Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Social Media News, Facebook Integrates New Gender Options on Profiles

Facebook took the social media world by storm last Thursday after announcing that people who use the site in US English can now customise their gender options.

Users can now procure the labels 'transsexual', 'intersex' and 'androgynous'. This move by Facebook ensures that people can be referred to as they wish, and socially liberates some pockets in society that previously have not had a voice in the online world.

As well as adding around 50 different terms for their options, Facebook have also made it possible for users to alter their profile when it comes to direct referrals.  A user can now be referred to as he/him, she/her, or even they/their. This is certainly a massive step in the world of social media networking as more and more people across the globe are using sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it is essential that these companies cater for even the smallest pockets of society.

The social media giant posted a message on its diversity page hailing the decision made: "while to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal".  The company also said it worked with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activist groups before solidifying a final list of gender options.  This demonstrates another sound move from Facebook, who by reaching out to groups who are usually kept in the public dark, have now catapulted these groups into the watching eye of the Internet.

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation welcomed the changes online and stated "over the past few years, a person’s Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves".  This gratitude towards Facebook was echoed on Facebook's diversity page by current users, but with jubilation also comes queries from other quarters, and this unfortunately opens the door for others who use popular social networking sites as a platform to discriminate.  There have been early signs of this as some have sarcastically requested a dictionary in order to look up some of the gender terms.

Despite this, the majority have reacted positively, and for anyone who wants to change their gender information Facebook offers these instructions:

 - Go to your Timeline (which we sometimes refer to as your profile).
- Click Update Info at the bottom of your cover photo.
- Click Edit in the top right of the section you’d like to change. (The new gender options are only accessible within an autocomplete drop-down menu, so you have to begin typing to see them appear.)
- Enter your new info and click Save.

With plans to expand these new options, it seems that Facebook is looking ahead to a new diverse online world, and it's about time. These changes will indeed create debate amongst people in forums and on Facebook itself, but if there is a positive end result, which allows people to confidently express themselves as who they consider themselves to be, then it represents a step forward in society. In a subject that is regarded as touchy by some, Facebook should be commended in their bold effort to establish themselves as the company that liberated the cross-gender masses online, and it will now be interesting to see whether other big companies will follow.

In a nod towards their relationship status "it's complicated", Facebook may well have expanded its already 1 billion plus target range, through diversity and equality.

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