- Posted May 15, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Living without Facebook?
Against the zeitgeist
Remember that at Facebook, you are not the customer, you are the product. With the recent changes to the website, both user interface and privacy settings, Facebook seems to be on a mission to solicit more information from more people and make it more public, Mr. Zuckerberg has essentially said so himself. I do not want to be a part of this apparent mission to alter the norms of society. I find the notion that Facebook requests and keeps so much user data and reserves the right to save it forever and sell it to whomever they wish to be an unacceptable price to pay for my use of their site.
To all the people who will instantly respond "don't put anything on there you don't want public, or use privacy settings" I have several responses. First, Facebook has frequently changed it's privacy settings in the past and will do so again, always in favor of less privacy. These changes often occur without much if any notification and risk revealing your information when all the settings are returned to a default of "public" hoping you won't notice. For instance it used to be possible to hide your friends list and likes, AFAIK you can't anymore. I don't need the headache of scrambling to learn a bunch of deliberately confusing settings every time they decide to open them up again. Second, using the site at all for anything like its intended purpose builds a wealth of knowledge about you whether you intend or not. Regardless of privacy settings over what your friends or people on the internet without access see, Facebook itself monitors every last click. Just who you're friends with, which events you're invited to, whose profile or pictures you click on reveals an astonishing amount about you (that can be stored forever and sold or given to whomever) even if you never upload anything. I don't trust them with this sort of knowledge, and if I'm not going to use the site to connect with my real friends and share things, what's the point? Mr. Zuckerberg once said of his users "They trust me, Dumb F----" (look it up, this really happened) I see this as somewhat telling of how much respect the company really has for their userbase. They make drastic changes regarding privacy, smug in the assumption that they've become so big that the cost of non-participation is too high for many people who would otherwise leave, but that's exactly what I did.
As a 23 year old without a Facebook account there is somewhat of a social price to be paid for rebelling against the trend, but I gladly accept it because not only am I keeping my life private, I learn who my real friends are. Sure I may miss a few parties and events because they were only posted on facebook, but if those people can't be bothered to spend 10 seconds to copy-paste the info into an email and send it to me it's probably not worth it anyway. I had a Facebook account for several years (I got suckered into it by a former girlfriend the first time, bad idea.) until its policy changes finally made me realize I never should have given them anything in the first place (and I permanently deleted it, this is possible). During that time I had many friends without accounts and I would always remember to contact them in other ways, because I respected their decision and cared. I've found that deleting Facebook also removed a lot of drama from my life, no longer do I have to worry about girls urging me to make our relationship "Facebook official".
In short I take my privacy very seriously and would't sign up for Facebook again if you put a gun to my head. Although my stance makes me slightly harder to find and communicate with in today's world, the people who care about me at all understand and use email or other means. I don't mind missing out on those who can't be bothered. I don't stay in touch with as many people as most members of my generation, but I find I stay closer to the ones I do. I also somewhat love the looks some people give me when I say I'm not on it, I may as well be an alien to them and I'm fine with that. Most people understand that it's just not for me, but a few will attack me for not having a Facebook like I just insulted their religion.
The social norm now seems to be that by the second time people meet someone they usually know a lot about them from Facebook. I think the fact that people can't "research" me online may throw a few of them off a bit. There has been a tremendous amount of peer pressure brought against me on this issue but I stand firm because if I think something is a terrible idea for me, I won't do it just because everyone else is doing it. I got made fun of in 5th grade for being the only kid not into Pokemon, I'm no stranger to peer pressure. Unlike pokemon, this trend has the potential to cause some serious regret for the people who cavalierly give away their secrets, willingly or unwitttingly. Facebook is not free, it is a datavore that feeds on every byte you give it to turn a profit. I shudder to think of what's in store for users after Facebook starts to feel serious pressure to commercialize them after its IPO.