Faith in Facebook

Article excerpt

Byline: Emily Gould

I should have known that the blog, an anonymous diary of my personal life, was a bad idea. As a reporter for the gossip site Gawker, I spent my days deconstructing similar attempts at concealment. But I lulled myself into a false sense of security. I wrote about cooking, sex, and the awkwardness of my office romance, which ended (as it began) via instant message. Not surprisingly, I was soon dropped into the body of a gossip story rather than the byline. My blog posts, unveiled by my former paramour, were excerpted in his own tell-all in the New York Post Sunday magazine. I spent the next few days wishing the Web away.

But if anonymity had caused me drama, it was attribution that helped me return to normal. Online commentators, after reading the Post piece, gradually came to my defense using what they had gleaned from Emily Magazine, a separate blog where, for years, I had written under my own name. The shift of allegiance ("I've got to throw in with Team Emily," wrote one person; "I owe you an apology," wrote another) eventually helped me return to writing. Now I realize that having Emily up and running was my best defensive strategy. It helped bend the record toward how I saw the truth.

I've been thinking about this ordealrecently as the ethics of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have been called into question. He was lambasted last month for the site's new privacy settings, which made more information from 500 million user profiles automatically public. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, he couched the move in terms of Facebook's organizing ideals, which include the belief that "if people share more, the world will become more open and connected. …