Saturday, January 7, 2017

Screw Facebook

I choose non-participation.

I do not “do” Facebook, never have and see no reason that I ever will. My blog partner and friend recently posted a piece, “Why you should join Facebook,” for reasons that only he knows but he told me he had me in mind when writing the piece.

When thinking about my post, which is not specifically a response to his, I thought about how to present my thoughts on the matter. A point by point commentary on his thoughts? A list of specifics on why I am not a Facebook participant? A mixture of the two? I am not sure how to label what I came up with, but here it is.

Pause … I have “always” said I am a “principled” non-Facebook user. That means my non-use is based on a set of principles ... well at least one principle.

( As a side-note, there was a suggestion, some time ago, that one of the volunteer organizations I am part of at my parish, which organization currently has a functioning Yahoo group, make a Facebook group. This is an organization whose work I value, to which I contribute virtually every week, for which I am the IT person, to which I have belonged for nearly four years. My response was, “Sure, that might be a good idea. But you can count me out, I am a principled non-user of Facebook.” The idea was neither implemented nor pursued. )

The principle is, on the issue of privacy, I want to believe that decision-makers will not screw me for a few bucks. I do not believe any of that regarding Facebook’s decision-makers. A secondary issue is the “feeling” of Facebook that the decision-makers have created.

Full disclosure: I have not experienced Facebook, but I have read quite a bit about it, particularly as it relates to privacy. This is my take-away: there is no privacy. ( “Privacy is gone; get over it.” ) To this you can ( with seeming validity ) say, “Well set your privacy settings the way you want them.” Setting the privacy settings the way I’d want them is anything but easy. And the default settings are not only difficult to find and change, the default settings are almost all settings I’d want changed.

Think about that. Here is a tool into which I would put my heart and soul, a tool which could expose that tender part of me to every Tom, Dick and Harry Facebook user who chooses to look. This is a tool whose default settings do in fact so expose me. To top it off, the defaults change somewhat regularly and users must continually update settings to keep them from being at their defaults.

“Be careful about what you put into it,” you might say. If I must be careful about what I put into it, because it’s so difficult to shield what I put in from prying eyes, I ask, “Why I am putting anything into it anyway?”

I further ask myself, “Why do I have to be so careful?” The answer is I don’t know for sure how to tell who sees what. The system is rigged ( to borrow a phrase from our 2016 Presidential Politics ) against my privacy. Why? Because advertisers want to know everything; and the more they know, the more Facebook profits.

I have nothing against profit. I contribute to the profit of numerous companies on a regular basis. I know it, they know it. I know neither what Facebook is selling about me nor what its advertisers ( or Tom, Dick, Harry ) are seeing.

This leads to my second point. People dislike admitting to being Facebook users, saying that they don’t like Facebook, but are “on it just so I can keep track of my” ( I believe some have actually used the phrase ‘spy on my’ ) children/grandchildren/sister/brother/estranged family member/etc. Attached to this is an undertone of and they will not know I’m doing this. This undertone, of course, is rarely spoken. The default privacy settings make this easy and, apparently, quite attractive.

The difficulty of finding/changing the settings, coupled with this kind of talk, create a tawdry feeling about the enterprise. 

I choose non-participation.
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