The Facebook Kerfuffle

There is a lot of hand-wringing going on these days over Facebook’s dodgy “privacy settings.”  Stern-faced pundits warn of the supposed insidiousness of Facebook’s dominance, its addictive qualities, its seductive invitations to share, share, share. But the alarm is being rung almost exclusively by OLD PEOPLE. What’s up with that?

I suppose a lifetime of experience should count for something. Granted, older occasionally does mean wiser. Not consistently enough, however, to prevent me from sniggering and/or rolling my eyes when I note the absence of young voices in the chorus of outrage.

Privacy is a pleasant illusion, but we haven’t actually had much privacy for years now. My advice to the frightened is: Get over it, and lead a blameless life.

I’m a Facebook addict. There are terrible things about Facebook, but lack of privacy isn’t one of them. The most terrible thing about Facebook is that it severely restricts your ability to write novels. I’m amazed that nobody seems to be complaining about this.

If the pundits (middle-aged or otherwise) were out there wringing their hands about Facebook’s horrific time-suck properties, or the undeniable fact that it offers applications that combine creativity with the pleasures of collaboration — thus eliminating the horrid isolation of writing — I’d be right there, muttering, “Yeah!” and pounding my fist against my steering wheel. (I listen to NPR while driving.) But no, they’ve got their knickers in a twist over privacy. Privacy, of all things!

Privacy would ruin Facebook. Its CEO is quite correct about this. Not that I’ve heard him put it quite that baldly, but there it is. If you could restrict your information to only the people you have designated as “friends,” how would new friends find you? Or the people you went to grade school with, or met at summer camp during your sophomore year of high school? One of the greatest pleasures of Facebook is discovering, or being discovered by, people you haven’t seen for ages, people you’ve never forgotten but have no idea where they are now or what they are doing. These “OMG” moments are priceless. And it’s the lax privacy settings that make these moments possible.

I will say this, however. For as long as these middle-aged slowtops are making the hiring decisions, folks — say, the next decade or two — you might want to be a little more circumspect. There will come a time when the pictures of you baring your breasts or collapsing drunkenly on your coffee table will no longer hurt you, because everybody else will have similar pictures floating around the interwebs. But for now, I gotta tell ya, those pictures may be the reason why you’re still flipping burgers or washing cars instead of climbing the career ladder at Corporation X. I’m just saying.

3 thoughts on “The Facebook Kerfuffle

  1. It’s true. My parents have been on me for ages about protecting myself on Facebook. The fact that ads show up which are obviously directed to my ‘marketing group’ indicates that someone is using statistical information from Facebook to decide who gets which ads – not that people somewhere ‘out there’ are peering into the depths of my personal life.

    I find that Facebook has adequate privacy control. I can hide myself from Google and other search engines, so random folk outside of Facebook can’t just spot me. Inside Facebook, people can find me, but they can’t view my profile unless I choose to accept them. And you don’t have to accept anyone unless you want to.

    If really you don’t want someone to know something about you, DON’T PUT IT UP ON THE INTERNET. It would seem obvious. But then, the Internet has shown me for years that the general public has very little sense.

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