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Authenticating the Facebook Self: Privacy, Participation, and Radical Transparency

In “Privacy ‘You have one identity,’” a chapter from David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect, issues of privacy in the public domain are addressed. The centrality of Facebook as a social artefact, positions it as the main object of inquiry for Kirkpatrick’s discussion. The chapter opens with the question: “How much of ourselves should we show the world?” (199). With the aid of various Facebook employees past and present, as well as technology experts, writers, and examples from news media, Kirkpatrick attempts to propose possible answers to such a tendentious question.


What emerges is an important philosophy informing and governing Facebook’s identity. Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as saying, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of lack of integrity,” (199), a view which is theorised as “radical transparency” (200). Essentially, Zuckerberg is supplanting the notion of privacy with that of transparency. Privacy, then, hints at an inauthentic self. Paradoxically, transparency is legitamised vis-à-vis an intricate system of user privacy settings, yet, Facebook’s privacy policy clarifies that “any of your personal data ‘may become publicly available’” (204). This is an important conversation that Kirkpatrick fails to explore in greater depth. There is mention of various Facebook privacy-related controversies, such as “the News Feed in 2006, Beacon in 2007, the terms of service in early 2009, and the ‘everyone’ privacy setting in late 2009” (201), yet, there is no synthesis between ideas of authenticity, subjectivity, privacy, and social networking.


What is also amiss in Kirkpatrick’s discussion is a clear definition of what Facebook is or should be. If Facebook is attempting to solidify an “authentic” identity for each of its users, how does it differ from other social networking sites? If the News Feed telescopes each user’s various identities, from whatever context, into the same stream of information (211), what does that say about how we choose to construct said identities? In “Approaching Genre,” John Frow makes an important point about identity, albeit indirectly. Using Jacques Derrida’s “The Law of Genre,” he signals that “every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text, there is always a genre and genres, yet such participation never amounts to belonging” (25). Facebook users are participating in the writing of the self within different contexts, but does that participation amount to a singular “authentic identity”? Can something such as the News Feed-as-metagenre, transform unstable contextual participation into identifiable belonging?


Frow, John. “Approaching Genre.” Genre. The New Critical Idiom, series ed. John

            Drakakis. London: Routledge, 2006. 7-28.

 Kirkpatrick, David. “Privacy ‘You have one identity.’” The Facebook Effect. New York:

            Simon and Schuster, 2010. 199-214.          


One thought on “Authenticating the Facebook Self: Privacy, Participation, and Radical Transparency

  1. Lavertuparlevice = Eric Talbot–me!

    Posted by lavertuparlevice | January 26, 2013, 5:54 pm

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