Role player v. average Facebook user

The news that Facebook is disabling role playing accounts is spreading. Some people many be wondering just how a role player differs from a “real” person. Who, or rather what kinds of accounts, is Facebook disabling exactly? And how do those accounts differ from all the other accounts Facebook is leaving alone?

Profile of a Facebook User
Profile of a Facebook User Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment or clarification but here are some interesting statistics about Facebook users, provided by the company:

  • More than 500 million users
  • 50 percent of users log on on any given day
  • 70 percent of users are OUTSIDE the US
  • More than 200 million active users access FB through their mobile devices.

The average FB user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. They create 90 pieces of content a month.

Exact statistics regarding role play accounts on Facebook is not available. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many of those whose accounts were disabled yesterday had more than 1000 friends each. @TB_PamR, @BarmaidSookie and @SookieSC report nearly 2K friends. @VampHadley had around 4K. And @VampireSookieTB had reached the limit of friends allowed by Facebook. At the opposite end of the spectrum @JStackhouseTB had “only” 900 friends.

Not all role players were active on Facebook every day. Some, like Hadley and the Sookies tried to be. Others, like Pam, didn’t make much use of Facebook beyond posting links back to blogs and other content. Some role players have wondered whether the type and amount of activity gave them away or posed a problem for Facebook. This does not appear to be the case. Although all the role players interviewed used FB to promote their blogs and most linked formspring accounts to their profiles, neither of these activities are unusual for the average Facebook user.  Some role played on FB, interacting with other users in character (IC) and even performing full or mini storylines there. Others just used it as a means to connect with fellow RPers or even fans the way average users connect with class mates and friends. Not all of the RPers had personal Facebook pages other than their character page, either.

What all the disabled accounts appear to have in common, based on unscientific observation, is a recognizable name and a significant number of friends. it’s difficult to see why a large number of friends is a bad thing from Facebooks perspective. The use of character names and celebrity images could pose a bigger problem by potentially violating copyright. This argument is effective until it is noted that some RPers have permission from the celebrities whose images they use to make use of them or that original role playing characters have also been disabled.

To be clear, Facebook terms state:

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal profile.

Further, Facebook reserves the right to remove content or information they believe violates copyright laws.  The terms allow FB to disable accounts for repeated alleged copyright infringement. They also state that “If we remove your content for infringing someone else’s copyright, and you believe we removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal.” No details are provided on how that appeal is to be made.

Perhaps most significant of all to role players and anyone whose account has been disabled is the clause in the Facebook terms and conditions which states simply “If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.”  Facebook is clearly saying that popular role players are not wanted.

Trying to distinguish a role player from a real person can be a time consuming, if mildly entertaining process. Perhaps a better use of role players time might be identifying viable Facebook alternatives that do welcome pseudonyms and stage names. Anybody have any suggestions?