Not Cease from Exploration

Friday, June 1, 2012

Is Facebook More Harmful than Helpful?

An interesting opinion piece I read yesterday...

http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/30/tech/keen-technology-facebook-privacy/index.html?hpt=hp_bn11

A few thoughts of my own:

  • Friends - Facebook (FB henceforth)  is redefining what the word "friend" means.  According to my oldest daughter's FB page, she has 394 friends.  Does she really?  I don't mean to pick on her, but I think that in pre-FB days, a "friend" was a  term used to define a relationship that evolved from an acquaintance.  It was someone you actually, physically knew and had a personal relationship with on some level.  In FB land, "friend/acquaintance/someone-I-barely-know/someone-I-don't-know" all mean basically the same thing.  Has FB cheapened what it means to be a friend?  According to my own FB page I have 101 "friends".  In point of fact I actually have probably 20 people in my life that I could actually call a "friend".  And the person I am closest to isn't even on FB.
  • Privacy - Most people do not understand that FB makes money by selling information about account holders to advertisers. Wait, change that to "don't want to know that FB makes money...".  FB is a business.  Like Chevron.  Like Ford.  Like GE.  Like Bain Capital.  It doesn't exist to bring people together or make the world a better place.  It exists to make money for the people that own it.
  • Connecting People - FB does have the ability to bring people to together.  I could site experiences of my own, but I wouldn't be doing more than stating the obvious.  The question though is this:  is the price of these connections too high?  Do people even understand the cost of these connections?  Ask the average FB account holder how much FB costs and they will no doubt say "nothing", which in a direct-cost model is correct. Most businesses in this country, in my experience, don't always do a good job of measuring indirect costs...most people?  They don't even understand the concept.
  • Sharing - People share an awful lot of information about themselves on FB.  Probably too much.  I struggle with this all the time.  I am also extremely careful, believe it or not, about what I post, what I reply to, and what pictures I share.  Even then I constantly question what I am doing on FB and there are times when I wonder if I should just pull the plug on it.
This isn't a simplistic question about whether FB is "good" or "bad".  People are good or bad.  FB is a tool, like a hammer.  I can use a hammer to help build a house via Habitat for Humanity; others have used a hammer to bash in the head of someone they didn't like.  In the end, I suspect that it's all about making informed choices.  My question is this:  when it comes to Facebook, are those choices really all that informed?

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