Facebook is like that friend you tell your deepest, darkest secrets too who
blabs them to everyone and anyone after one glass of wine. (Oh wait, that’s me…) “then pimps you out and sells all that information to the local hustlers.”(1) It’s a privacy nightmare — a deep pit of despair for people who need to protect their own identity and the identity of others. I think of this all the time because of my work with activists. It makes the identification of networks as simple as a smart Facebook graph search and endangers those seduced by the simplicity of sharing information with so many others. Even (or should I say: especially) your “likes” give you away, as an article in The Guardian points out.
And yet, I am irresistibly drawn to Facebook, like a moth to the flame. Oh I know it could burn me, but the light is so very pretty.
While many complain about Facebook feeding our (not-so) latent narcissistic tendencies, its time-sucking prowess, and its utter inanity, I find those features charming. I want to know what you ate for breakfast. I want to read about the conversation you overheard in the diner. I want to see pictures of your dog and your baby (yes even those!). I want to hear the bad joke you heard today.
As someone who lives far away from so many of the people I love, the mundane rewards of casual conversation and the constant, often meaningless updates allow me to feel closer than I ever could when I was limited to letters and telephone conversations. When every communication was fraught with meaning and import, the connection I felt to those I loved diminished. At times, I was made even more lonely by it rather than less so.
Facebook solves this. I get to share in the lives of my far-away family and friends. Like Santa, I know when they are naughty or nice. I know when they wake up depressed. I can share the little and the day-to-day — the things that make us complete human beings.
So for everyone who writes about the damage Facebook is doing to our society and how they and their friends are busy committing Facebook suicide and re-connecting in the physical world, I say good for you. You have the luxury of living near the people you love. Must be nice. For the rest of us, there is Facebook.
(1) Thanks to my real friend Hollis for articulating the obvious so well.