I remember it well, I got an email from a friend of mine that suggested that I join a cool social media website that would eventually make MySpace and Black Planet into relics. It was called Facebook, and to be a part of it you had to have a college e-mail account. I signed up, not knowing it would lead to a worldwide sea change in how people would relate to one another socially.
Facebook is so entrenched and integrated into our lives that most cannot even remember life before it. It has benefits that are well known; networking, finding a lost love, or that friend you lost touch with in the third grade. It also has replaced television in giving us that communal experience. When something happens in the world, we will experience it together–on Facebook.
However, in the last few weeks, I have given much thought in how much Facebook wants to know about us. This leads to an even more provocative question, How much does it already know? I’ve learned in 21 years of experience on social media that few ever read the tiny print that is often chock full of legalese known as the Terms of Service. What is it saying?
You can bet that it’s absolving Facebook or any social media app of any responsibility and also, it’s going to burrow into your life, relationships, buying choices, and maybe even your employment. Why does Facebook need to know where you work? What your relationship status is, and whom it is with? Why does it seem to take an expert to change security options? Why are they buried so deeply when the trend is to increase ease-of-use and to make software more intuitive? In the face of much concern from users about privacy and security, Facebook has been glacial in their response to it. Why?
Other social media sites and apps have attempted to address what Facebook seems to ignore. Ello, Diaspora, and the relaunch of MySpace were supposed to challenge Facebook’s dominance. Yet they have failed to catch the public’s imagination. Even the juggernaut known as Google has tried to provide an alternative and while it’s hanging in there, it has no buzz.
That not withstanding, I have chosen to untether myself from Facebook. I’ve come to see that it introduces variables into everyday life that can be harmful in the long run, whether it is on the personal or professional level. Im certainly not the paranoid conspiracy type, but I can’t help but think we are unwitting participants in a grand experiment.
It seems to me that privacy and security are given short shrift by Facebook, and that raises a huge red flag. Is Facebook a huge experiment in how to get everyone to buy shit that they don’t need? I don’t know for sure, but just in case it is, I’m getting out of the petri dish. I’m over it–for good.