Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making your web presence go dark

When you log out of your computer or out of a website, you're terminating your current interaction with it. And pretty much that's that, because these intermittent conversations you have with the thing are pretty much the extent of your interaction.

But social media brings a new wrinkle to the game. You might log out of (say) Facebook, but your cyberpresence remains out there for other people to interact with. For most people, that's perfectly fine, and they are happy to come back later, log back in, and see what all their friends (er, Friends) have had to say to them.

For various reasons, however, there are those who want to treat a social-media network like Facebook only as an interactive/synchronous medium. They log on and interact with their friends. But when they're done, they don't just log out. They deactivate their Facebook account entirely, so that others cannot see it at all until it's reactivated.

Turns out there's a name for this: super logout, or variously super logoff.

I first heard about this in a blog post by the social researcher danah boyd:
Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.

In a related tweet linked to the blog post, user zephoria says "My students talk abt this call it 'whitewashing' or 'whitewalling.'"

The term has gotten a lot of attention right away:

In pedantic technical ways, the term is not accurate, but it feels like it's sticky, for two reasons that I can think of. One is that no better term really suggests itself. The obvious one -- deactivate -- while possibly more accurate, sounds kind of technical. And -- second reason -- deactivate does not get at the intent of this new practice, which of course is, not just to log yourself off Facebook, but log your Facebook presence off.

And now, of course, I must post about this on Facebook so that I can see what people think of it tomorrow. :-)

* Clever name, that.