A Fake Society for a Fake World
From Hollywood to Oprah, seems like is taking a swipe at Mark Zuckerberg and his thrown-together monster, Facebook. I got burned by the two-faced beast too…
Every geek, techie and IT pro I know has exactly the same opinion of Facebook: Don’t. Go. There. Ever. Facebook is a giant con, they all say, a tentacled medusa crafted to steal personal information, parse it into marketable chunks for sale to the highest bidder. Privacy, as we have been informed by Zuckie, is dead.
I adhere – or did – to the no-Facebook ethic. It wasn’t hard: 25 years ago with a single PC and a database program now known only to aging geeks I extracted personal info from tiny, innocuous client lists that made my conscience burn. I know well what can be – is being – done with the terabytes of personal info that everyone is shoveling onto the ‘net.
That’s not the only thing about Facebook that makes me queasy. A virtual social network? Posting life’s little conceits and embarrassments on some public wall? Friending as a verb? Unfriending? How very high school. Ugh. My dislike is not unique: “I hate the very idea of it,” is a critique I’ve heard and read many times.
But two people whose work I value store their efforts inside Zuckie’s fortress, so I did what we all do when we want to bend a personal rule and do something we usually won’t: I rationalized. I’m a Google fan, I reminded myself, a company some consider more egregious than Facebook (though Google hasn’t unfriended anybody except maybe China). And I do know a number of reasonable, post-pubescent folks who use Facebook without stooping to posting drinking party and butt-crack pics on it. So I gave it a try.
It took FB only a few hours to dump me into social hell.
As soon as I entered an eMail address Facebook presented me with a list of people who “were ready to be my friends”. Surprise on me! The list wasn’t random. Some were friends, others I’d worked with or knew from my years in the theatre. A few were vaguely familiar but the how and where had long disappeared. How in hell did Facebook know I had connections to these people?
Later I checked my eMail. A message from someone I keep in occasional contact had come in. “I’d love to see your pictures,” she wrote, “but I don’t have a facebook account. Any other way to do it?” (Yes, she’s an IT pro.) Huh? I hadn’t sent her an invite to “see my pictures.” I didn’t post any pictures on FB; I didn’t post anything there. Heck, I never even found my “wall.”
My eMail box fast-filled with Facebook spam. “So and so has friended you!” “Still haven’t heard from so and so, but your request to friend them is still out there!” And more people asked “see my pictures”. It all felt somehow prurient, like I’d clicked on one of those fake browser links that triggers bad porn and Nigerian check scam eMails.
How this was all happening really bothered me. Did Zuckie scan my eMail? Did other people list me as friends to watch out for – i.e., was I already in FB databases even though I’d never signed up? My work with databases and computers tell me that is more than possible.
I finally hit angry when a non-techie friend whose computers I keep running called to ask why I’d sent him an invitation to join Facebook. This guy barely manages AOL and I would never encourage him to sign up for anything if only because I’d bear the task of keeping it working.
Pissed off and embarrassed – I’m the one who regularly mounts a soapbox and lectures everybody in earshot about computer hygiene after all – I set about eradicating my presence from the Social Kingdom.
Logging in I found the list of potential friends had grown, and every one now had a checked “friend me!” box next to it. I unchecked them all, hunted and deleted the info I’d entered during signup, changed what couldn’t be deleted, and replaced the eMail address with a fake. Then I spent almost an hour wading through the infamous Facebook “privacy” settings”. Then I deleted my entire account. Or tried to.
So hideous is Facebook, so like a cancer snaking its tendrils into your innards so it cannot be extracted, you can’t even quit the damn thing. Instead you are put on a mandatory 14 days’ probation in hopes you’ll change your mind. Check the status of your quitting and Facebook takes it as a change of mind and resets the clock.
I don’t know if the real Zuckerberg posted nasty stuff about his girlfriend at college as the movie shows. But the way Facebook operates now it sure seems to come from a mind that would do such a thing.
This fun experience led me to wonder why something as clearly deceptive and annoying as Facebook has been embraced so widely which of course led to a rant. Rather than make this post even longer, I dumped the rant into a comment. Your choice to go there or not; no warranty available.