500 million friends and counting

I hate Facebook. But I can’t stop looking at it, either.

I hate it because it’s essentially a giant tool for collecting information about you under the guise of “fun” applications that cause you to reveal much more about yourself than you normally would to a company. I hate it because it causes you to have to make constant decisions about what to reveal to whom – it’s either that, or simply reveal everything to everyone, which has never been a comfortable MO for me. Which causes me to wonder why that is, and if there’s something wrong with keeping parts of my life private from other parts and/or people. What am I hiding?

I hate it because founder Mark Zuckerberg seems like something of a douchebag. Here’s a trailer for an upcoming movie about him:


Zuckerberg appears to think “privacy” is an antiquated notion. This is not so uncommon among people who’ve grown up with the internet and cell phones, but Zuckerberg has foisted that attitude on everyone who uses Facebook, lowering privacy barriers that people put up without warning and spewing their private information freely on the Internet. Yes, he has apologized for that behavior and has since changed the company’s policies. But his whole purpose in life seems to be to get more people to put more identifying information online, to create more possible revenue streams for his company.

Echoing Rachel’s comment on Dave’s “Facebook vs. the blogosphere” post, Facebook makes me feel icky. Every time I use it, I feel like I’m somehow betraying my core values. Yet I still find myself checking it regularly, with a hint of self-loathing each time.

I check it because it’s the only place on the Web where I can see what people from all parts of my life are up to. Former colleagues, friends from other cities and countries, people I thought I’d never hear from again. I admit it: I like seeing what people are up to. I will also admit that I offer very few updates myself, and when I do, they are usually not terribly personal. Double standard? Sure. But it’s the only way I can do it.

I don’t know what to do about this love/hate relationship. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, and I’m reasonably comfortable with what’s publicly available about me there. I delete photos I’m tagged in if I think they make me look ridiculous. I regularly ignore friend requests from people I don’t want to be in touch with. I have very strict privacy controls that make me nearly impossible to find if you’re just searching randomly.

I wish I could quit the habit altogether, but it’s so easy to just surf right over for a dose of what friends are up to. It’s entertaining and sometimes enlightening. It’ll be interesting to see if Facebook continues to grow – the service hit 500 million users this week – or whether something else comes along to replace it. MySpace was pretty huge a few years ago; now it’s a shell of its former self. What’s the next logical step from 24/7 sharing of thoughts, photos, etc? I shudder to think.

3 responses to “500 million friends and counting”

  1. What’s the next logical step from 24/7 sharing of thoughts, photos, etc?

    Bodily fluids, obvs.

    I like Facebook. Some resentment, sure, about the amount of attention I have to pay to protecting my privacy when I use it, and about the fact that I’m likely not doing a good job of that; but this is nothing unique to Facebook — I have a long history of not protecting my privacy online.

  2. ScottyGee says:

    “I hate it because it’s essentially a giant tool for collecting information about you under the guise of “fun.”

    I feel similarly about supermarket “club” cards that trade “savings” disguised by obscenely high prices as option B. But what bothers me even more about the supermarket scheme is that it’s never discussed in terms of what it really is: the coercion of trading consumer habits for artificial savings.

    This doesn’t affect me so much, because I have other grocery options in my neighborhood, but many people don’t, and are forced into making this deal. And I’m sure that most do so happily…

  3. ScottyGee says:

    …And Wow! That movie looks creepier than “Inception.”