Last week, my personal Facebook account was frozen because I did not have an “authentic name.” I was really worried. In an instant, nine years worth of memories seemed to have vanished. All of the photos, all the friends, the trips, the adventures, all of the good times – gone. *poof*
Turns out, I’m not the only one this has happened to recently. Late in 2014, an anonymous Facebook user reported hundreds of accounts as “fake,” mostly belonging to the drag queen and LGBTQ communities. This incident set off a chain of events that has now affected hundreds of thousands of Facebook users, now including the First Nations and roller derby communities as well.
Thankfully, three days later, Facebook reactivated my account after I proved my identity, but I am now required to use a version of my real name. Which would be fine if Luludemon was just a fun nickname and I wasn’t involved in roller derby. But if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably met me on the track, I coached you at a camp or you bought my shorts – which means you know me as Luludemon. What if you wanted to say hey on Facebook and reconnect? Would you know what name to search for? And could I find you if I wanted to? Doubt it. I’ve been part of this community for nine years, and I feel like I don’t recognize it anymore.
Yes, it’s inconvenient and irritating for me, but this change in Facebook’s rules has bigger implications for our community. When the resurgence of roller derby started back in the early 2000’s, players and leagues connected online if they wanted to communicate outside of their home league. First through MySpace and Yahoo Groups, then through Facebook. I haven’t seen any statistics, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sport of roller derby began to explode all over the world around the same time as the rise of Facebook’s popularity in 2006. The worldwide roller derby community is most certainly connected through social media. None of us make any money from playing roller derby, and most of us have regular joe day jobs and families we need to take care of. We can’t always hop on planes and travel to meet each other in person, so when we want to connect or collaborate, we do it online. And if we didn’t connect and collaborate outside of our home leagues, not much would get done. No away games, no tournaments, no bootcamps, no RollerCon. Nada.
For many of us, the people we are when we play roller derby are not the same people we are when we’re at home or at work. Roller derby is an full-contact and charismatic sport, so having an “alter-ego” is helpful to channel the qualities we need to skate fast, hit hard and get the fans behind us. The skater nicknames are a time-honoured tradition in roller derby, dating back to the professional touring teams of the 1950s and 60s, and we use them as a tribute to the hard-working athletes who inspired us to put on skates in the first place. I know some players who would rather not have their co-workers or casual acquaintances know that they play. In some extreme cases, roller derby is a means of escaping from a sad history or violent situation, and a nickname can even be a means of protection for them.
Now, I understand that the reason for the policy. Facebook CPO Chris Cox released a statement not long after the controversy started, saying the policy usually does what it was intended to do: prevent “impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more,” and they’re working on it to be more inclusive. I’m glad Facebook is looking out for me, but I agree with Lux Alptraum (not her real name!) who recently wrote in The Verge:
If the desire is to prevent abuse, banning people who are largely using the service as intended seems counterintuitive. Monitoring behavior, rather than names, seems like a much more useful strategy. Furthermore, given all the tracking Facebook does in service of its advertising strategy, it doesn’t need users to present under their legal names to know who they “really” are.
According to Facebook, Lulu Croysdill is who I “really” am now. But according to some of the most important people in my life, I’m still Luludemon. Yes, this roadblock has been a huge bummer, but from what I know of the worldwide roller derby community, we’re a resilient bunch, and I’m sure our sport will continue to grow and flourish despite the dumb dumbs at Facebook. We certainly won’t take this sitting down, and a few people have even started a petition to get our derby names reinstated. In the meantime, I hope we can find a platform where we can get stuff done, and be who we “really” are.
Luludemon is the owner of Pivotstar Athletic Apparel and long time skater with the Terminal City Rollergirls and Team Canada Roller Derby. You can find her online here: