28.1.11

... Getting Closer to the Door...


It took a lot of convincing for me to join facebook.  Since then, I have maintained my skepticism, as noted by my earlier reference to several articles on the subject.  I remember reading about facebook's change of term's back in February of 2009. This was a position which quickly engendered various degrees of outrage, prompting 20-some-thousand people to join protest groups on facebook (Oh, the irony), among other responses. It took less than a week for facebook to back down.   

Of course, you still give facebook permission to use anything you post, including the keeping of data for "a reasonable period of time" after you delete it or delete your account... whatever that means.  So far, it seems they just don't delete content

None of that is news.  Facebook is out to make money.  Integral to their ability to do so is the use of personal information from users.  Shocking, I know.  Aritcles like "The Future of Selling: It's Social" from Forbes are only the tip of the iceberg.  As of 2009, facebook began to actually make money. But surely we all knew that targeted advertising based on anonymously distributed user info and money made off of user purchases of virtual goods was only the beginning? I don't remember where I read it, but someone made the comment that facebook will be constantly treading the line between user privacy and making money, hoping that over time users will become less concerned with such things and more willing to give up info. 

Yesterday, facebook took the next step on its journey towards the end of the rainbow with the addition of 'sponsored stories.'  With this, facebook combines personal information with advertising to create a shallow, and fake, word of mouth advertising effect.  If you like starbucks, the fact that you did so may appear in one of you friend's ads ("try starbucks, *insert friends name here* liked it!").  Of course, facebook will respect your privacy settings.  So, if only your friends could see what you like then only your friends can have you personally present in their advertising... small comfort, since you cannot opt out of this feature short of leaving facebook or making all of your content available only to yourself (Yipee for solipsist uses of facebook!) You can find out more of the details here and here.

Personally, this is just one step closer to the door.  By that I mean that at this rate I will eventually delete my facebook account.  The date of decontamination is a vague and misty point defined by the overcoming of the convenience of facebook (most everyone I know is on it) by my own distaste of being used as a tool for marketing.  

I want to be clear though, I don't think facebook is evil.  There are inherent problems with the social media in general and facebook in particular, but these do not absolve us, as users, from responsibility.  Nor do I think facebook should operate without making money (though the disparity between rich and poor which the growing wealth of those higher up in the facebook echelon embodies is another problem, and a topic for another post).  I just hate advertising.  I mean that.  I think it is dangerous, manipulative, misused, and toxic to the soul.  From a Christian perspective I believe that most advertising promotes ways of life that are contrary to a life of faith.  

In other areas of my life I do my best to avoid being a walking advertisement.  No brand names visible on my clothing, with a few exceptions.  No product stickers on my computer, car, backpack, or anywhere else. I am all for word of mouth about a helpful product, company, etc. in the right situation but I will pass that recommendation on under my own terms, thank you very much.  

For me, facebook stands poised at the edge of a fiery abyss.  I will see how this goes, with the whole sponsored story thing, but I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The irony is that I get more hits on this blog from facebook than anywhere else, that I will be posting this entry on facebook, that I know it makes it easier to communicate with others, and I have an amorphous feeling that a decision to leave would be at least somewhat selfish of me.  Then again, those are probably the wriggling tentacles of the world's most popular social media site burrowing their way slowly but surely into my person.  

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