Monday, September 11, 2006


So there is this new facebook feature called a news feed that shows you what your friends are up to.. as in, who they recently added as friends, what parts of their profile they changed, and what they wrote on other people's walls, in an up-to-the-minute newsreel format.

And people are pissed!

I am not a facebook user. But I get the idea. And I do use my defunct, neglected account to look people up from time to time. So I ask, then, what is the big deal?

The way I see it, anyone can check your friends list at 10.14 and again at 10.16 and note the changes, but if that same person has a feed that tells them whom you added at 10.15, this is a problem.

Apparently this is some major breach of privacy. Privacy? On facebook?? Chances are if you've put up your pictures and birthday and favorite movies and books and quotes you're not a huge fan of privacy. In fact, I would argue you're something of an exhibitionist.

Yes, you don't want anyone to see except those you deisgnate as your “friends”. But who on facebook has friends who are actually their friends? If you've met someone once, or know someone who knows a friend of yours, chances are they’re on your friends list. And they can see all your friends and your favorite books and when your birthday is. So obviously you are letting them into whatever farcical facebook world you subscribe to. The newsreel feature only reports on activities among your “friends” anyway, so what's the problem?

So some friends are better than others, I see that. Only certain friends need to know certain things. But even then, what's so private about what you're putting up for all to see? Granted, I am not a user, and maybe I would understand if I were. But I don't get it. It's not as if facebook posts are incredibly profound. They generally range from the mundane -- "Yo! long time! let's get 2getha dis week sumtime!" -- to the arcane -- "hmm... ure shirt looks familiar ;)" -- to the inane -- "why do elephants have eyebrows neway =P?"

So what's there to hide?

Now, to those who claim that they're on facebook to keep in touch with people, I ask why your friends list has people on it whom you can't even remember having met. Are these the people you want to keep in touch with? And are you really keeping in touch by asking them "wot dey r up 2" every six weeks or so?

Now I mentioned I am guilty of the occcasional stalking on facebook. So defenders of the facebook boycott try to corner me by asking "What if everyone could see every time you visited somebody's profile? Would you like that?" And I answer "No. I would hate that." But here's the thing. I never put anything up about having visited these people's pages, never published it, never shared it with anyone, never spoke about it or wrote about it. In fact, I meant it to be discreet in every possible sense. You, on the other hand, put up your relaionship status for all to see. And now you're complaining that they saw it. I was merely accessing publicly available information. You were making it publicly available. There is a difference.

This is cyberspace. If you're putting something up, you'd better be damn sure you want people to see it. If you don't, don't let people in, or don't put it up.

You wanted to be connected. So now you are. Get used to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would disagree on several fronts.....

I believe the following is what most people had a problem with. Including me...

The issue with people getting pissed was not that the news feed was a bad idea. But you weren't able to 'control' the privacy options on what the 'feed' should include. That feature was added a couple of days ago.

To an extent, I agree with your exibitionist comparison. It takes someone in your network a few seconds to look at your profile, your birthday, likes, dislikes, and your wall. (However most of these items have privacy filters, ranging from only friends can see them, certain friends, all ppl in a network..ex Rutgers, or everyone)

The big problem was following conversations, and thought. The news feed would tell people when and what you would write to a group, when and what you would write on someone elses wall, how they would respond, who you would added as a friend, and which event, birthdays, frat parties you are going to and which ones you're not.

That made me uncomfortable. I can give out my birthday, my favorite movies, and my musical tastes, but I am certainly not comfortable with people knowing who my new 'friends' are, what I am writing on people's walls, and how often my relationship status is changing.

Additionally, I also don't think fav movies, quotes etc count as extremely private items. The rest of the stufff that the feed provides, however do count as a little personal. Yes, I may like to put me and blah are going out, but that is relying on the fact that this information is not going to broadcast across my 400 'friends'. If I knew that was the case, I would not have put up the relationship status. I feel there is a stark difference in how we feel putting something up that is indeed personal to us, when we know only a few people will definitely want to see it, or if EVERYONE will get to see it. Yes, FB has 25 friends and 300 acquaintences, and it is all a bit of a facade in a sense and superficial too. But you have to recognize, human relationships are complicated. There are 4 acquaintences you've had a fight with. A couple who are friends with you but not your best friend. A couple of people you like, but you're hitting on other girls or guy. Some guys party you're going to but another you're not. THose 400 people on your list are not all equal and, though they may each be able to find out what you're doing, 390 of them don't give a hoot. However by giving the them the information, it isn't that they're gonna stalk you. But I just don't want them to know. It's like unwritten rule. It mayebe hard to explain. I know that person X can look at my profile and figure out a whole lotta shit, but that usually never happens unless they are close to me in some way.

We have nothing to hide. Agreed. Everything can be figured out one way or another. Messages and wall postings are not profound. Collaborations between chem students will not cure cancer. Corroborations between college students will not lead to arrests. But the feed just has a creepy idea to it that does not swallow well. There is a line between how much one is willing to show to the world through a web profile, and how much the web profile is projected to the world itself. Its not just about our fav movies, FB is tracking how we move on the site.

I don't also see the point of ridiculing the fact that some people do indeed enjoy staying in touch with people....for the real sake of staying in touch, you're missing the point of FB and missing the point of 'staying in touch'. It maye just be a '"Yo! long time! let's get 2getha dis week sumtime!" -- to the arcane -- "hmm... ure shirt looks familiar ;)" -- to the inane -- "why do elephants have eyebrows neway =P?"' but that is staying in touch for me. That means a lot for someone like me. We have all been through many friends, many people we were close to and are not anymore. Things change , shit happens, no more experiences. Saying 'mundane' things about elephants or whatever is a way to keep in touch. Is it empty though? Sometimes..yes...But not always.

You admit you're not a regular facebook user nor a fan and you also recognize that your opinion may be different because of that and I respect that you put this out there.

I do concur with you, however, that if you were more regular on FB than you would share this feeling of discomfort.

Sorry for the disconnect. Its 3:30 am

Omar Haq