Facebook Phobia

What is it with all of the Facebook phobia I’m hearing lately? Today alone I have had three people tell me they either don’t want to sign up to Facebook or that they have signed up begrudgingly.

Here’s one email I just received from someone I’ll keep anonymous to protect the innocently luddite:

You’ll be highly amused to know that after so much hassle about FaceBook I’ve been bullied into setting up a profile. Don’t get too excited, I’ll
continue to be old, grumpy and curmudgeonly about having yet another online community tool to maintain and it will probably go the same way
as my abused and very neglected Second Life avatar.

Now this person isn’t a luddite at all. He is an industry insider. That’s what makes this phobia all the more concerning.

Listen – I have no problem with people not “getting” the whole online social networking thing. I’m not sure I get it myself. It might be an age thing. And yes, I avoided Twitter for a few months. But not because I was scared of it or scared about my privacy. I just didn’t see the point. Now – I do. Like most web-related things, you don’t really see the point until you’re using it. I can remember like it was yesterday when most people I knew didn’t see the point of email. Or mobile phones.

And I understand that Facebook isn’t nearly mainstream yet. I don’t expect my mum to be on Facebook yet. Or my sisters for that matter. But what I don’t get is geeks being worried about it.

Here’s another email I got today from a friend of mine who is a certified geek:

I nearly didn’t join Facebook. As someone with an unusual name, it’s a much bigger invasion of privacy than some systems and is not crystal clear about what information can be seen by who.

Now, she probably knows something I don’t, but here’s what Facebook say when you sign up:

At Facebook, we believe you should have control over your information and who sees it. So in addition to the basic visibility rules – only your friends and people in your networks can see your profile – we also give you granular control over the information you post to the site.

According to this recent Wired story, “No profile information is available to search engines.” Previously, some of your most basic profile information was available to spiders, but Facebook took that out as well.

In another recent article on BoingBoing, a security expert noted:

Facebook has very very fine grained privacy controls – which most users clearly do not know how to use.

So I am hoping if you folks can help me understand the current Facebook phobia. Personally I love Facebook as a way to interact with communities of interest and keep track with what my friends and audience are doing/thinking/reading. I find it’s events module far superior for managing events like MODM than Yahoo’s Upcoming site. I’m playing around with it trying to figure out how we use it at TPN to building tighter communities with our audiences and our hosts.

But if you can see problems with it, let me know so I don’t waste time and effort.

15 thoughts on “Facebook Phobia

  1. I just can’t see why I need another social networking site. I’m | | close to deleting 3/4 of my existing logins just coz it all shits me to tears. CatheE convinced me to go a twitterin’. thats meh.

    Myspace? for kids double meh.

    youtube account? yeah, for work purposes. but still meh.

    guess I am what I feared the most: a boring olde fart.

  2. I’m not sure privacy is the big issue and not sure it’s what you term a ‘phobia’. As I see it, people are just tired of signing up to another silo.

    The point is that social networks shouldn’t be ‘place-centric’ but individual centric. Which is why Twitter works – the individual doesn’t have to ‘go’ anywhere – the info. from their (social) network comes to them.


  3. Dave, not sure I follow the Twitter argument. Couldn’t I also say that about Facebook? When I sign into Facebook I see all of my friend’s news. How is Twitter different?

  4. Dave, I still don’t get you dude. You *do* have to log into Twitter, one way or another. How do you tweet? Via SMS? Maybe in that case it doesn’t *seem* like logging in because you are on your phone, so I see what you mean. But I still don’t see why logging into something puts you off dude. Jesus, it’s 2007. We’ve been logging into shit now for how many years? I wish it weren’t so, I wish Microsoft had managed to make Hailstorm the identity standard all those dreamy years ago, but they didn’t, we don’t have a single identity standard STILL, so logging in as a fact of life.

    And yes, I agree with Doc and Winer’s posts about some of the shortcomings of Facebook, but shit, nothing is perfect, blogging isn’t perfect, podcasting isn’t perfect, even the internet isn’t perfect yet. This is still work in progress. As are we all.

  5. Ewan – yeah as I said in Skype mate, what the CIA/FBI doesn’t already know about you isn’t worth knowing. Facebook isn’t going to tell them anything they don’t already know from going through your phone records, google searches, credit card statements, and wiretapping your frakking phone.

  6. Cam my issue with facebook is personal and semi-professional. Let’s look at the history.

    Firstly they refused to let anyone join that wasn’t a uni student. Then the big buy outs started to take place, think MySpace. They turn down $1 bil, we are told. MySpace starts to kill them big time. Then they decide oh, let’s open ourselves up to others so we can keep our valuation up. Please give me a break! How arrogant are they!

    Since the FaceBook app thing I have been tempted to join to look at it but I am holding back on principle. I have networks in LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, Pownce, Spook, Dopplr, Digg etc and most won’t let me access my data about my network and take it with me. Come on! They are creating the silo’s that Doc Searls mentions.

    We have had microformats for several years now to enable us to express our social networks and contacts in an open and user-owned manner. Why hasn’t this been done? Because then all these sites would be worth nothing like the 100’s of millions they have been paid. While we are at it they won’t let me take my attention data with me either.

    One of the reasons Twitter has been SO popular is that it is open and you can take your data, but not as easily as if they expressed your friends as XFN.

    Sorry for the rant.

  7. I always say, “Never write down anything you don’t want read.”

    A lot of people don’t really understand what Facebook or MySpace, or any other “social networking” website is. They are all tools for advertisers to collect personal and other information about you and your habits so that they can better inundate you with targeted marketing so they can make a buck. Duh! You don’t think these people are putting up these sorts of sites for the “good of the people” do ya? And like several other people, I’ve been coerced, begged and bullied into logging on to these sites so that my friends can talk to me online. I still haven’t figured out why exactly, I have a phone, can’t they call me? But anyway, I treat Facebook the same as I do any other website that asks me too many personal questions, I either don’t fill out the profile, or I put in fictional information to satisfy them. And I also have an ad-blocking plug-in for Firefox that cuts out most of the annoyingness factor. If you’re dumb enough to put your life history complete with social security number (for US peoples), then you deserve anything you get.

    The worst thing I’ve found is that now my “work friends” are able to see who my “social friends” are and sometimes you don’t really want to mix those two aspects of your life. My teenage niece and nephew are on Facebook, for gawd’s sake, and I probably don’t want them knowing who I hung out with in the 80’s and what I did at those house parties I went to…

  8. I too am having a big reluctance to go on Facebook. However, I’m stuck in a rut and am starting to think about starting to look at other career opportunities for the future, so think that I need to get on some form of Social Networking platform. There was the one that Cameron did a podcast on recently – the Australian one that was like Linked In but for careers, i though I would look at that one. And since Cameron has been raving about how great facebook is I thought I should try that one also. But I too have the same issues with Herne, I do like to keep work and social very separate, and for me doing a social network with my resume or work skills would be bending my “rules”. But I gues I just have to “build a bridge and get over it”, and get out of my “old fogy” ways and into the now ways of doing things. But if what facebook says is correct about their levels of granularity then surely I can choose which parts of my information I share to which people… I shall try and see how it goes.

  9. OK, I’ll bite.

    1. Phobia implies paranoia. The Facebook phobia – if it exists broadly, which I doubt is the case – is an expression of privacy paranoia.

    2. So who is paranoid about privacy? Two camps:

    a. People who understand the theoretical fragility of security in the IT space.
    b. People who have experienced the empirical nastiness of compromised privacy.

    Both (a) and (b) apply to folks who are early adopters of Internet services, especially 30-somethings who got burned when the 1990’s dotcom crowd collapsed and monetized subscriber lists as a last-ditch effort to pay off the Herman-Miller chairs 🙂

    That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. So here’s a proposed solution:

    1. Get over yourself and embrace change- privacy has improved and guess what? You’re old and boring now so no-one’s interested anyway 🙂
    2. Pick one social networking PLATFORM for each aspect of your existence (work/life/between). So maybe Facebook is life, LinkedIn or Xing.com for work, and for in between (for me that’s a thing called email+contact list 🙂

    Rage on folks 🙂

  10. Ok kicking this thing along a bit further. While I was away last week skiing there was lots of discussion on Facebook, huge amount. The thing is, I was the only geek/early adopter in the room. A late 50’s dentist asked me about it, a Financial Planner, I then spent some time talking with the 20 somethings about Facebook vs MySpace vs LinkedIn vs nothing. Very interesting.

    * MySpace now sucks with the 20 somethings, too hard, too ugly and so lat year. Everyone else had heard of MySpace but from the News Corp purchase point of view.
    * FaceBook, rocks according to the 20 somethings, the dentist wondered if he should get online as his kids were, Financial Planner never heard of it.
    * LinkedIn, no one had heard of it.

    Yesterday I was asked to speak at an HR event on Web 2.0 in September, from a Social Network point of view they are interested in Facebook.

    I think I am about to join Facebook.

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