An Open Book: Why I Don't Have A Facebook
Facebook. Everyone seems to have one. It's the new Myspace. While Myspace seems to lose popularity, Facebook continues to grow. Facebook is a social networking site that enables you to connect with friends from your past and present. It even allows you to connect with your friend's friend. You can find people from school to old coworkers. Even music artists are on Facebook trying to get noticed. Finding out personal things about the people you know and building new relationships has it's appeal. It really does seem like everyone has a Facebook. Everyone except me. Why are people on Facebook? What is the appeal? Why don't I have one? These are some of the questions I find myself asking lately.
A few days ago, I was at Borders browsing through the August issue
of New Scientist magazine when I bumped into an old friend. We made
small talk and brought up some fun times from the past. I asked him
what he was up to now and he asked me if I had a Facebook. I said, "No"
but I took down his full name so I could find him. We both have a mutual
friend and this friend of ours has a Facebook. I told him I'll get in
touch and we'll chill later. It was a brief meeting and we parted ways.
I haven't had the urge to get an Facebook until that moment. Actually, I lie. I do have a Facebook. Or had a Facebook. However you want to call it. Let me explain. A few years ago when Myspace and Facebook was hot, I opened up a Facebook account as an alt to my Myspace account. At the time, more people were using Myspace so I just wanted a Facebook account as a backup. For some reason I decided that I didn't want to have a Facebook anymore.
I decided to delete my Facebook account. I didn't like the layout
and didn't want to juggle between 2 profile pages. When I went to delete
my Facebook profile, the only option I was allowed was the "deactivate"
my profile. Wait a second. What gives? I remembered Facebook telling
me that my page will be on their server if I decide to return to Facebook.
This turned me off more than the thought of Rosanne wearing a thong.
So I did a Google search on how to delete my Facebook account and apparently,
it was a big hassle. At the time, I had to email Facebook and request
that my account be deleted. Can you believe that? I had to contact them
and have them manually delete my account.
This incident left a bitter taste in my mouth. Closing my account should not take this much hassle and work. I started to wonder. Why would Facebook try so hard to keep your account? Why is it so hard to delete your Facebook account? Doing a Google search, I ran into some conpiracies behind Facebook's policies. I am not naïve of how the world works and I try to have an open mind about everything. I ran into a youtube video called "Do you have Facebook?" The video connects shady things going on with Facebook and to be honest, I am not surprised at all. Recently, Myspace have been selling data to whoever wants it. I can only imagine the line of insurance and advetisement companies waiting for this juicy information.
Can you imagine all the wealth of information Facebook owns? In my
honest and humble opinion, I believe Facebook is a company aimed primarily
at data mining and social networking second. Yes they make it easy to
connect to people but the cost is your privacy. If Myspace sells it's
data, what makes you think Facebook won't? They are a business and their
goal is the bottom line. Obviously Facebook is not the only company
that does this. Many companies do this. Some are companies you are not
even aware of.
Take for example Stop & Shop cards. They offer you a membership
card and by using this card, you can save money on your groceries. What
could be the catch? Your privacy. Ever time you use the card, it is
likely that the items being purchased are stored in a database ready
to be processed for marketing purposes. Imaging a food company knowing
what foods you like to eat and then you get flyers in the mail advertising
these foods. This is just scratching the surface. Another example is
atm debit and credit cards. How do you think banks are able to afford
to give you free checking with a free atm service? The old cliche saying
stays true. Nothing in life is free, including free checking. These
banks promote and want you to use your debit cards so they can keep
track of what you buy. They even give you incentives to do this. For
example, Bank of America offers Keep The Change. A service where if
you use your debit card to make a purchase, they will round that purchase
up to the next dollar and transfer the change into your savings account.
A brilliant marketing strategy! It really is. The guy that thought of
that much have gotten a huge bonus. Imagine millions of American using
their debits cards to make millions of purchases. Imagine the data one
could extract. "Hmmm it appears that middle class American like
to buy X on Fridays. Interesting."
This practice of data mining is everywhere. The problem I see with Facebook is that most people are not aware of it. They do not understand the value of their privacy. Why else would smiling clerks at mall stands stop and ask you to fill out a survey. You mean I will be entered to win a $5,000 shopping spree? Of course! You see, giving up your privacy for compensation is fine as long as it is disclosed to you. I know Facebook has a TOS and they do say that they own everything that gets published on Facebook but many people do not read this. I suppose Facebook isn't to blame but something about this reminds me of a smooth taking salesman selling a Kirby vacuum to an old lady. It's just not right.
After bumping into my friend, I had to rethink my position on Facebook. Should I sacrifice some of my privacy to connect with my old friends? There are many people I miss from my past and Facebook would be a great way to reconnect with them. From time to time, I like to disappear. I would drop my phone number, or move without telling people. After a while, friends become strangers. Lives change and people move on. I thought about opening a new Facebook. I even thought about using pseudonyms so I can stay anonymous. I've always been a conservative person. Not necessarily politically conservative but I value privacy. My business is my business. I will share it with people I want to share it with. I suppose people have more control over their privacy on Facebook today but the thought that Facebook owns whatever is posted and using that information for advertisement is underhanded in my opinion. Will I reconnect with my friend? Most likely, yes. But I won't open up a Facebook to do it.