“Whitewalling” and “super logoff” are the new ways in which Facebook users, in particular teens, are controlling their Facebook presence, and consequently managing their online identity.
The most extreme version, “super logoff”, involves the user deactivating their account every time they log out of Facebook. This makes it impossible for people to post anything to their wall or tag them in a photo, when they’re not there to filter it in real-time. Their profile won’t even be searchable as it won’t exist until it is re-activated the next time they log-on to Facebook…between sessions they become untraceable.
With “Whitewalling”, the user deletes all wall posts, comments, likes, links and messages etc as soon as they have been read. This keeps their Facebook profile very current and clean, with no archive trail. A great way of ensuring that the past doesn’t come back to haunt you, particularly within your employment.
Danah Boyd, researcher at Microsoft Research New England, makes an interesting observation on the subject: “For the longest time, scholars have talked about online profiles as digital bodies that are left behind to do work while the agent themselves is absent. In many ways, deactivation is a way of not letting the digital body stick around when the person is not present.”
From a privacy standpoint, “whitewalling” and “super logoff” are important emerging trends in the management of online idendity. By disabling your online identity, you’re saying that you only want your online ‘self’ to exist when you’re there and physically online, in a position to address any content that you don’t personally want to be associated with.
Will Facebook get wise to this, and find a way of curbing this trend? Most probably…particularly in light of its new messaging system launched a couple of weeks ago.
For more on the subject, Danah Boyd’s post is worth a read.