Almost everyone uses Facebook. I use it too. My mother uses it. A lot of my other relatives use it. A lot of other relatives have stopped using it, as a result of a hacking incident or because of someone else being hacked, as well as news reports about the lack of security.
It’s probably true, it’s not the most secure of sites on the world-wide web. It’s also one of the biggest sites to ever be created, with more users every day. Hacking, phishing, and other breaches of security are almost inevitable. It’s a gold mine for the criminal set, offering access to credit cards, personal information and potential victims.
Yes, it is used by criminals and child molesters. It’s also used by law enforcement, bill collectors, and private investigators. It’s a window into people’s lives and illustrates what they are really doing in a way that most people don’t even realize. It shows more than whether you are home or not, it shows your state of mind and what is important to you too.
Future and current employers are understandably concerned about what is posted on your Facebook wall. It can reflect on them, good or bad. It can illustrate whether you are a desirable employee too. Often your inner feelings and real work ethics are also illustrated there, as well as that day you took off from work so you could stay home to play Farmville and Mafia Wars.
Many people have now set their computers with Facebook as their “home page.” They only see/do/read things on the internet that is connected with Facebook for whatever reasons they do so. I find that mystifying.
It’s not like Facebook guarantees content or safety of a website. What good is a Facebook link to a web page? Only as good as the link itself is, recently illustrated by last weekend’s heisting of people’s accounts to post gory or sexually explicit photos on their walls with an accompanying link. The photos were not appreciated by the long list of victims’ friends either, and days passed before Facebook was able to put an end to the problem. It further illustrated the lack of security of the website.
In addition, there are privacy concerns. It seems that Facebook thinks it has a right to track its users even when their users are no longer logged in. That’s not exactly thrilling, and I’ve become more diligent about creating a wall between Facebook and my use of the computer for surfing and shopping–I actively work to clean out their cookies, which never expire, as well as barricade my Facebook page into a browser with nothing else happening. I don’t like the invasion of my privacy, and because of this, I am one of the many users that is considering dropping my active use of Facebook.
What would that mean?
Dropping my active use of Facebook would mean no longer logging in daily, but rather logging in just a few times a week. I’d no longer instantly post something interesting to my wall, nor respond to other people’s postings in anything resembling real time. I’m probably a heavier-than-average user, and if I dropped my active use of the site, I’d be a more average to low usage user. In time, it would probably go the way of MySpace for me–I have an account, and I probably remember the password, but typically I log in a few times a year.
I have no illusions that Facebook would notice my absence. Facebook is not known for being very concerned about it’s users. It’s just there, kind of like a street. The street doesn’t care about us either, but we use it anyhow. Facebook is more like an international highway, through which information can be spread in a viral form. That viral spreading of information is amazing and probably the most important facet of Facebook.
Facebook is also likely to be the place that heralds protest movements, not only in the USA, but world wide. It coordinates, spreads information in real time, and detours around a less-than-responsive press and mass media. It allows venues that once upon a time would have had to spread the word of their existence slowly through word of mouth to spread the news in minutes and hours rather than months and years. That makes Facebook important, no matter how greedy the company itself is or isn’t.
I will admit, I’ve also bought products as a result of a Facebook ad too. So it’s advertising, while sometimes annoying and poorly tailored to the user, (I am always getting ads for Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Houston…and I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, closer to Mobile than New Orleans too) can be accurately targeted. In my case, it was outdoors equipment. (Rain garments, life jacket, and a waterproof camera bag) Advertising is a big revenue product, and that’s part of how Facebook makes the money it makes, resulting in a massive and yet free social networking website.
Facebook might be the monster we all love to hate, but it is becoming an increasingly relevant component to our modern lives. We need it, or so we think, to connect with others for work, play and family ties. It changes so fast that it’s hard to keep up with the changes, and any book that comes out that answers the questions for us is likely to be outdated and lose it’s abilities within a few short months at best.
Whether its a devil or a wonderful addition to our lives depends on a lot of variables. We’re stuck with the changes in our lives, and I’m not sure anything is ever going to replace the whole Facebook thing, and it is quite an amazing phenomenon. The speed and high percentage of adoption means even those who aren’t thrilled with it are somewhat stuck with dealing with it too.
Maybe it’s what we love to hate, can’t do without, and are truly addicted to. But it does look like Facebook, just like Microsoft’s operating systems, is a standard. We’re somewhat forced into a position of using it, no matter how devious its privacy policies are. Sure we can boycott it, and cut our noses off to spite our faces too. The sole option is to figure out how to contain the monster, keeping it useful without divulging excessive amounts of personal data.
That’s the user’s problem.