Without getting into the deeper philosophical concept of identity as performance or sign, i find the recent news of MySpace founder Tom Andersen’s alleged age-shifting mildly amusing.
“Tom Anderson, the co-founder of MySpace and the first friend to anyone who creates a MySpace profile, isn’t really 32 like it says on his MySpace profile. His Wikipedia entry, which says he was born in 1975, is also incorrect. How old is he really? We first heard 40. We dug a little online and came up with nothing. But then we got a senior person at MySpace to talk to us about it off record at the Web 2.0 Summit last week: this person confirmed that he’s really “36 or 37″ and that MySpace has been trying to keep this quiet for some time.”
In considering identity, and its perhaps often fractured online nature, i had never given much thought to the idea that the identities of higher-profile folks would be knowingly and grossly manipulated as a branding move. As the first mega social networking success story, MySpace has been a lightning-rod in the past for the criticisms that people in social networks lie about their identity. It is usually treated as though dishonesty on MySpace is a violation of its intended use. The funny fact here is that every MySpace/user relationship begins at the outset with false identity when a 40-year old Tom Andersen, claiming to be 32, becomes everyone’s first friend, so perhaps it is the people who are truthful about their identity in MySpace who are transgressing its intended use.