis during Shakespeare's seminal love story can best be interpreted as a realization that the self is more than just the name given to us by our parents to designate lineage and reference. What's in a name? Apparently to Facebook's ad-hungry executives, in a name lies an entire business model.
Recently, the popular social network has been warning drag queens and other stage performers that unless they switch to using their legal names on Facebook their accounts will be permanently disabled. Meetings with Facebook execs have proven futile, the equivalent of a "we'll hear what you have to say but we're not really interested in listening."
Facebook has purely capitalistic motives. They want to make sure all of their users' data is legit so that they can sell it to advertisers. But even though spam profiles run rampant, the well-kept profiles of many in the LGBT community are the ones coming under attack.
Facebook claims that they have an option for stage performers and other self-made personalities: create a Facebook Page. But as any social media-savvy drag queen can attest to, Facebook has made it nearly impossible for Pages to organically reach their fans unless they pay money to the network.
That's a great business model if you're asking Coca Cola to divert a little bit of their marketing dollars, but real people don't employ ad agencies. So it's no surprise that one-person, self-made brands have opted for keeping a profile, instead of a Page, to add that personal touch when interacting with their fans.
An old interview with Mark Zuckerberg explains Facebook's distorted notion of individual expression:
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.
How intellectually stunted do you have to be to view the world with such rigidity? Maybe Zuckerberg shouldn't have dropped out of Harvard before receiving a degree. Imagine what he could have learned by enrolling in a gender studies course. Or a class on Shakespeare. Even just a general humanities freshman seminar would have probably sufficed in making him understand that each individual is a prism, that the world is made of more than megabytes of endless data.
Personally, it bothers that this arbitrary move will distort my experience on the social network. Soon, the illusion of drag will disappear entirely from Facebook, and I believe members of the LGBT community with queen friends galore will have lost something truly special.
More broadly, Facebook's attack on a select group's chosen identities is an attack on all of us. They've already created an algorithm to tell us which friends are more important than others, which businesses we should be supporting based on our browsing history. Now Facebook is trying to tell us whom we can and can't be.
That's why -- in support of all the self-made queer demigods out there -- I've gone from using my legal name on the network to creating another identity of my own. I encourage all of you to do the same. What's in a name anyway? We already somewhat tweak our names so that employers or crazy ex-boyfriends can't search for us.
And if they come for us, let's tell them that we are choosing to go by our God-given names. And if they try to make us change them, let them know that they will be infringing on our religious liberty. God is on our side, I assure you.
Facebook may succeed in ridding the network from drag queens, but will they risk alienating all of us? Will they flex their muscle for the sole purpose of having us forgotten? Or will it be a self-propelled exile? Will the LGBT community be the first to forego Facebook? Will we start our very own social media revolution? Perhaps not, but our identities are something worth standing up for.
Who's Oskie Wilde? That's for me to know and for you to find out.
This post originally appeared on Confessions of a Boy Toy.