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Why "Quit Facebook Day" is Pointless
Being both a Social Media Director as well as an avid fan of Facebook, I've been banging around the idea of writing this article in defense of Facebook for some time now, and now that "Quit Facebook Day" is upon us, it's time for me to finally commit my well-researched knowledge to virtual pen and paper. Upon reading this article, you may think that I'm strongly opposed to those groups who are voicing concerns, throwing mud and inventing (yes, inventing) scenarios to discredit what I feel is one of the most powerful communication tools ever to be created for both a personal as well as a business-to-business level. In one respect, I am opposed to their skewed philosophy, but given that I'm writing this on Memorial Day, a day to celebrate our freedom as a Nation, I also have to respect their choice to voice their opinions, share their knowledge of the situation and ultimately to quit Facebook. I really don't mean this to sound like a rant, and my goal is to provide those who are on the fence about whether or not to leave Facebook with information that has been foreshadowed in the media. Unfortunately, the media is always going to sensationalize any type of conflict - much like playground children taunting two classmates into a brawl...
Need some Alternatives to Facebook?
- Twitter - A social media platform designed to use with mobile devices. Only allows 140 character "tweets" limiting the amount you can say in each post.
- Myspace - Social media platform designed to share music, games and video. Open source site that's used primarily by bloggers.
- Google Buzz - Built directly into the user's Gmail account, focuses on the user's most frequently used contacts.
- Diaspora - Still in development, this platform's being built around the user's privacy controls (the Developer's answer to Facebook privacy concerns).
- Linked-In - Social media platform designed for business-to-business.
- Orkut - Popular in Brazil, this platform is a cross between Facebook and Google.
- Ning - Create your own social network!
- One Social Web - Also in development, this site's being designed as an open-source (developer-welcome) social media platform.
- Folk Direct - A secure site with walls, groups, live chat and powerful privacy controls.
- Virb - A site designed to share things that interest you. Host photos, blog or enjoy chatting with friends.
- Story of my Life - Social media site dedicated to sharing as much or as little as you wish. The only social media site that includes a "time capsule."
- Bebo - Centered around specific interests
- Pip.io - Lets user define the audience as loosely or as broadly as they wish.
Let's talk about Privacy Settings...
Unless you've been living in a cave, you no doubt know that the main reason so many people are upset with Facebook is because they feel that their privacy is being violated. People are upset that certain information has been shared (or has had the ability to be shared) with third parties i.e., people they don't know. Has this happened? Of course it has. Whenever you post a picture, write a post or "like" a page or group, it has the ability to be shared virally with anyone within the Facebook community. However... from the very beginning, privacy filters have been readily available for anyone so choosing to use them. These filters have always offered the user the ability to hide information, photo albums, "walls" or even block certain users altogether. Over the years, these filters have evolved to be more user-friendly, but there is no reason for anyone to believe that Facebook has ever shared any information that has been blocked/hidden by the original user. From the beginning, the filters have had the ability to block:
- Status Updates
- Photo Albums
- Email/Contact Info
- Friends Lists
- Friend's Photo Albums
- Friend's Interests
- Friend's Status Updates
Now here's where I start to sound like I'm ranting... The responsibility to hide sensitive information has always been that of the Facebook user. Unfortunately, many users have assumed that the responsibility falls upon the creators of Facebook. If this were the case, the viral nature of Facebook would never have worked from the get-go. Facebook (and other Social Media platforms) have been set up to encourage networking, and the very idea that one would join such a platform with the intent to limit networking to such an extreme makes one wonder why they would even join in the first place? If a person wanted to be in internet contact with only a limited number of known associates, why not just stick to email? Facebook is, and always has been, about connecting and expanding your social network. Those people who willingly joined Facebook expecting that any and all info they published would somehow be made private were unfortunately wrong. That said, the filters have been available from the beginning, and those who chose not to use them have no reason to bitch and moan. As a rule of thumb, one should NEVER post ANYTHING online they wouldn't want the world to know. Facebook has never required a user to provide an address, phone number, social security number, bank account number, first-born's name, etc... but it does require an email for verification purposes. But guess what? There has always been the ability to hide email information in your profile! There is the ability to create a Facebook profile with virtually NO information if one were so inclined.
Recently, the privacy settings have undergone another face-lift due to overwhelming demand and criticism about the older model being confusing and misleading. Again, while the model may not have been the easiest to use, the ability to hide any and all information has always been there - and the responsibility to know how to use the settings before posting anything sensitive falls upon the user. So, will the newer less-confusing model clear things up and solve all the problems? Most likely not. There are always going to be users out there who can't understand how to navigate Facebook, no matter how simplified it becomes, but if they can't understand how to protect themselves online, maybe they should just stick to the phone and snail-mail...
The numbers don't lie...
Now, let's take a look at just how successful "Quit Facebook Day" will NOT be...
- There are currently more than 400,000,000 users on Facebook, with 50% of them checking in on a daily basis.
- The average Facebook user has 130 friends within the Facebook community.
- There are more than 160,000,000 objects (pages, groups, events, applications) within Facebook.
- The average user is connected to 60 objects within Facebook.
- More than 25 BILLION pieces of content (web-links, news stories, blog posts, photos) posted each month!
- About 70% of all Facebook users are outside of the U.S.
- More than 100,000,000 users access their Facebook account from a mobile device.
- More than 250,000 websites have integrated with the Facebook platform.
- More than 70 translations exist within the Facebook platform.
- More than 70% of all Facebook users are currently using one of the more than 1,000,000 + applications (games, quizzes, etc...) at least once a week.
- As of 3:15 p.m., May 31, 2010 - "Quit Facebook Day", only 32,471 people have committed to actually quitting Facebook...
Understandably, the numbers reflected on the www.quitfacebookday.com website are probably way under the actual amount of people who will actually leave, but let's say that 100 times the amount of people committed actually leave Facebook. We're looking at 3,247,100 people... total. I know that sounds like a lot but that's less than 2% of total Facebook's total population. Add to that the fact that many of those planning to quit will not understand how to fully disable their accounts (remember, these are the same people that can't figure out how to set their privacy settings). Also factor in that roughly half of the people planning to leave Facebook have openly said that they plan to return the next day. They're simply trying to deliver a message. What message are they trying to send anyways? That Facebook should be held responsible for their inability to monitor their own profile?
And now for a word on Viruses...
If you've been online for any length of time, chances are you've come across a virus or two in your day. These viruses can be as innocent as an annoying pop-up ad that won't go away, to a destructive worm or trojan that completely destroys your machine, but the main thing to know about viruses is that they cause harm to your machine. Can you get a virus by surfing Facebook? Unfortunately, it is possible. Likely? No...
Theoretically, you can get a virus anywhere on the internet but some sites are more likely to contain viruses than others. Porn sites, gambling sites and questionable emails are the most likely to give you a virus, but you have to work at getting one on Facebook. First off, most of the so-called "viruses" reported on Facebook are not viruses at all, but rather cleverly written code that can mimic and replicate objects posted to Facebook. Just think of all the times you've seen a friend or associate post a video to your profile about "Colon-Cleansing with Acia-Berry" or "Check out this video of Hot Girls" and chances are they embarrassingly posted later that they did NOT post the video or link... Maybe it's even happened to you. The creators of these replicating codes (I call them "Parrots") are simply another form of spammer and if you ever do run across one of these viruses, take comfort knowing that it's doing no damage to your machine - it's just annoying as hell...
That said, there are some real viruses to watch out for on Facebook, but the best rule of thumb is unless you're visiting a business or fan page, clicking one of the P.P.C. ads, have complete trust in the person posting the link or otherwise completely trust the source, do not click any links directing you outside of Facebook that is at all questionable! If someone you don't know directly sends you a link to click on, do not do so! THESE are the real viruses. If you do click on them, they'll direct you to a malicious website that can very quickly upload a trojan or a worm (nasty viruses) that will wreak havoc on your machine.
The "Facebook's about to Charge" Myth...
Another reason for the sudden mass-exodus among Facebook users is based upon the myth that Facebook is planning to start charging $4.99 per month starting in June. Allow me to completely debunk this myth by saying that other than a Facebook page created by a clever individual in an attempt to divert fans to a pay-for-porn site, no other credible source has been found that proves the validity of this false information. It's unfortunate that so many people believe what they read online, especially given that they're so skeptical about the creators of Facebook in the first place.
Facebook's C.O.O., Sheryl Sandberg had this statement about the rumor in an interview with Business Week issue-date April, 2009 - "The answer is no, we are not planning on charging a basic fee for our basic services. Once again, the question stems from people thinking we're growing so quickly, we're running out of money. We're growing really quickly, but we can finance that growth. We are not going to charge for our basic services."
Facebook generates it's income from the many businesses that utilize the P.P.C. or "Pay Per Click" advertising campaigns. To describe what the P.P.C. campaigns are, think of all the ads that pop up on the right side of your wall when you're logged onto Facebook. Have you ever noticed that the majority of those ads seem tailored to your interests or career? That's because Facebook has created an innovative form of "banner" advertising that pulls keywords from your profile and then allows advertisers to target those users who are more likely to be interested in their products or services.
"But wait, that sounds invasive..." you might be saying, but it's not. The advertisers using the P.P.C. campaigns have no idea who you are, and they can't get any of your contact info (or even your name). All they're doing is setting demographic parameters and if you happen to fall within those parameters, you're likely to get their ad on your page. For example, one of my accounts happens to be a winery in California, so when I went to create a P.P.C. ad campaign for them, I chose to target people 21 and older who spoke English, enjoyed wine-tasting and lived within 100 miles of the winery. Out of all of Facebook, there were a little over 65,000 people that fit the demographic. It doesn't sound like a lot when you consider the massive numbers of Facebook overall, but to be able to reach a demographic that's 90% likely to be interested in my product/service, it's a bargain at only $1.23 per click. What this also means is that you're not likely to be bombarded with the type of generic ads you'd find on other sites (think Google ads). Instead, the ads are tailored to your interests and you have no obligation to click them or even glance at them. This type of advertising is what funds Facebook - not charging loyal users...