I’ve had my Facebook account for three years now. In that time, I’ve uploaded pictures of myself at drunken parties, my wedding, my new baby, even my new car! I’ve made my love for correct apostrophe usage public and I’ve pledged my name (and my profile) to supporting rock bands, fashion designers and online magazines, among other pastimes.
But three years down the line, I don’t post pictures any more, “like” many fan pages, or even post my status much. Facebook is now forcing me to declare my love for things. If I don’t, it makes that decision for me. It did this just yesterday. Like many people, I don’t like being told what to like. It smacks of Orwellian control.
And I’m not the only one irritated.
Facebook users across the world are revolting against the social network’s attempts at mind control and are furious that the network’s default privacy setting isn’t a privacy control at all. In fact, the privacy settings are frankly mind-boggling, leaving users with their private information exposed to strangers and, worse, to advertisers.
It doesn’t help that Facebook’s creator, 24-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, in an instant message conversation with a friend, referred to Facebook users as “dumb f***ks” for trusting him with our information.
The current backlash against the site is being led by users who identify themselves only by their Twitter IDs (oh the irony!). @mmilan and @josephdee have set up www.QuitFacebookDay.com, on which they exhort the site’s users to delete their accounts on May 31 this year.
But all signs are that Facebook will survive, as just fewer than 16 000 users have agreed to delete their profiles. The site boasts 400-million active users.
This isn’t the first Facebook profile suicide pact – users have regularly attempted group profile deletions and their attempts live on on the site itself, mute testimony to failed causes.
Along with the privacy- invasion allegations levelled at Facebook, the social networking site has been blamed for all manner of social ills since its inception in 2006. According to UK news site Times Online, many believe it creates unrealistic expectations of a better life online, while others think it reduces time for real-life friendships and social interaction. This, so far, has been the main reason for Facebook profiles being deleted.
For many users this week though, it’s online life as usual as they continue to update their statuses, post their photos and learn how to use the site’s privacy settings. Many of these folk have also decided that, as the service is free, they can’t complain too much – though I’m sure they’re going to have their resolve tested as the site makes their profile information ever easier for advertisers to access. This has been its policy for as long as it’s existed – Zuckerberg is no well-meaning techie who designs applications for the hell of it; he is a billionaire. (See a graphic of how Face book privacy settings have expanded since the site’s inception here.)
Facebook is due to release a statement on its updated privacy controls as I type this blog (May 26) and has already soothed ruffled feathers after the “dumb f***k” debacle. It will probably continue to grow, until the next kid on the social networking block comes along, or it annoys enough of its users by bombarding them with adverts. While the social networking craze continues, marketers are probably smart to keep using the channel. But be warned: nothing lasts forever on the internet – except that embarrassing photo of you, Joburg drunk.