Facebook and Me

Facebook had three things going for it, a couple years back, around the time I finally caved in and signed up:

1) A fairly decent interface. A newsfeed that was actually designed to intelligently filter stuff of interest to you while hiding the the rest automagically (instead of requiring you to constantly click through endless moronic application notifications, courtesy of your bored-friends-at-work).

2) Everybody was/is on Facebook. Even those kids you used to share your milk with, back in first grade… Facebook is the ultimate “where are they now” tool… If somebody born within your lifetime is not on Facebook, chances are they are either dead or building pipe bombs in a secluded cabin somewhere deep into the woods. All you need is a full name and/or school attendance year.

3) Advanced privacy features meant that people used their real names (a necessity to make point #2 worth anything), while allegedly keeping private stuff away from your boss/exes/crazy Google stalkers etc.

Here we are now, a couple years later and point #1 has died a long and painful death at the hands of a dozen asinine “interface redesigns” plagiarising any other Web 2.0 service with an ounce of popularity, all the while bringing server cost down (yes: turned out, all those great intelligent filtering tools were so intelligent they did not scale at all… oops).

Point #2 is more valid than ever: it is only a matter of time before even dead people have their Facebook page (never mind: they already do). But let’s be honest: once you’ve looked up all your friends from kindergarten and realised you did not share much beside reminisced fondness for crayon drawing and shared hatred of afternoon nap time, once you’ve made sure the asshole bully from Junior High is now assistant manager at Taco Bell and once you’ve found out that secret High School crush Susie now has three kids, two dogs and a suburban house, and is (according to her status) feeling bloated after that huge KFC meal they just all had at the mall… Once you have satisfied that bit of morbid curiosity about every single living soul you have ever interacted with during your life… You just want to go back to hanging out with people you actually chose to be friends with, preferably at an age where your common interests involved more than making watercolour handprints and trying not to pee your pants in public.

Do I even need to go over point #3?
By repeatedly telling its users to deal with the loss of privacy and shut up already, Facebook is only making official a situation that existed since the explosion of so-called Facebook “Applications”, a couple years ago. It is clear Facebook never seriously thought that the common low-lives that created these “applications” (and took over your newsfeed with invitations to become a vampire, check out friends’ cabbage patches or find out which cooking utensil best represented you) would ever respect the laughably unenforceable Terms of Service and politely stay away from your private data (and that of your friends, and your friends’ friends…), even though they were given full access. Rest assured that if you ever installed one of these waste-of-software on your Facebook profile (or, in most cases, if just one of your friends did), all your Facebook data has long been sold and re-sold to a thousand shady Russian “entrepreneurs” and sits on hundred of servers around the globe.

People like this guy (whose fastidious, nigh unreadable, yet mysteriously popular, prose nearly makes me feel good about the level of verbosity of this present rant) are either incredibly naive or very dimwitted, if they woke up today and realised that Facebook was not the best thing that could happen to privacy: “So we have this company who is in the business of gathering people’s private data without billing anything for the huge server cost… Gee, I wonder what they ever could sell to make money”…

And without these three points, what are you left with? A vaguely creepy mega-corporation that is trying to build their own subpar Internet ersatz, like so many before them (AOL, Microsoft, MySpace yadda yadda yadda, please take a ticket and a seat over there) and likely: many more after them.

Facebook wants to become the Internet for lazy people and computer-illiterate schoolkids, because they know that’s all it takes for the rest to follow: what are you gonna do once everybody you know uses Facebook to communicate? Tell them they are totally being played by the Man, delete your account, retire from the world and go back to reading books at home on your own? I didn’t think so either. By the way, when did it become normal to use Facebook messages to contact people whose email address you have known for years? Is it really more convenient to use a shitty webpage interface to send a message that results in an actual notification e-mail being sent to my inbox which I need to click in order to be taken to Facebook’s homepage where I finally get to see your message? Where is the added value or simplicity, beside the extra page-count for Facebook? Is your e-mail client so crappy that Facebook’s messaging interface is preferable?

It would be illusory to think you can “boycott” Facebook, even assuming such a boycott would really reach any sort of momentum: the kind of people who understand, let alone care about, such issues have all long spoken out… with the harsh consequences we’ve all seen on Facebook’s dwindling userbase of 400 million accounts…

To be honest: I don’t care enough… I do not like what Facebook is trying to do to the internet, but I have better things to fight for (and I still have some hope they will shoot themselves in the foot, like so many before).

But my calculated apathy has its limits: located somewhere around the point where every single detail of my curriculum vitae becomes marketing fodder at the hands of a shifty corporation headed by a morally bankrupt fratboyish entrepreneur…

Which is why as of today, my Facebook profile only contains the bare minimum in relevant and/or accurate information, and nothing that I would not feel comfortable publishing on any other public internet forum.

It is mostly a (useless) principled stand: the web never forgets anything and I have long lost my online anonymity anyway… But it only took me a couple minutes fiddling with my Facebook account settings, and I have always dreamt of people actually calling me Baron von Umlaut, so why the hell not.

5 comments

  1. See!! And yet people still give me crap about not having a FB account. I have been a conscientious objector from the start of this. Sure I miss out on things so there is no need for me to be too smug, but I know how much of an addict I am so my decision was based on a self preservation (or is that job preservation) motive.

  2. Hey, I didn’t say: don’t have a Facebook account (it’s still hella convenient for all sorts of things). I just said: don’t put all your info in there…

    But sure: not having an account will work too 😉

  3. Xavier: like you have no idea!
    But I love it even better when, about a year into regularly commenting on the Facebook import of this blog, they ask all confused: “what? you’ve got a blog?”

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