Definitely a departure from the normal fare you get around here, but this subject has been eating at me. It keeps coming up in blog circles and on Facebook itself; how Facebook is evil, would like to destroy our children, and must be boycotted. How Mark Zuckerberg is a shade shy of Hitler. How everyone who works for Facebook or supports it are nefarious, soulless and twelve kinds of capitalists. And these complaints appear most often on…Facebook itself.
Every time I see someone complain about Facebook on Facebook I want to punch them. That’s just silly. Without this site, you wouldn’t even be able to voice those words that you’re using to malign the site! It’s as ludicrous and as hypocritical as someone using the freedom America provides them to burn the American flag.
Before I launch into the common complaints about Facebook and the reasons I believe they’re largely invalid, let me first agree with the principle behind these complaints. Our world is becoming impersonal. We are slowly but surely losing our humanity to a mass of avatars and computer screens. Personal contact is dying out; the art of letter writing is all but dead; too often I look into coffee shops and find every seat occupied and silence reigning, as the occupants pore over their Iphones and Ipads. That scene in Wall-E where the tubby chair riders zip around with screens in their faces, oblivious to the fact that there is a swimming pool right in front of them, is coming true more rapidly than I could have believed. I am not one who would have rushed headlong into the digital age, and yet it is upon me. I find myself in possession of a new Droid, and I am the last person I know to have finally signed up for internet access on my phone. It is with regret that I think of the days of my grandmother, when women hung out the wash in the backyard and chatted on the porch while their toddlers played on the lawn. Those days are lost to all but a lucky few among us.
And yet, in the midst of this digital revolution, I believe blame shouldn’t be placed on the most visible party. Social media was not created by Mark Zuckerberg, however much he may have improved it. This day was a long time in coming. Social media is somewhat like a gun; it is as destructive and dangerous as the person who uses it. Most of us use Facebook for the intention with which it was created: to stay connected.
The lemming-like campaign to paint Facebook as the source of all evil in our modern world of social media is just ludicrous. Most of these complaints, at least in the blog circles I frequent and among the status updates I am privy to, run in one of two veins. The first is the complaint that Facebook (brace yourselves) sells our private information to a third-party company that puts together ads targeted to our interests.
How dare they!
Let me back up. When I say private information, I don’t mean email addresses, phone numbers, or physical addresses. No, I mean such private things as…demographics: male or female, age range, interest in sports, interest in losing weight. Things that will assist this third-party company in putting together ads that actually might interest us. Things that we have already shared with the world by choosing to put on Facebook in the first place. For example, when I was pregnant, my Facebook sidebar was filled with ads about stretch mark cream and baby accessories. Since I had Liam, it has been filled with ads about how to lose weight and regain my sex life. It’s funny, and if the ads annoy me, guess what? I can get rid of them by clicking on the handy little “X” in the top right corner.
But these ads get some of my fellow mommy blogger’s underpants in a twist. Apparently, the idea that Facebook would ever do something so base and so selfish as find a way to continue to finance itself so that it can continue to provide us with this free service is…well…naughty.
So naughty, in fact, that most of these bloggers would like nothing more than to put Mark Zuckerberg in a nice, long time-out. How dare he? How dare he not safeguard our most intimate secrets? How dare he not keep horrible things like ads out of our online hearths?
Never mind the fact that Mark Zuckerberg actually does safeguard our most intimate secrets. Never mind the fact that he keeps his company firmly in his youthful grip so that Facebook can continue to be a safe online forum, a place where we don’t have to fear that some random person will be able to access our private information. And do you know how he keeps Facebook safe? By treating us like grown-ups.