September 28, 2011 2 Comments
Earlier today, I posted the following on Facebook:
Mark my words, if the human race is ever subjugated in a 1984-style dystopian future(\past) then it will definitely happen because of Facebook.
Not that I want to sound like a conspiracy nut or anything.
Now, I accept that this will come across as me being unnecessarily snarky, so I thought I’d attempt to try and explain myself.
First things first. Yes, I closed my original Facebook account in May 2010 (see here). My reasons for leaving essentially boiled down to not really liking it very much. I commemorated a year’s absence here, where I said:
Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it awful, and it’s obvious that millions of people love Facebook. That’s fine, but you’ve got to admit that there’s something a bit creepy about it…
Yet, exactly a month later I had rejoined. So why the turnabout?
Essentially, Facebook is now so ubiquitous as a form of communication that it is the only way of keeping in touch with certain people, events and organisations. With my recent foray into stand-up comedy needing me to stay in touch with what’s going on, my non-Facebook position rapidly became untenable. So I swallowed my pride and signed up; ensuring that I locked my account down, didn’t enter any personal information and not adding friends willy-nilly. Then I did something I hadn’t done during my first tenure: I engaged with it.
Part of my original problem with Facebook was that my feed was so full of stuff that I wasn’t interested in, that I felt completely disconnected. This was probably due to indiscriminately adding people that I went to school with (or, more accurately, at the same time as). This time around was different. I’ve added people that I’ve perhaps only met once or twice (likely at a comedy gig), but they’re at least people I have something in common with, and who have something to say that I might be interested in. I found myself ‘liking’ and commenting on other people’s statuses and coming to the conclusion that “maybe it’s not that bad, after all.”
So, when I suggested that Facebook might one day enslave mankind, I did not do this from the position of a hater, or someone attempting to appear cool by bashing something that everyone likes. It was actually a semi-serious concern. I’ve always had a nagging feeling in the back of my head when it comes to FB, principally: “why do they need all this information about me?” I cringe with the amount of personal information that some people fill their profiles with – which is their choice – from the mundane “Joe Bloggs like Custard Creams” to the deeply personal “Joe Bloggs is now single”. I’m deeply suspicious when the Facebook app on my phone periodically pops up asking for my phone number – popping up with the number pre-filled and in such a way that you might click OK before you realise what you’ve done. Why? Why do you want my phone number, Mark Zuckerberg?
In reality, it’s clearly all about advertising. Facebo0k is the biggest database of personal information ever collated (OK, I don’t know this for a fact, but it must be, right?) and it’s owned by a company. They’re going to have to make money somehow, so the more they know about you, the more they can target advertisements at you. The more targeted an advert is, the more effective it is for the advertiser and so the more FB can charge for it. Facebook then has the incentive of driving everything they can through their site to ensure that they have the maximum target audience and the maximum number of things they know about you.
Now, maybe this is the price you have to pay for a free service that millions of people love and has so many benefits. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to at least feel a little uneasy about any organisation holding so much information about so many people. Facebook’s strategy seems to be becoming ever increasingly engrained into daily life. Where does that end? Probably just in you being bombarded with eerily accurate commercials. But, at the rate things are going, before too long, the only way you could hope to take over the world would be by using Facebook and it’s intricately entwined life-tendrils.
Am I being too dramatic?
- Shameless Plug (severnside.wordpress.com)
- Data Safety (ecrimeexpertblog.wordpress.com)
- Facebook’s complexity will be its doom – The Register (westudymedia.wordpress.com)