I woke up the other day to read this on my Facebook home page:
[Redacted] is now single.
Well, should I comment in public on my friend [Redacted's] breakup? “He was cheating on you anyway.” “She was so fat, it was about time!” “I told you you needed to get your teeth whitened.” “Look, I never wanted to tell you this, but he liked watching midgets wrestling.” “You can do better.” I mean, what are you supposed to comment on?
Am I the only person who finds a newsfeed of my friends’ and family’s personal lives run as an ad-based network rather frightening? People now use Facebook for party invites, abandoning such olden timey modes of communication as email or, god forbid, mail. People (myself included, God help me) are so addicted to their friends’ status updates that they follow it like a rolling soap opera of work frustrations, dating outcomes, and life ennui.
The disturbing thing about this exciting new mode of communication is that it is actually a money-making enterprise designed to use your demographic info to make gabillions of dollars:
Mark Zuckerberg & Co. stood up in front of the advertising community in New York today and unveiled Facebook Ads, an ad system that allows companies to use the Facebook social graph and to develop highly targeted ads. Large brands such as Coca-Cola (KO), Sony Pictures (SNE) and Verizon (VZ) have signed on for this effort. Part of the engine powering this new ad system is called Beacon, which takes data from 44 web destinations and mashes it up with Facebook’s internal information to help build more focused advertising messages.
Although Facebook did make some changes to its Beacon advertising system after consumer outcry, it didn’t go away. It is still a privacy nightmare, and now Blockbuster is being sued for its participation in Beacon:
As if Blockbuster didn’t have enough problems trying to justify its existence by making an ill-conceived buyout offer for Circuit City. Now, it is being sued for privacy violations related to its Beacon ads on Facebook. And, no, the plaintiff is not Michael, although he did once point out that the way Blockbuster used the names and images of Facebook members without permission to hawk its service could be a violation of their privacy rights. It could also be a violation of the Videotape Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits video stores from sharing customer rental information without written consent. The plaintiff is a woman in Texas, who is suing under that law and seeking class-action status.
For a more general take on the poopiness of “social networking” in general, here’s cranky Tom Hodgkinson in the Guardian:
And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn’t it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.
I doubt that millennials and post-millennials– raised in the specter of post-9/11 security, cell phone connectivity and the general neon glow of the Internet — have any idea what privacy means except not letting your significant other get hold of your password. Sharing your every ephemeral thought with hundreds of your friends is as natural as peanut butter.
Is there any way to fight back against this Michael Rennie-like invader? It’s probably way too late for that, especially as smart phones and iPhones link us all with GPS. In Japan, cell phones beep when a friend is near. Who needs Big Brother any more? We’re all doing the job.