Why I Stand Against Facebook’s “Real Names” Policy

For the past 36 hours, I have been locked out of my personal Facebook account because it was deemed a violation of the company’s real names policy. My only goal in maintaining personal separation has been common courtesy. My business contacts and people who follow my work on Kindness Communication don’t care about when I go to the beach, what I had for dinner, or similar details. But this is a real issue for many people out there. I’m fortunate enough not to need to use a pseudonym to benefit from the social connectivity Facebook offers, with no real alternative. I’m not being stalked, or fleeing an abuser, or at risk of threats to my economic or physical security because of my identity. In my enforced downtime, I’ve learned a lot about just how much harm has been done to others by Facebook’s policies.

You can learn more about it on the #MyNameIs Campaign website or in the many articles covering this policy and its implications (see below).

If you have a policy that spurs protests from communities as diverse as LGTBQ communities, victims of domestic abuse, Native Americans, drag performers, activists under oppressive regimes, teachers, therapists, and people with stigmatized medical conditions, you maybe should listen…don’t you think? Hard to imagine something that could be harmful to such a broad spectrum of interests could be anything but morally wrong.

Facebook is unquestionably complicit in the abuse it enables by means of its real names policy.

Three things need to happen:

  1. Facebook should change this, now.
  2. Facebook should acknowledge that its insistence on real names is not about protecting users, but about improving data quality for advertisers.
  3. Facebook should apologize to the communities it has placed under threat, and to the victims of harassment, bullying, discrimination, and violence who have already been harmed by its policy.

And while some may object that using Facebook is a personal choice, and that we should expect to give up rights when we use a free product, I believe that’s an easy cop-out.  When a private company functions, for whatever reason, as an essentially public utility, it must take on the accountability for public good that comes with that role. This is a ultimately a kindness issue, because it touches on a company demonstrating true consideration for the people it affects.

More reading:

Kind Interview Questions For Recruiting and Hiring

Quoted in: “10 of the Most Revealing Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates,” Spark Hire Human Resources Blog

[One of the most revealing job interview questions you can ask is] “Give me two or three examples of things you do to show kindness and consideration to your colleagues.”

Employers should focus on questions that reveal behavior and character. They should go above and beyond the skills for meeting the job requirements. That’s how you know your hire will mesh well with your team or company, rather than turning out to be a costly regret.

Questions like this help you assess how prospective hires see themselves in relationship to other people and specific circumstances. You can use them to spot the difference between people who are active, engaged problem-solvers and people who are passive and disengaged.

You can also be attentive to more than just the content of the answer, and focus on HOW they tell the story. Factors such as the way they describe themselves and the details they choose as relevant are a great indicator of how they might perform and what will matter to them if you hire them.

– Christopher G. Fox, founder, Kindness Communication

Shifting From Offense To Kindness

I find it hard to feel offended by other people, because I so rarely empower their opinions to have an impact on my self-esteem, and because I shift quickly to thinking about the context behind their opinion. I’m more interested in understanding the pain and ignorance that led them to the point of having the negative belief in the first place. These negative beliefs create opportunities for compassion and kind action, which become a much more constructive response to the situation than feeling and expressing offense.

This shift does not preclude impassioned response. It simply creates a better foundation for making choices about how and whether to respond. It’s possible for us to train ourselves to note mindfully that our sense of self-worth has been threatened without letting that threat set the tone for forward dialogue. From there, we can decide where to act along the spectrum from walking away, with empathy, to intervening, with hope.

The more we do this, the better our instincts about what works will become, and the more quickly we’ll be able to carry out this shift in ourselves. As it becomes instinctive, we find that offense is no longer even the starting point. Our response begins at empathy. From there, our chances to be heard and to heal the negative beliefs will bloom.