Today, popular (now second-generation) advice columnist Dear Abby answered a letter from an adult concerned that a teenager she knows has Devil/Angel Facebook accounts:
DEAR ABBY: I have just learned that a friend’s 16-year-old daughter has two different Facebook profiles. One is a “nice” profile to which she has invited me, her family and friends from her days at a Christian academy. The other, which is pretty raw, she uses with her new “wild” friends from public high school.
The first profile portrays her as the perfect student and daughter. The other includes explicit details about her sexual exploits and drinking parties. Should I keep my nose out of it or let her parents know about the dual identities? — VIGILANT IN EVERETT, WASH.
DEAR VIGILANT: Ask yourself whether you would want to be warned about your minor child’s drinking and sexual exploits or be kept in the dark, and you’ll have your answer.
Ms. Vigilant seems nosy to me. My first thought was, “Why is this woman stalking this child on Facebook?” My second thought was, “Why is she so darn angry with this girl?” Ms. Vigilant’s attitude toward the teen is not loving and understanding in the least.
This teen, we’ll call her D.A. for Devil/Angel, seems pretty savvy on the surface of it, using two separate accounts for different, shall we say, “interests.” I personally have two facebook accounts, one for my public persona (social media, writing, and acquaintances) and the other for family and friends I know in real life. The difference between D.A. and me, though, is I make no attempt to hide either account. Another slight difference: my posts on both accounts are not … “raw.”
Ms. Vigilant is a church-lady busybody and she should mind her own business. D.A. is a fool to think the “anonymity” of another Facebook account will save her from the bad consequences such public displays of poor behavior will bring. Miss D.A., if Ms. Vigilant can find your account, Harvard can too, Honey. Universities don’t like to admit students with “suspicious moral character.” Sororities, Fraternities, companies, potential mates, also will find your “hidden” account to be damaging to your reputation.
As a former server admin, I would never attempt to keep an anonymous account online without the help of professional security personnel. It’s kind of like a case when a lawyer gets convicted of a crime and she hires another attorney to represent her: Some areas of expertise are best left to the pros. I’m very technically adept, but real online security takes a lot of effort and skill. Anonymous status is an illusion online. Anyone with just a bit of techie chops can find just about anybody else, even with randomly assigned IP addresses via large hosts like Comcast or Verizon.
So, two lessons here. 1. Don’t stalk teens online or off. If you come across information that tells you her or his life is in danger, by all means, approach someone about it. Otherwise, their Facebook accounts aren’t your business. 2. Don’t post “fun” stuff like drunken revelry online. There are ways to share pictures and communications offline. If you MUST go online, don’t use Facebook. Try a private Flickr account instead. As new platforms emerge, there will be more and more easy-to-use private options. Facebook isn’t this private option and never will be. Wise up.
All that being said, it’s not a bad thing to keep multiple accounts for different crowds. In fact, this makes sense to do. You can streamline your content according to the interest of that particular cohort, which is what I do with my 2 Facebook accounts. Not such a bad idea. But keep it relatively clean, folks! Until privacy is truly offered in the online realm, everything you do, say, post, “like,” or share is not secure. Some sites offer a semblance of privacy, but that privacy is by no means guaranteed, especially if the site’s services are free, like Facebook.
Nebbie-nosed goody-two-shoes: shut-up. Teens, wise-up.