PROPRIETORS OF OUR PRIVACY

Giving Facebook Too Much Face
By Joey Grihalva

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t the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, Mark Zuckerberg and his team held a press event on October 6, 2010 to introduce some new tools:

Download Your Information, a feature that allows users to transfer their data in a .zip file and a revamped version of Facebook Groups that will allow group chats, e-mail lists and document sharing. Zuckerberg thinks these things will address “the biggest problems with social networking.” I disagree. The biggest problem with social networking these days is, well, social networking. Let me explain. The Obvious Facebook is the greatest time-suck of all time. The Scary I excitedly joined Facebook in Spring 2005 when it was a fun and easy way to stay in touch with friends from high school and an innovative way to connect with new friends at college. It was simple: no Status Updates, no News Feeds, no advertisements, no fan pages, and definitely no parents. Zuckerberg’s dorm room start-up started to slide in my eyes when it became a highly profitable company, given that the cornerstone of any for-profit company is expansion. In Facebook’s case, it began with high school kids and before you knew it your grandmother had a page. Facebook kept adding new ways for us to share our lives and spend more time on their site. A number of these changes were met with resistance, yet Facebook continues to grow—there are currently over 500 million members. For all the press releases and posturing, security and user satisfaction have never been serious priorities at Facebook. And we have no reason to expect their

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behavior will change. The Time Magazine article “How Facebook is Redefining Privacy” by Dan Fletcher from May 2010 makes it pretty clear that the modus operandi at Facebook is to get us sharing as much as humanly possible, and then some. By playing privacy games with its users, Facebook has set itself up as a free Big Brother service for our governments. If you are like me and you disagree with the state on a number of issues, you have to watch what you say online. Facebook will give your information to anyone, be it corrupt capitalists or their enablers in the government. I hate having to jump out of the way when someone pulls out a digital camera at an anarchist book fair, but I might. The Subtle We have essentially become our own paparazzi and this is having a significant cultural impact. Ashley Parker briefly touches on this phenomenon in her New York Times Magazine article “All the Obama 20-Sometings,” mentioning that the young folks in the Obama Administration have to be extra guarded in their personal lives so as not to embarrass their bosses in the White House. Professional people, and those aspiring to work in a professional setting, can not afford to dance on top of a table at a house party or make out with a coworker at a nightclub for fear that the visual evidence will end up on someone’s Facebook page. In this way the site has slowly but surely contributed to a decay of wild abandon in my generation. Then there’s the flip side of that coin. As the shallow and desperate among us become more aware of Facebook’s role as a pseudo-media outlet, some see an opportunity for temporary celebrity. Along with YouTube, Facebook has helped develop what some are calling a “performative culture.” Think of that person who jumps into your pictures and videos, or broadcasts every detail of their life via a steady stream of Status Updates, Wall Posts and poorly written Notes.

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Use It, Don’t Abuse It It is easy to forget that technology is, at its essence, a tool. Take a look at the top selling SmartPhone Apps and this becomes abundantly clear, we love games. And there is more money in technology when we treat it as a toy, when it becomes another product with profit potential. Attesting to this fact are the armies of Internet start-ups vying for funding every day. You can bet David Fincher’s new film The Social Network will inspire future generations. I like to think that Facebook was created to help us connect and share with the people in our lives, not cut them out and mediate our communication through machines. Increased engagement with technology typically is followed by detachment from the real world. Apathy tends to be right around the corner. With that said, I am back on Facebook after a pleasant six-month hiatus. The Return It came to my attention recently that to be an effective 21st century journalist you must be on Facebook. The ubiquitous social networking site has replaced the White Pages and I cannot afford to deny myself access to the most detailed digital directory available. I may be back on the ‘Book but that does not mean I am willing to help you grow potatoes on your fake farm, nor will I “Like” your “Justin Bieber Sucks” Page. And if I want to join a cause I will attend a meeting and get involved. My profile is now private but not because I’m shy. I just don’t trust Zuckerberg and his crew and I worry about where they are taking social media. When I deleted my Facebook account, the site prompted me to give a reason. I clicked on “Other” and in the blank space I wrote, “Our technological development has dangerously surpassed our moral development.” Don’t let the screen suck out your soul.

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