Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Keep It Simple Stupid!

This morning, I logged onto Facebook, as usual, expecting to see the familiar white space with blue trim, the times new roman font black text alerting me to any new messages or pokes I may have received.

Instead, I was confronted with a blunder that could spell the end for Facebook, if its users feel the same way I do:

Stalkervision 2.0

I was told, after logging in:

1:17pm James M. and T'shawn C. ended their relationship.
12:30pm Melissa F. is getting her life together.
11:50pm T. Bahri is attending Heidi G., Dhvani G..
11:02pm Courtney F. and Kory L. are now friends.
10:42pm Ross B. is no longer in a complicated relationship.

Immediately, I was like, "Whoa Nelly." Then I was like. "This is some scary shit."

Sure, people have always revealed this much info on Facebook. But unless you were actively monitoring James M.'s page, you wouldn't really notice he had broken up with his girlfriend. If you weren't scanning Courtney's list of friends every five minutes, you wouldn't know she and Kory met each other. If you weren't constantly looking at Ross's relationship status, you might have assumed it was still "complicated."

It doesn't stop there. The information Facebook lays out on its front page is startling.

What events people are attending (whether or not you've been invited to those same events)
What groups people have joined.
What wall messages they just sent.
What friends people just added.

The info has always been there... but unless you were a crazy ass stalker, you probably wouldn't have noticed.

Yes, that's right, Facebook has made it easier for crazy-ass stalkers!

My mother always said that efficiency, when practiced by authority, can result in tyranny. Inefficiency is part of what gives us freedom. In the past, the inefficiency of Facebook meant I could add a potential hookup to my list of friends without my other potential hookups noticing. It meant that I could change my relationship status without that guy who randomly requested my facebook friendship on his quest to get 1000 friends knowing about it. The inefficiency of facebook meant that I could, on one boring night, make jokes and comments on the walls of 5 different people without them knowing I had also written to others within minutes.

Facebook calls their new system "News Feeds" and treats all new updated info as "Stories." Click on the graphic of a broken heart and you'll be treated with a list of breakups among your friends.

It might be reasonable if Facebook friends were indeed your friends. But Facebook doesn't work like that. Sure, you have your close friends on facebook, but you have aquaintances as well. And even perfect strangers. The new system means that these not-so-close friends will immediately be alerted to your every move on facebook.

You can choose the option of "hide story"... but can only do it one item at a time. Every time you do something, you'll have to go back to your profile and click "hide story" to prevent the whole world from knowing you just posted a wall message. And if you hide a story that includes one of your friends, people will still be able to see it unless she or he hides the "story" also.

Frankly, the options to retain a level of privacy (or at least, obscurity) on Facebook are inefficient, while the Facebook front page, with it's handy list of every facebook detail is all a bit too efficient. The new system doesn't benefit the true friends of people (who will certainly know when a relationship has ended or whether their friend will be going to a party). It benefits stalkers. It benefits rubberneckers. I reiterate, it's not that Facebook has necessarily revealed anything new, but rather, they've inadvertantly created an startling portrait of the disturbing breaches of privacy social networking sites tend to downplay.

I, for one, will be watching what I do on facebook more carefully.

Unfortunately, everybody else will be watching me too.

1 comment:

Hot Mama said...

Great article! If anyone still cares about privacy, this is bound to make facebook less attractive.

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