I now, technically, have a Facebook account, and this is how it came about.
A friend asked me when i was going to get on Facebook, and i explained that i was tired of social networking sites long before Facebook had displaced the (by my count) second generation web-based social network, Myspace (with Friendster then being the first).
Coincidentally, the next week i found a half-dozen Facebook friend invite notices in my email inbox and tried to log in, puzzled. Some eponymous high school doppleganger in Australia (digression: there must have been an awful lot of criminals in the ol' family tree considering that all the others i'm aware of that share my name live in Australia) had stolen my identity, or rather, had used my email address when signing up for his own account. Along with the friend invites from tweens Down Under was a message from aforementioned friend saying "I thought you said you weren't going to do Facebook."
Well, i requested a password via email and hijacked the account. In hindsight, i guess that makes me a criminal: long live the DMCA !
My objections to Facebook are myriad, and i will not enumerate them here because they are self-evident to a critical observer (and are thus easily found online). However, there are a few i want to discuss, and i'll tackle one now. The first is the socially objectionable introduction of a flip-flop "friend" label. Because "friendship" is the primary determinant of privacy control, it puts the user in the position of telling people that may very well be friendly, nice, all-around good folks that they are not "friends" simply because the user wants to limit the dissemination of his content (and exposure to that of others) to a circle of people that are actually friends. The equally distasteful alternative, of course, is to simply leave their invitations in limbo...
One of my goals this year is to live more transparently. A segregated life is a complex one, unnecessarily so in my own case and judgment. The tendency towards perfectionism can lead to the fracturing of persona into multiple alter-egos which are tailored to their specific environment. This tends to make each a more shallow and less fulfilled existence.
Now, i don't subscribe to Zuckerberg's obsessive radical transparency ethic (2009):
You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.
We're simply too complex and too multitalented to make it practical to assume the same image to all we interact with (however inconvenient that may be to Facebook as a business). Indeed, while discussing the possibility that not having a Facebook account would detract from professional opportunities, one friend pointed out that there are other services far better suited to professional social networking.
However, there is something to be said for remaining the same person throughout the day, even while showing different facets. This is a balance that it would behoove all to try to strike in this age of increasing visibility.
In any case, it's clear to me that the sway of fb has reached the point that it can be a liability to not have an account: it may become a necessary evil to access certain circles. So, with that said, please don't be offended if i don't "friend" you or accept your invitation. On the other hand, if you are actually reading this, there's a very good possibility that you should actually be on my "friends" list.
Let me close with some potshots at fb based on my first few hours of exposure to it:
- I find it very telling that when you click on the "Friends" link, it doesn't show you your friends, but a million possible friends or ways to spam fb to others.
- It's so wonderful that you can express your heartfelt "like" for everything from MIT to a fictitious TV character
- For being one of the leaders of the tech world, the interface is amazingly clunky. I managed to lose a full page of captions by clicking a prominent, seemingly appropriate link in the interface for that page.