Pork Belly Acres


Central, Washington, USA
April 09
Overview: an interesting mammal interested in other interesting mammals. The rest is just window dressing, but here are my real-life resume highlights: Former newspaper publisher. Capable of working 400 weeks in a row and running a community newspaper while doing laundry at the same time and in the same room in the house. Carried 8.5+ lb. twin boys nearly to term. Has been known to bore people (infrequently, thank god) by spouting off Latin names for clouds and xeric plants. Is (mostly) satisfactorily surviving three sons' teen years (so far). Noted inability to harden heart, but excels at always finding room for one more cat/horse/dog/human. Still loves French toast as much as she did when she was eight years old (with powdered sugar and butter, thank you).


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Editor’s Pick
JUNE 28, 2010 5:36PM

Facebook as the Truth Machine and an argument for anonymity

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The founder of Facebook wants us all to have just one face.

According to NPR correspondent David Kirkpatrick (who spent a lot of time with FB founder Mark Zuckerberg while was working on his new book): “He disagrees with the notion that people have different identities. To him, the idea that someone is different at work than at home, than at a rock concert, is dishonest. Says Kirkpatrick, ‘He believes that he will live a better life personally, and all of us will be more honest, and ultimately it will be better for the world if we dispense with that belief.’”

This is an interesting idea, particularly because anonymity has a tendency to bring out the worst in folks. Want a self-guided tour of the dark side of anonymity? Visit a news website that allows folks to use screen names (like Salon) and check out the postings after controversial stories and columns.

Anonymous people are more than happy to harangue. They heckle the hell out of each other as well as the person who wrote the article—usually the only person in the “conversation” who’s using their real name, by the way.

In the small town where I used to work as a reporter, I remember the city attorney advising councilpeople to not e-mail each other about council-related business. “For some reason, people seem to view these exchanges as if they were secrets...like whispered conversations in class,” he warned.

That warning didn't stick. Inevitably I had to make a public records request for a councilman’s e-mails that discussed city business. One of the emails I received concluded with the old councilman joking with a (much younger) councilwoman that he’d left a “Frederick’s of Hollywood” package for her on her chair prior to the last council meeting. Had she found it yet, he asked?

Yep, the ewww factor was pretty much off the scale on that one. When people think they’re talking when nobody’s listening, the results can be bone-wrenchingly revelatory.

When I was looking into starting a blog on Open Salon, I was originally going to use my real name. Since I’ve had a very public job in the same small towns for sixteen years, it’s not like I’m not used to seeing my name all over everything.

But in my world, there is no such thing as a quick trip to the local grocery or post office because I have to talk to everyone. Hell, small towns are the original Facebook. Not only do you know everyone, you know what they drive, how many kids they have, what church they go to, which distant uncle in Montana has prostate cancer, whether they planted some new tulips in their front yard last fall. And they know everything about you, too.

I’ve written many columns in the paper about the importance of people being brave enough to speak out in public. We noticed a pronounced decline in letters to the editor and a growing reluctance to speak out at public meetings over the last ten years.

I used to privately blame our extremely conservative community, since anyone out of lockstep gets viewed with suspicion and there is a pervasive attitude that any kind of disagreement is unneighborly. But now I wonder if this reluctance stems from the overwhelming scrutiny people face in small towns.  

I remember a neighbor’s son once throwing a tantrum about a dirt ramp they’d built in the field next to my house. They were jumping their bikes on it, and the ramp disintegrated on this kid in mid-jump. He ended up with the bike on top of him in the dirt.

One of the other neighbor boys thought his buddy's resulting stomping-around-throwing shovel-and-bike-around tantrum was hilarious, and started taking pictures of the tantrum-thrower with his cell phone.  

Later that evening, we heard the tantrum-thrower’s dad showed up at the picture-taker’s house and demanded that the parents of the picture-taker delete the photos of his son off their kid's cell phone. The child's father insisted on personally supervising the deletion operation.

So I suppose on one level, my use of a lame screen name for this blog puts me on the same level as my privacy-freak neighbor. But let me argue for the benefits of anonymity for a minute.

Any newspaper editor will tell you they've been haunted at one time or another by the irony of “free speech” since economic considerations like running a business bring a whole host of crap into play other than the "truth."

Anonymous postings are wonderful for getting the truth out there”… whether that truth is factual or emotional. But the problem is once the chilling influences of responsibility and money are axed by anonymity, what structure remains to "rein in" the truth-teller?

That sets up a massive problem for "anonymous" because their audience will immediately question what they're saying. "We don't even know who you are. Why should we believe what you're telling us?"

And if the audience isn't listening, isn't believing, where does that leave the truth-teller?

I remember reading a science fiction book called The Truth Machine by James Halperin about ten years ago, which correctly posited the world would change—and in a freakin' hurry—if everyone was required to wear a foolproof lie detector.

Zuckerberg's insistence that people would be better off if they were the same person “no matter where they are” echoes Halperin’s honest-world utopia in a big way.

But is he right? Consider for just a moment how many different faces we all have.Think of what you're like at a family funeral compared to a Saturday on the beach.

What are you like in bed with your beloved? Are you the same person there as you are when you’re making toast for your children before they go to school?

And does the whole “being honest enough to be the same person no matter where you are" idea mean you’re being dishonest with your grandma for not being the same person with her as you are when you’re with your friends on a rowdy outing?

For better or for worse, we have evolved into very complex beings. Even so, we’re only allowed the briefest flashes of insight about the equally complex beings around us. 

We’ve been naming and classifying “beasts of the field and fowl of the air”  for very long time now, so I suppose it’s only natural we’d turn our attention to our own race and insist our names should define all that we are. The very act of naming gives us an illusion of control, and believing we're in control helps us avoid that very unpleasant mental vertigo we get when we realize just how much we don't know.

But who are our true selves? The self at work? The self at play? The self with friends? In love?

How much simpler life would be if Facebook is successful in insisting we need to stick to just one self. Maybe then we'd feel content that we had another little piece of this hall-of-mirrors universe solved.

But I believe our different selves are a constant source of conflict, energy, and fascination. 

I’d sure hate to lose all of mine.

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I have this conversation with my online friends all the time. Who is real and who isn't? Who exaggerates and who tells the truth about who they are? I've met some of my online friends in real life and I have come to the conclusion that we all have different faces that we put out there for different people and for different situations.

I suppose where the problems arise is when we can no longer tell our own fact from fiction. When we can no longer keep our different selves straight. When the lines start blurring and we take liberties where we would not have dared to before. Does this mean that the 'real' you is coming through? Or does it mean that you have allowed yourself to be changed by your different environments?

I may be a bit cynical but I tend to look at everybody I meet online that way now. I have been burned before and I've learned my lessons the hard way.
Nice try Cartouche. (Just teasing.)
Facebook is an OK way of keeping track of friends, old and new. If you use it for more than that ... uhh, well, nevermind. If you play Farmville or any of the Zynga games, you've already lost so many IQ points so as not to be able to follow the discussion.

And you're twitching. Did you know you were twitching?
Well said, Fetlock! I have no patience for the foolishness, rudeness and crudeness online anonymity permits. But there are a number of reasonable rationales for engaging in online discourse under an assumed name. I hope Mr. Zuckerberg considers this - and the fact that a little mystery can be a lot of fun.
I've blogged for ten years now and this is the first time I've used my real name. It definitely limits the things I can talk about, but it's sort of a personal experiment.
Anonymous writers are wusses.
I see myself as an integral person doing and saying things I would do in most any situation. I keep in mind that I am responding to live human beings who are somewhere else behind a computer. I have dealt with enough people online who seem to need to pretend that they are something other than they are when they are online for some gain at another's expense. I have only had one account on OS, this one but I am using a pseudonym - something that I have repeatedly reminded my OS friends of and when I send a PM, I end with my real first name, Mary. Some still insist on calling me Leonde which I enjoy. A blogger by any other name would smell as sweet or stinky?
I had this very mental debate before creating this account on Open Salon.

Seems to me Zuckerman has himself a mega-ego. One of those people who thinks everyone is just like them.

The process of 'wearing masks' (in this case digital) has served its purpose of freeing ourselves of this singular identity that desires everyone to conform to.

It is very true that the mask brings out the worst in some, but I believe it more brings out a true character in a person. Thus the people with ugliness and a desire to distort and misinform inside of them end up doing exactly that, but conversely the people doing honest and well sourced research and compiling it for us (I'm thinking of our own Jeanette DeMain covering the Gulf Oil Spill) or sharing their opinions as opinions they be and nothing more.
Le Nom du Plume lives!

Follow Z at your own risk- close examination, please.

Sadly, most humanoids never experience it, but the only time you are actually yourself is when you travel somewhere, alone, and meet people for the first time.

You can never be yourself in a small town, too much of who you are is determined by past expectation- Z wants you there full time and, this, kiddies, effects brain chemistry, and not for the better ...

like that soothing blue frame though ....
@ David E: Yeah because nothing screams "wuss" like using a screen name to protect yourself from being ID'd by unsavory people.
I have written about Zuckerberg's penchant to predict various things about people based on some statistical uses of words in their status'. I have argued that people do have public online selves, so how could these predictions be accurate predictors of someone's 'real self'? Interesting post and interesting discussion.
WendyLynn: I totally agree about keeping our “selves” straight. The internet makes it easy for us to adopt throwaway (sometimes even single-use) identities. That kind of convenience does seem to attract weirdos. Maybe that’s one pitfall Zuckerberg thinks his “share all” philosophy will help prevent.

Jeff: Twitching? Oh, hell, you’ll have to enlighten me…is this some kind of Salon slang I don’t know yet?

Man Talk Now: So true. Having the freedom to write without having to be the person everyone expects me to be is going to be really interesting after so many years of being who people expected.

Cedar: Let me know how your experiment goes. For me, writing under a screen name will be big experiment, too.

David: I happen to totally agree with you. Spent a lot of time nagging people here for being wusses for not writing letters to the editor. But I wanted the freedom to write about some more personal things in this blog than I want my neighbors looking at, and thanks to my newspaper work I do have people who follow me around online. The thrill of seeing my name in print wore off a long time ago, so I don’t really care about that. I’m willing to admit I’m a coward in exchange for that freedom.

Leonde-Mary: Seems to me that it runs about half and half on OS (real names and screen). I think maybe the unsavory parts of the internet (people misrepresenting themselves and preying on folks) are probably outweighed by the positives—people with chronic diseases and problems who can find folks dealing with the same issues, etc. to talk to. I should’ve had someone like you with a really nice poetic screen to help me pick out something better than what I came up with!

Progressive: My SO’s reaction to the story about Zuckerberg believing everyone should be the same no matter where they “are” in life: “Well, he sounds like a 24-year-old.” And I can’t tell you how many important stories I had to tank because we had to play it safe. I’m kind of excited about going rogue (you’ll pardon the expression, of course….heh heh).

ComplainP: Yep, yep, and yep. I learned the hard way that it wasn’t a good idea to be funny in a small town (the old adage “humor doesn’t work in newspapers” is especially true in conservative small towns where nobody knows any Steely Dan lyrics. Go Z).

LadyMiko: Thanks for the stand up.

Stellaa: “We do not have all these things under one roof for all our friends to examine and comment on.” That sings!

Snarky: Thanks for the kind words, and I will check out your blog about the “status predictions.” Oddly enough the posts on FB that I enjoy the most are from my older friends—the ones who are retired and aren’t laboring so hard to so damn cool like us younger folks. They just really like keeping in touch with people. Most people my age seem to treat Facebook like a giant one-upsmanship contest.
Banksy says "In the future everyone will get their fifteen minutes of anonymity"
The problem isn't anonymity or the lack thereof; the problem is people who live in the disembodied state of the internet reverting to social skills they honed in high school--never having evolved--trying to recover something of themselves there. It is all psychological. Anonymity is just a veil, flimsy one at that.
Sorry, but I call bullshit. Simply because we *are* such complex creatures, we are allowed to behave one way with grandma and another with the rowdy bunch. If we were to do as FB whats-his-face suggests, we would be required to become social nincompoops and not make appropriate judgements on how to behave given certain social cues. We would also have to give 100%, 100% of the time, and sorry, but I'm lazy.
I use my real name now online because I spent far too long -- in the real world -- managing personas/identities and, at times, "play acting" to suit what society wanted or needed me to be. After a time I felt like a fraud and decided it was time to just be me, comfortable in my own skin. It was scary at first (would people still like me, resent me, criticize me?) but it's been liberating. That's not to say I express everything on my mind or behave the same way I would at a funeral as I would at the beach -- behavior and identity are not one in the same. Being anonymous or hiding behind pseudonyms to take pot shots ranges from disingenuous to cowardly.
I am charmed and engaged with this well-written, personal exploration of a profound issue: Identity.

The internet proves Identity both conceals and reveals Good and Bad. But the bigger lessons, crucial to our survival, are civility and reason. We fail to teach critical thinking to our young, and we are descending into a Reality TV-fueled wallow of rude cruelty.

This post, tho, is a cool breeze.
Online 'Identity' is a tricky thing... always makes me wonder how people can fall in love online, often without knowing a person's real name. Zuckerberg's ideal is charming, but impossible. Being able to narcissistically manipulate our personalities to serve certain specific purposes is too tempting. We're all Swiss-Army knives, pretending to be just corkscrews or just scissors... and quick to bash someone for being a toothpick, when we're that, too. Congratulations on the Editor's Pick, this is a topic worthy of lots of interesting open discussion.

"@ David E: Yeah because nothing screams "wuss" like using a screen name to protect yourself from being ID'd by unsavory people."

Wuss is as Wuss does, dear.
Another consideration concerning in-person and online selves. I often say some outrageous things in person that (hopefully) mesh with the mood of my companions and the tone of the conversation.
As a writer, I sound different and would even have to be "outrageous" differently, if that's what I'm up to. A pseudonym helps separate those two selves although I confess to sometimes being Dr. Balkanstein "live."

"David: I happen to totally agree with you. Spent a lot of time nagging people here for being wusses for not writing letters to the editor. But I wanted the freedom to write about some more personal things in this blog than I want my neighbors looking at, and thanks to my newspaper work I do have people who follow me around online. The thrill of seeing my name in print wore off a long time ago, so I don’t really care about that. I’m willing to admit I’m a coward in exchange for that freedom."

Well then you don't totally agree with me.

I sign my name to everything on this and other sites and my blog (where I'm currently excoriating Lara Logan in no uncertain terms.)

Over the course of my life I've been physically assualted by perfect strangers and Police Officers -- one of who actually attempted to murder me. So I'm like John Garfield at the end of "Body and Soul" -- "What are you gonna do? Kill me? Everybody dies."
So, you think "sadzjxjk asdgjqh" would ever use his real name to spam?

Good writing, Fetlock.
I hadn't read that Zuckerberg quote (...and, am I the only one that wants to smack his snarky little voice when I hear him on the radio?), but I've been thinking a lot about these issues lately. I just turned 39, and while I'm comfortable with technology/social media as an integral part of my personal and professional life, I'm a compartmentalizer at heart and haven't lost my (somewhat dowdy) sensitivity to boundaries. Anyone who knows me gets the same core person, but not everyone gets the same information. I like it that way. I have 500+ Facebook friends, all but a few of which I actually know from the physical world (and even those are coworkers/colleagues that I've had a work relationship with, or friends of friends to whom I've been connected through common interest). But I won't connect on FB to anyone from my current job because I don't like it here, and I'm on the fence about accepting a friend request from an older family friend who I've never really liked.

I don't want to live in a world where everyone puts everything all out there. What makes people interesting is their layers, and how could you ever know how to trust someone's judgment if you never saw them exercise restraint or assess the comfort of others? Not that we need to walk around worrying about what everyone else thinks. But I think how we respond to the people and conditions around us is a big part of how we develop into our true selves - it's a process. Zuckerberg seems like he wants us all to "brand" ourselves first, and then put out consistent messaging in support of that brand. Fine for Frito Lay, but not for people.
Noah: Saw Exit From the Gift Shop recently and loved it. My fifteen minutes of anonymity will be much enjoyed.

Ghost: When I was a little kid—probably about six years old—my mom once left me a note to find when I woke up in the morning. I promptly wrote her a note back and left it at her bedside to find when she woke up. The next night I begged her to leave me a note again. My parents indulged me for about three nights, and then they decided I was getting “too excited” about writing letters and that it “wasn’t a healthy means of communication.” Like most children of the Depression, they were suspicious of any excess joy or happiness. (Or maybe they were just worried I was going to turn into a writer.)

So I grew up thinking that other people thought what I loved to do was kind of a distasteful activity, and that it was wrong for me to enjoy it so much.

For writers, blogs and chatting online are like crack cocaine. We crave having an audience and using words to communicate, and the internet is…well, like, wow…man…awesome. Give me another hit of that, willya?

Although I can handle myself socially and enjoy people, I never feel uncomfortable when I’m writing the way I do when I’m in company, and I feel guilty about that sometimes, too. Maybe my parents were right all along—this kind of communication will always be lopsided and unhealthy.

But I can quit anytime I want….(ha).

Little: I had to laugh at the last line of your post. Yes.

Pamela: You’re my kind of woman. As a publisher, I had to stand behind every word I printed, so I know how difficult it is to stick to your guns. But my real name required me to “playact” for a very long time, so I could use your argument in defense of my desire to be who I really am.

I don’t know how many people know what it's like for several thousand people in your community to know who you are. I really hesitate to use the word “celebrity” (especially since newspaper people are poorer than snot and, if they're worth their salt, they're not usually well-liked) but that’s the closest way to describe what my situation is like.

Greg: Thank you. Like ghost writer says, anonymity is a flimsy veil anyway. I’m intrigued by Progressive Liberal’s comment that anonymity can bring out someone’s true character. It’s interesting that Zuckerberg’s insistence that we show the same “face” everywhere may only be possible IF we are anonymous.

David: Ah, I get it…you’re one of those argumentative folks that always needs to have the last word. Knock yourself out, kid.

Dr. B: Yeah, the split personality thing helps me too. There are a lot of things I’ve been dying to write about that could never have been printed in the newspaper, either because the topic was too personal or because my politics don’t exactly mesh with our conservative base.

Brinna: Thank you.

Bonnie: Eeek.

Miss V: Dowdy is an interesting word to use there. I have three teenagers, and that’s probably exactly how they’d characterize my insistence that they not post such personal stuff on FB (“So sad she doesn’t love me anymore….”ugh).

We’re all in a situation right now with technology where we have to set our own boundaries, because we can’t depend on time and distance to do the work for us. What you’re talking about here…about how different friends get different information…is a very difficult concept for my kids, who are all growing up using social networking. People our age have a natural sense of what should be shared and what shouldn’t because the boundaries were in place when we were growing up. My kids won’t have that advantage.

I remember in the novel Easy Travel to Other Planets when the characters at the end of the book start developing a little “screen” in the corner of their awareness where they can “see” what their friends are doing—which seems eerily prescient given our obsession with social networking. With Facebook, we can keep in daily contact with people we knew decades ago and who live thousands of miles away. It’s enjoyable, but the feeling the boundaries are dissolving all around us is palpable. I hope we learn how to deal with it gracefully.

I really agree with you about the layers thing, and how developing our true selves requires practice responding to others. But as you say, it’s healthy and necessary to conceal our “selves” when we in a predicament like you are at your current job. Your comment about trying to “brand” people is also spot on. Thanks for the thoughtful response.
It seems to me that the issue is really more about public and private behavior --- discretion being the relevant issue. Many years ago, when the internet was in its infancy and I was lucky enough to be among a group of intrepid early innovators who beta-tested the online community that became AOL, I learned what I think is the key to this whole facebook/twitter/bear your soul in public syndrome. It is simply this. Do NOT post anything online that you would not stand in the center of your home town and scream at the top of your lungs for all to hear -- your mother, your father, the preacher, the guy you want to date, your BFF, and your sworn enemy. But, for Pete's sake, don't say everything that pops into your head. Some things that trail through your stream of consciousness are not appropriate blog fodder. Yet, time and again. I read superficial and trivial day-to-day occurrences as well as things that should remain private on the pages of otherwise-quite-sensible folks. For instance: thinking disrespectful thoughts about the President is one thing; saying them in public is quite another. Using disrespectful language is another -- we all know the words, but do we have to use them? Plus, consider the security issue -- do you really want the entire world to know that you are off to the Bahamas and your house with all of your possessions inside stands empty? What sort of ego does it take to think anyone is interested in your favorite color? What you had for lunch? Whether your baby spits up or not? Being yourself is clearly honest, and can be multifaceted whereby you show a different aspect of yourself to different people. All the facets can be, and probably are true. And if the facets you show are trumped up and clearly untrue, you show the world that you don't much like who you are and have to invent a person you like better.
Having spent the last 21 years posting online (mostly to usenet) as myself and not as an anonymous screenname, I'm pretty familiar with the upside and the downside of being who I am 100% of the time. And too, I've been sued by a clueless lawyer who apparently believes the cure for hurt feelings is a judge and jury, although it wasn't for my own words, but for those of an entirely different (anonymous) poster, so even though I made myself an easy target, Section 230 protected me from an adverse judgment (although not from a rather largish lawyer's bill).

Even at that, I wish people would be who they are all the time and hold themselves accountable for their words (at the least, they'd be a little more polite), but even I have writings out there about which I've had occasional second thoughts.

I think the decision to be anonymous lies with the individual, and I resent the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is behaving like a net nanny/net cop. On the other hand, Facebook belongs to him, and if I find myself too resentful, I can always delete my account.
I love your story about the notes, Fetlock, and it makes me sad for you that they put the kabash on it--couldn't they have just pared down the intervals?
Liz: I see the security issue all the time on Facebook ("off to Disneyland for two weeks!!!!!!") and I agree that people who invent a bunch of stuff about themselves sure don’t seem to like who they are.

Rhonda: I don’t know that Mr. Zuckerberg predicted that Facebook users would get so upset over some of the privacy shenanigans that his company has already pulled, or that the users would be so good about policing it from within. And I know what you mean about wishing people were accountable. I lived in fear of being sued every week we published our newspaper—everything from forgetting to put “paid for by” on a political ad once to a big company getting mad at me that I printed all their environmental fines, the times I forgot to use the word “alleged”….I am so glad I’m not losing sleep over that stuff anymore.

And Ghost…my dad told me once that his very strict German grandparents (who helped raise him after his mother died) kept one of the only toys he had—a little wind-up car—locked up in a cabinet. Every week for a single hour he was allowed to play with the car, and then it got locked back into the cabinet. They claimed it made too much noise, he said, but I remember him muttering about how maybe the car got locked up because they didn’t want to see him having fun. So that’s what kind of “regulation” my dad grew up with.

Maybe my parents actually did me a favor by making writing seem like a little bit of a forbidden (and therefore even more thrilling) activity.
I like having multiple blogs for different issues and different sides of myself. I have one here and 3 on Blogger (a photo blog and 2 neighborhood blogs). The more, the merrier.
It sounds to me like Zuckerberg is one of those self-diagnosed asperger nerds, who just isn't very skillful at employing the kabuki-mask defences that most of us master by the age of 16.

I bet he has day-long meetings with representatives from huge banks, investment firms, and consultants, and he can't tell if they are being honest with him or not (Answer: They're not.), and he also feels at a disadvantage because he goes into these meetings with a very basic strategy of just being honest about things. ANd after the meeting he realises that he just opened up and told everyone what he thinks, and in return every single one of them fed him buckets of high-grade bullshit.

So he just wants to get rid of the masks because he personally isn't very good at using them to get what he wants. Unfortunately for Mark, these masks have been around for 250,000 years or more, and they aren't going anywhere.
Bike: I don’t know how you can keep everything “separate” but that’s interesting. These days (maybe it’s because I spent most of the last eight years self-employed) it seems like a lot of us are marketing different aspects of ourselves. I find writing under a handle tremendously liberating after writing the last 16 years for a very right-wing audience.

Neil: That’s an interesting point. Asperger’s isn’t a joke, though, and I doubt you’d feel comfortable making a similar snide comparison using a person with a physical handicap as an example. (Sorry, I’ve got a kid who struggles with this, and so you've pressed a button there.) Few of us older folks could say that we’re more idealistic now than we were in our twenties…maybe that’s why we don’t feel comfortable electing folks who don’t have some more living under their belts for the same reason.
“Truth” quest: A word to the wise: you’re not going to win over anyone by bringing up topics not discussed here so you have an excuse to vomit up your agenda.