Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Why Taiwanese People Do Not Comply with Facebook's Real Name Policy

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Why Taiwanese People Do Not Comply with Facebook's Real Name Policy

Article excerpt

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, name is defined as "a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing" (Merriam-Webster, 2003). Spender (1980) delineated a further pertinent interpretation of the importance of names: "names are essential for the construction of reality, for without a name it is difficult to accept the existence of an object, an event, a feeling" (p. 163). Therefore, it is apparent that names play an indispensable role in human society, especially the names that are designated as a symbol of one's identity. Further, the topic of names and the process of naming remains an active area of research (Misoch, 2015).

An increasing number of people are using popular social media sites to interact with friends and to create relationships online. As of January 2016, there were 2.31 billion social media users, delivering 31% global penetration (Kemp, 2016). Usually, registering an account and designating a name for oneself are mandatory steps before participating in any such online communities. The naming practices used on these sites are significantly influenced by cultural context. For instance, Gatson (2011) investigated the symbolic meanings behind naming practices implemented by members of Bronze-which is an Internet forum for fans of television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and is named after The Bronze nightclub seen on Buffy-for initial and ongoing self-presentation to the community. Further, Olivier (2014) found distinctive naming habits among users of the microblogging social networking site Twitter in South Africa. However, there is a dearth of studies on naming practices used in online communities in an East Asian cultural context.

Facebook has become the most popular of the various social media sites, with nearly 1.5 billion registered users (Lee, 2015). The profile name of a Facebook user represents the individual on this website and is a vital element in fulfilling self-presentation. Nevertheless, to preserve the transparency of the Facebook community, Facebook has adopted an official "real name policy," which requires all users to register with their real names, that is, the official name(s) depicted on government-issued identification cards or others, such as credit cards, library cards, or transit cards (Facebook, 2015a).

In Taiwan, however, it is common to find Facebook pages with names that appear to be fake. For example, viewing President Ma Ying-Jeou's Facebook account (Facebook, 2015b) reveals many pseudonyms from users who have deliberately chosen to adopt Romanized and/or English names. In the Taiwanese cultural context, such naming conventions are recognized as acceptable in the real world. The Romanized name is generally adopted as the official English name(s) listed on government-issued documents, such as a passport or an international driving permit (Lin, 2001). The adoption of an English name makes it easier for Taiwanese people to communicate with non-Chinese speakers (Gilks, 2014), and English names are often used within information technology industries (Su, 2005). Moreover, contemporary Taiwanese culture has been heavily exposed to both traditional Chinese and modern Western influences. Thus, I presumed that conformance with the real name policy in Taiwan may be low because of the country's cultural circumstances. Hence, the following research questions were proposed:

Research Question 1: How do users adopt Facebook's real name policy in Taiwan and is the policy strictly complied with?

Research Question 2: Why do users choose pseudonyms that violate Facebook's real name policy?

The demographic characteristics of a group greatly influence their technology use. Several researchers have indicated that university students demonstrate behaviors different to those of working professionals with regard to using information technology or information seeking (Granlund, Granlund, & Dahlbäck, 2011; Sapa, Krakowska, & Janiak, 2014). …

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