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Facebook Blues May 23, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.

There has been MUCH angst lately over the liberties that Facebook is taking with user information. I followed directions provided by librarian blogs to adjust my privacy settings for my maximum protection. I was indignant at how difficult it was do so, and I was dismayed at the strong advice provided by Facebook at every turn to NOT utilize high privacy setting options. However, I fully accept that I relinguish any and all control of what I put out there (as well as others’ photos and content “tagging” me). This is just the nature of this type of social networking tool. An enormous percent of the population has jumped onto the Facebook rollercoaster and is riding it hard with both hands high in the air. I don’t consider myself an exception. I don’t live on the site, and my content is sparse. But it’s more than enough and late enough in the game for me to ever expect to take it down and return it safely into the Pandora’s Box from which it came. Further, I think there will be many, many unanticipated consequences of our collective abandonment of the value of personal privacy. Culturally it makes sense that this craze would follow the last couple of decades of revelatory talk shows and “reality” shows.

But all that is NOT what’s been sticking in my craw lately. I am probably going to attend an all-class reunion of my elementary school (which ceased to exist in the early 1980’s) in Buffalo in mid-July. This initiative was clearly inspired by the ease of networking in the Facebook universe. I expect that attending this event will become one of many fantastic connections to the past that have occurred courtesy of Facebook. I fully expect that I will be making many new Facebook “friends” from this period of my life in the next weeks and months. So I took a quick look at my profile to consider the content and perhaps update it to maximize the impact of my first contact. The ability to convey lots of information in my personal profile and to glean lots of information about others without an exchange of hundreds of e-mails has been a major benefit of Facebook. Upon checking my profile, I realized that it had been GUTTED by a recent update to Facebook explained in this Huffington Post article entitled, “Facebook Community Won’t Let You Personalize Your Interests.” I had invested a bit of my valuable time and thought into deciding on the content of my profile – my activities, interests, music, movies, TV shows, and above all, BOOKS. The sum total of the content (no more and no less) was exactly what I wanted others’ to see when we crossed paths in this brave new world. When this Facebook update was activated, much of my profile just disappeared, leaving behind only select items from the original. When you consider the amount of content hosted by Facebook, I find it unfathomable that it was necessary to truncate my text – which takes up the least space of any kind of content!! Frankly it feels like the technology is bossing me around – coercing me even – to maximize its marketing and sales goals. By limiting my options to topics or concepts for which there are already existing groups, it is reducing the vocabulary and forcing me to fit it into a large but finite number of boxes that can’t really do the trick for me as well as a few more simple key strokes could and did. I can’t help but think of Orwell’s 1984 (read the entire public domain work online here) or the 1997 film Gattaca. The technology is quickly and efficiently herding us into places where we may not want to go. Am I overreacting? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.

So what to do now? I have already drunk the Kool-Aid. Can I walk away? I have to admit that despite what I perceive to be Facebook’s latest offensive moves on its users, I have had some powerful experiences and valued connections and re-connections as a result of my membership. How far outside of the social order will I find myself if I just pull the plug?

This is what’s on my mind, and I am considering my options.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.



1. Lisa Perez - May 24, 2010

Fran: You are echoing the sentiments of a lot of people right now. For me, it has personally never been an issue because I just use FB professionally, but I can see how the privacy issues are alarming to many. In fact, there are people working on competing platforms to FB that allow the users much more control over their settings. It will be interesting to see what emerges and if FB will finally realize that privacy trumps profit in the minds of many users.

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