Yesterday I found myself clicking through to someone’s Facebook profile I had never met just to “stalk” them and see a bit about who they are. As I arrived at their Facebook profile with feelings of disgust for clicking through to their profile in the first place, I stopped myself from doing anything more than what my eyes required I do – scan the top of the profile to see the profile picture and name. I hit that beautiful glowing back button and spent a few moments reflecting on what had happened. Frustrated by this experience and all things Facebook, I went to my settings and hit that button I had been wanting to hit for ages – the deactivate my account button.
Facebook, and social networking in general, has always fascinated me with this newly created social dynamic of meeting a person before you actually meet them. Call it “stalking,” browsing, learning about friend’s friends, or whatever you like, the social dynamic of being able to dig into a person’s life without them knowing is still there. The most amazing part about this dynamic is that it’s considered creepy when someone does it to you, when someone browses your life, but it’s great when you can do it to someone else, when you can dig into other peoples’ lives.
When I hit that button to deactivate my account, I was honestly a bit hesitant at first. But honestly it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was so joyously happy just to be separated from the entire world of Facebook and all the status, commenting, photo tagging, photo commenting, attention grabbing and attention giving narcissism that has become what Facebook is today. I knew I’d like deactivating my account, but I didn’t think I’d be this excited about it. It felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
Yet myself and others without an active Facebook account arrive at a problem, we’ve lost our connections to our friends and a very convenient way to communicate with them. At its most fundamental level, that’s all Facebook and social networking, in general, really are – convenient ways to communicate with the people in your life. Yet somehow not only have the users of Facebook lost sight of this, Facebook itself has lost sight of this. It’s become a contest to get the most attention and to make the most money. I need not explain why it’s gotten to this point, the obviousness of people like attention and people like money should be quite apparent.
So what began as a valuable way to “keep in touch” with people has become a valuable waste of time in “stalking” people. Facebook is like gaining access to the hub of all telephone lines so you can eavesdrop on every conversation but better because it’s not just conversations, it’s text, photos, and bios, and it’s not just what’s happening at the moment, it’s a library of everything that has happened and everything that is happening.
Exciting isn’t is? You can surely see the appeal. Now I no longer have to talk to you, or even ask my friend about you, I just have to happen across your name and then I can learn all there is to know.
Many will argue, this is what privacy settings are for – Facebook has privacy settings so you can hide things from people that you don’t want them to see. I don’t disagree, that is what privacy settings are for. Yet for every person I find who’s really gone through their privacy settings, there are at least twenty more who have not. And this is what Facebook is counting on. If everything everyone did on Facebook was a secret, it wouldn’t be the gossip tabloid of your social life, and the social life of everyone you or your friends know – and we eat this stuff up like we just won a lifetime supply of free candy from the Sweet Factory. If everything everyone did on Facebook was a secret, Facebook would have much more trouble selling your personal information for profit – those nice little ads on the right that seem surprisingly relevant, are no coincidence.
What Facebook, Google, and every nearly every other major Web company count on is the fact that you really have no idea how their technology works, you really have no idea how your personal data is handled, and you really don’t care, as long as it’s free.
If you had to pay for Facebook, what would you do differently? what would you demand Facebook do differently? would you even use Facebook? Just some food for thought.
It is made to seem like we have no other options. But I, for one, don’t believe it. New options may come up against giants but, with skill and talent, giants are clumsy and can easily fall.
I’m putting out a call for something better.
The greatest irony is the fact that I’ve already tried to build something better, Meesto, but I completely missed the mark. It wasn’t about making privacy setting more prominent, the problem lies at the core of the social networking framework that Facebook created – which I mostly sought to replicate, with minor adjustments.
The real issue at hand is that I was frustrated enough with the social networking framework that Facebook created, that I deactivated my account. And I’m not alone. Many have already done this, many more will follow. This is opportunity.
More writings to come…