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Has Facebook Killed Roller Derby?

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.

thumbs_downFor 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:

Pivotstar website
Pivotstar Facebook page
Luludemon Facebook athlete page (new!)
Instagram

 

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. Time for us all to take our ad revenue and data mining value to Google +. Facebook will not allow us to use fake names. We are worthless to them if they can’t sell reliable data to their customers.

    G+ asks you to sign up with your real name, but you can use whatever name you want to be displayed to others. I also find G+ way more versatile, as you can create “Circles” and thus have a “real you” and “derby you” segregation in the same account. You can post your life stories to either friends and families, OR just to derby people for those derby posts. Or to everyone should you choose.

    Anyway. I’ve slowly been making the transition myself over to G+. I haven’t been hit yet by the Facebook Name Nazis. But when it happens, I’m taking my internet value off of Facebook completely.

  2. Lulu, I appreciate the passion and sentiment you’re bringing to this conversation. At the same time, I believe there are many good things that can come with allowing us to live in our birth names. I view roller derby as a very transformative force and experience. I believe it allows people to identify strength and power they never knew they had. I see the alter-ego aspect of a derby name as a steppingstone to something greater. I reject the idea that somebody needs an alter ego in order to manifest their strength. I love the idea of people using their real names in Derby, as it allows their strength to step into the totality of who they are. While I understand some seek shelter in an alter ego, if you are not at risk for physical or emotional harm by stepping into your birth name, I say go for it!

    I’m grateful for your perspective, and appreciate the fact that you’ve opened up this dialogue with in our community.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story.

    My FB feed has slowly become full of people whose names I don’t recognise. I just don’t have the capacity to remember two names for everyone. I would like to move to another platform. I don’t know Google + at all. Does it perform all the major functions FB does?

  4. I wonder if there’s anyone within the derby community with the coding know-how for us to form a social network of our very own just for derby….that would enable the people who wish to keep their derby and professional lives seperate to do so, and circumvent this problem – which is a tricky one….

  5. I’m a derby girl and work in social media and online communities. You can put your derby name as a nickname on Facebook. We choose to be on Facebook and therefore agree to its terms, including using your real name, which has always been part of the terms. No protest will change that. People leaving the platform in drives might, but thats unlikely to happen. This isn’t to say I agree with it, it’s just the way it is.

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