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Trials and Confessions of a Facebook Faker

Trials and Confessions of a Facebook Faker-2

Last August a Facebook financial filing disclosed that 8.7% of accounts on Facebook, or 83 million accounts were fake or duplicate.  It’s a blemish on the record the company has earned coverage for having more users than than most countries have people. The U.S. for example, has about 300 million people which is dwarfed by Facebook’s 1 billion users.

Still 83 million is a sizable number — its about the same size as the population of Egypt as Mashable pointed out.  It’s also larger than the country populations of  Germany, France and the U.K.  Facebook says it shuts down some 20,000 accounts per day which all boils down to the fact there’s a lot of fakers.

I should know.  I was one of them.

A Short Tale of Duplicate Facebook Accounts

Fake is a harsh word and is arguably not an accurate representation of what I was doing. It was still me, but the professional me, not the personal me.  I know.  It sounds like rationalization.  My “personal me” Facebook account is locked down tight and I am very guarded about who I friend on that account.

Setting up a duplicate account was driven by a strong desire to decouple my personal life from my work life.  The account was established long before Google+ launched and its Circles feature forced Facebook to make a similar feature — Smart Lists — available.

On “professional me,” I’d share news about public relations, marketing and social media and occasionally engage in a  back-channel Facebook discussion; but I would rarely post a personal photo or offer political commentary.  It was purely a business networking vehicle with real conversations, and my authentic view point, just offered on a professional level.

I rarely sought out friends, but because I’d engage in conversation, and unlike my original Facebook account, was open to search, I’d get friend requests.   If I recall correctly, I had about 70 Facebook friends on the “professional me” account.

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An Exercise in Two-Faced Deletion

Perhaps I didn’t seek out friends on the professional channel because I felt a sense of guilt.  Though I’m not especially religious today, I was raised Catholic — confessed, communion-ed and confirmed — and the guilt is in my soul.  For a long while, I kept it a secret, but every now and then, I’d let it slip and what I found was surprising:  I was not alone.

I’d say somewhere in the ballpark of 20% of people I confided in — one in every five — admitted to also having a duplicate account for the very same reason.  As I discovered this, I became more and more open to telling people about the duplicate account.  Every now and again, some social media guru, would point out that Facebook doesn’t allow duplicate accounts.

Yes, I know; call it two-faced-book.

Several months ago, I stopped posting to it and let the activity die down and fade away.  Later, I used Facebook’s account download feature to download all the photos and friend lists and then deleted the account.

I’m a bit relieved about the whole thing.  Who needs a duplicate life?  Who wants to live a lie?  On the other hand, I still feel guilty about “leaving behind” some of the people I had friended on the duplicate account,  but I rationalize this in several ways:

  • Most of those people are connected to me on other networks, like Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • We hadn’t really engaged socially with that duplicate account for a while; forgotten.
  • Doubtful those people would appreciate my incessant sharing of photos of my daughter.
  • Likewise, those on my personal account could care less about PR, marketing or social media.

Balance of Work and Life

Those that know me, know I’ve served in the reserve component of the military for a long time.  Almost 20 years, and while I look forward to retiring one day, it’s hard for me to imagine not being a Soldier.  It’s been part of me for so long, that it’s become part of my social identity.  I’ll never forget long ago, when a candidate about to be commissioned told me as I entered the officer candidate program he was finishing — “Being a Guard officer is like having another life.”

It’s proven to be true and for a long while I worked hard at keeping it separate and quiet.  Only a couple years ago did I start writing about it and including it as part of my social media identity, because I discovered, people wanted to know.  Besides, there’s so much misinformation out there, it was a chance to advocate for the Army National Guard and to explain to employers why these committed people make exceptional employees.

When I returned from my last deployment, about one-third of the Soldiers in my unit did not have a job.  The Guard needs advocates like me that are already embedded in business.

In many ways, my professional work in marketing and PR followed a similar track. Initially, I tried hard to keep them separated.  In the last few years, that has become almost impossible — I lent my personal reputation to my employer and vice-versa; it is not possible to decouple these two “lives” or in my case, counting Uncle Sam, these three lives.

Social media is causing a confluence amid more than just marketing disciplines — it’s integrating our lives. So while I still keep a guarded personal account on Facebook that remains locked down tight, I’ve accepted the fact there’s going to be overlap.  Best of all, I’ve discovered a number of real friendships — that transcend the virtual — that I might not have otherwise found.

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Photo credit: Pixabay (CC0 1.0) (modified)

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6 Responses

  1. I agree with “fake is a harsh word and is arguablely not an accurate representation”. Your crime was small, your intentions good. Having just saw Les Miserables last weekend I’ll award you Jean Valjean status….
    Seriously though, it’s a great point that most people want their personal and professional lives totally separate on Facebook. I deal with this by basically using Twitter and Google+ professionally and keeping Facebook largely personal, since none of my friends care about all the Web marketing stuff I’m involved in. But the result is a lost opportunities for me on Facebook.

    1. @adamsherk I agree — there is an opportunity lost in avoiding the professional network on Facebook. On the other hand, I noticed the same updates over and over.  This became more obvious as Google+ evolved.  Someone publishes a post and it’s the same status update across Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  For that reason, I’ve try to follow different people on G+ though the network itself has helped some — just attracts a different type of person.  IMHO.

  2. Hello Frank,
    Great story!
    I actually have two Facebook profiles. One is in French, for family and friends (I am originally from France) and the people who don’t care about my work in social media. The second one is in English. I keep it limited to the people with whom I have become close friends, care about what I do, and/or don’t speak my mother tongue. 
    I use each profile very differently as a result.

    1. @cendrinemedia There are a lot of people with multiple accounts.  I don’t see anything unethical about what you are doing, but it’s things like that that are revenue opportunities for Facebook that get lost in the advertising rush.  Thanks for dropping by!

  3. farida_h

    Interesting post. I know at least a few people who have duplicate Facebook accounts. A good friend of mine started a second Facebook account because she said her current network had grown so large & included so many acquaintances, she was creating a new one just for close friends – people whom she could “just be herself with.” Another friend has two accounts – one public, the other private (on which he has cryptically shortened his first & last name so that people can’t find the private account easily when they look him up in search.Though I don’t think that works because that account almost always shows up in my ‘people you may know’ corner of my Facebook profile – which is how I know he has two accounts!) I guess it’s not so much to do with being ‘fake’ but more to do with the fact that we all have varying degrees of comfort with different people and it can get complicated when all of them converge/collide in the same place. Though Facebook has smart lists – I doubt people really use them.. I’ve rarely used the feature though I did create them. (wonder if there’s any data on that.) It is, as you’ve rightly noted, tough to separate personal from professional networking on social media sites. In any case I think, professional networking works so much better when you’ve connected on some sort of personal level. Otherwise, it’s just another card you collected at yet another networking event

    1. @farida_h You make so many good points on so many levels, your comment is a blog post in it’s own right. It’s definitely not a simple issue, and ultimately, people are going to have to figure out for themselves what works best.  Personally, I find Smart Lists cumbersome and Facebook could go a long way to improving these — a choice between features and policy — to address a problem. Thanks for dropping by, Farida.

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