pen rainbow

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From Zuckface to Blogface

When Social Networking Goes Too Far

my generic photo place holder

After much deliberation and coffee, I have decided to take an extended vacation from facebook. "Wha—Wha—WHY?!" you ask. Because facebook interferes with my life in a way that makes me itch, psychologically. It's an itch that won't go away. Mostly, it's a privacy issue.

I had to become a fb settings Nazi in order to understand and control my shared info, only to find out recently that I had given every one of my favorite applications permission to access my personal pix and videos. I don't think that I want to do that, but if I wanted to keep my cat profiles updated on Catbook, I had to give that app permission to access my personal photographs and movies. Yikes. And, I had to give that app permission to post on my wall. More yikes! How do I know who is at the other end of catbook? Some crazy facebook addicted cat hoarder, perhaps? And, what if one of those people decides to hack the app and somehow gain access to my personal info? That's the kind of stuff that sits on my brain and causes me to itch.

I get it that there is a perfectly reasonable software explanation for granting that type of access. Some of these apps have a useful feature for posting updates to the news feed. In order to do that, I had to give my favorite chocolate factory in Berkeley permission to access my facebook data. Wait, I don't think I really want to give a commercial app access to all of my facebook data, but I did. Why? Because apparently, I need to know that there's a new boutique chocolate on the market. In reality, I don't. I can just go to Whole Foods and stare at the candy shelf like a chocolate-deprived zombie. Gets me out of the house, anyway, and I might accidentally purchase a healthy vegetable along the way. And, while I'm staring aimlessly at the organic, sea-salted, chocolate tiles, I might meet another chocolate-deprived zombie and make an actual in-person social connection. Face-to-face instead of faceless in a forum where communications are ambiguous and passive aggression lurks in the dark shadows of the friends list.

When I think about how much time I've spent in the past year trying to control how my fb information was shared, I realize how much more I could have accomplished that would have had a direct and positive impact in my daily life. If I hadn't spent so much time farting around on facebook, I'm sure that I would have figured out how to execute a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) replacement of my deck this year. As it is, I have a water-logged platform of death with bright orange traffic cones and upside down planters marking the booby-traps where one is likely to crash through the deteriorating boards.

The first thing I do every morning (after I perform the Walter Brennan shuffle to the bathroom) is drink coffee and check my email. Then, I check my facebook page, starting with the news feed. My philosophy has always been to interact on facebook. It is a social forum, after all. I make a point to comment and/or like what people have posted. As far as I'm concerned, that is the point of a social website—to interact. But, I have spent far too much time and used up way too much of my not-so-plentiful mental fuel juggling my friend lists relative to the news feed, which puts me into a kind of retroactive high school mode.

To hide or not to hide, to unfriend or to accept friendship from someone I barely know. Should I click "accept," because a friend will be offended if I don't accept friendship from his/her spouse, even though I've never met the spouse? The answer is "yes," better click "accept." Then, every person on my friend's spouse's friends list gets to see my comments if I post on my friend's wall. :::Itch::: Seriously, I could have been a lot more productive over the past year, and instead, volunteered my time boxing up canned artichokes at the food bank or walking chihuahuas at the animal shelter. I could have dug that long-awaited moat around my house.

More than anything, facebook violates what I think is a fundamental right of every young adult to eff up and to have those moments of personal indiscretion fade into obscurity over time. We are all entitled to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. I'm super glad that facebook wasn't around when I was in college. In 1979, my perm alone was enough to scare small children and zoo animals. Even so, thanks to facebook, a revealing photo of me in a bikini sprawled out on a beach at a high school party was posted by a high school classmate. :::Itch::: Okay, so I might have for two seconds, considered a deal with Beelzebub to have that 17-year old body back, but I did not choose to share that photo, and now, it's on the Internet. Once something is launched into cyberspace, there's no retrieving it. For all of the good that comes from re-establishing social connections through facebook, the core of facebook is privacy-invasive.

Mark Zuckerburg's original act was to hurt someone using a social network. It was a misogynistic act of immaturity and vindictiveness that launched the site to begin with, and those elements still exist. Certainly not with every individual, but the opportunity to damage or destroy someone is still there, and the effect is long lasting. The unpredictable power of the technology beneath our fingertips puts every facebook user at risk for unintentionally causing harm to others, or worse, being on the receiving end of that unfortunate outcome.

Facebook connects, but it also interferes in people's lives. And, that is where I draw the line. There are other effective ways to stay in touch that do not require users to sign off on privacy and/or compromise relationships. I resolve to write a blog that is uplifting and humorous, and as inoffensive as I can make it (that's a disclaimer, btw). Ironically, by creating a blog, I am not restricting info to "only friends." But, I have more control over how my personal information is shared than I would on facebook.

Here's to a happy, healthy & productive New Year!