Likes, connections, personal brands — this digital age we find ourselves in is marked by these vague, falsified trappings of friendliness and personality, watered-down to the point of meaninglessness. Also answering phone calls is so 1999, and “sharing” isn’t really caring — it’s just a thumb-tap of momentary interest. But I mean, we’re all doing it so it’s totally the new normal, amirite? And yet, even in this disconnected “connected” world of ours, there are still monsters amongst us. Monsters that think they can just use OUR log-ins to socialize online.
This week we’ll be talking about why that’s some fucking BULLSHIT.
[And remember: if you wanna whip the Overlords into a “get off my lawn!”-ish frenzy, drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to both explain and bemoan the new digital status quo. On our website. And then link to it on Twitter. HERE THERE BE MONSTERS TOO, YA’LL]
Here’s today’s question, which was surprisingly easy to answer — and yet garnered a passionate response nonetheless.
I joined Facebook right around the time the platform opened up to non-college students. At the time, it was for work reasons, but then it was a “free” replacement for classmates.com and then it was just a normal part of keeping up with online friends.
My partner, however, has never joined Facebook. He isn’t at all interested or curious about anything that might be going on there. It’s a valid life choice, and I’ve never tried to talk him out of this.
From time to time, a friend will want to connect with him on Facebook. The first few times this happened, he explained that he wasn’t on Facebook, but gave his friends *my* name for the friend request. I accepted two or three of those before I shut that down.
Six or seven years ago, we had a disagreement when he used my Facebook account—I am always logged in at home, so this was easy to do—to comment on an author’s page. I was firm that he’s not allowed to use an account with my name and picture to get up to his internet adventures. If he wants to use Facebook, he needs his own account. He was upset—it really was a very innocent comment—but he agreed and this has never been an issue again.
This week, however, he finds himself wanting to connect with a particular community that congregate in a closed Facebook group. They don’t have a website elsewhere for him to engage.
So now the conundrum: my partner would like to use my Facebook account to join this community. On the one hand, I see that it’s not a huge deal. He’s not even remotely interested in snooping and I trust him when he says that he only wants access so he can join this group. He promises to give people his email address if they are going to carry on an extended chat rather than leave it active in Facebook.
On the other hand, if he wants to be on Facebook, then I feel like he needs his own account. I already don’t love that he accidentally participated in a Kickstarter when I was logged in and now I have to forward him all the relevant emails (and there are a lot of those).
What’s the right answer here?
No, He Can’t Borrow My Copy of Hey Soul Classics
Dear No, He Can’t:
The answer to your question is right there in your name. “No, He Can’t.” NO, HE CAN’T! The answer is that you’ve been right all along, and you should continue to hold your ground.
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t understand where your partner is coming from. The fact is that nobody actually NEEDS to have a social media presence. Humanity survived without constant status updates or even the internet for most of history (CRAZY, I KNOW!). Hell, there are days when I wish I’d never joined Facebook, or wanna delete my profile in an angsty fit. But precisely because I have been active on Facebook and other platforms of its ilk for over a decade now, I know how powerful, and how fragile, our social media presence can be — and the importance of protecting it. Which is a lesson your partner could stand to learn.
As you have so patiently witnessed over many, many years: mistakes happen. And with employers making a habit of checking people’s social media as part of the hiring process, having a lock on your own online presence is essential. Your partner doesn’t even need to be on your Facebook page to inadvertently leave a comment as you on someone else’s page. There are tons of websites that you can access by using a Facebook log-in. And because he’s a Facebook virgin, without years of experience watching Facebook spread like a virus across the internet, it makes sense that he isn’t aware of the all the ways that Facebook or Twitter are connected to other online platforms, or how his innocent web surfing can accidentally leave you supporting a Kickstarter on his behalf.
But he’s a grown-ass man, and that’s all been his choice. He decided not to engage, and not to learn about it. And he made those mistakes… IN YOUR NAME. So if he now wants to interact with a group that only exists on Facebook, he can decide to sign up as himself and do so. That shit ain’t on you to help him with. He either wants to engage online, or he doesn’t. Either one is a perfectly acceptable life choice, but you don’t need to be caught in the middle of any of it.
So that’s the answer I think you should give him, but there are more steps you can take to protect yourself. It sounds like you’re using a shared household computer, so set up different log-in profiles for you and your partner. That way you can remain logged in to Facebook, but you log out of the computer when you’re done — and when he wants to use it, he logs in under his own profile without any of your log-in information carried over. Remember: GROWN-ASS MAN. He can face the choice of joining websites as we all once did, and keep track of that shit.
Or if this is a case of him using your personal computer… I mean, I guess that’s a thing, but the very thought makes me cringe. Still, do what I did and set up a guest profile on my computer for the very same reason! If I have a friend over and they wanna check their email or whatever, I don’t have to log out of all my sites; I just log out of my profile and let them use the guest log-in.
Or you could make him get his own fucking computer. Or tablet. Or smartphone. They’re all basically the same now anyway.
[But also, can we take a minute to talk about how weird it is to let other people use your computer? I mean, I remember household computers! I remember them not being private at all, and having to negotiate every night just to do my homework! But now I carry my laptop with me everywhere and if someone wants to use it, I get all itchy. Life is weird, right? Anyway, moving on.]
It might also be helpful to share with your partner some articles discussing social media and children, especially when it comes to parents making the choice of whether or not to post pictures of their kids online. While it may be a very different issue than the one you two are facing, it might give him more insight into the importance of privacy and data control online. This is a rapidly evolving field, which is why it’s even harder for someone who isn’t participating to keep up with all the changes (I mean, really? Face recognition? Go fuck yourself, internet!). And while he has every right to remain ignorant to the ins and outs of social media, you have every right to protect your online presence from his ignorance.
Genevieve put it very succinctly: “You don’t get to say you’re a ‘zero waste’ person if you throw your trash out in someone else’s trash can. You don’t get to say you’re not on Facebook when you’re just hijacking someone else’s account to do what you want without your name attached to it.” Part of existing online is taking responsibility for your actions. And part of taking responsibility is having your own name attached to your actions. And, sadly, a lot of that comes down to social media profiles. Not to mention the fact that if a community chooses to congregate in a closed Facebook community, it’s because they want to make sure they can monitor who is participating in their conversation — and having a member operating under someone else’s name is needlessly confusing. They won’t appreciate him using your profile any more than you do.
Long story short: You’re right, you’ve been very patient, and we give full permission to put your foot down on this nonsense. I’m sure your partner is a lovely person, but he’s also a modern-day monster and I’m glad he’s nowhere near my computer.