Friday, September 17, 2010

facebook, privacy, and social exchange

The more I live in my personal post-FB world, the more phenomenal the phenomenon
becomes. And the more reflections I have.

Facebook's fundamental premise is not, "If you didn't want people to know, you
shouldn't have shared it," but, "if you didn't want people to know, you
shouldn't have done it." That is, for FB, privacy is not really an option that
it believes you want, even if you say you do want privacy. In this world, FB is
a silent eavesdropper to all your relationships, ever present, and assuming that
even if you don't want other people to know, you want FB to know. FB's mantra is
eerily like the moral agenda of More's Utopia, "If you've got nothing to hide,
why do you need privacy?" But privacy is not about hiding things, but about
sharing them. There's nothing wrong with a nude body, but privacy is not needing
to share it with everybody! FB is the 5yo child standing at your bedroom door at
inopportune moments, and blurting inopportune comments out at dinner parties
with your to-be-impressed friends. When all of life becomes public performance,
what will we have left to share?

Facebook is also the mediator of our social exchanges. So that in my post-FB
existence, I sometimes experience 'social networking discrimination', the kind
of exclusion that comes from the assumption that 'everybody is on facebook', so
to share with facebook is to have shared with your friends. "Didn't you read it
on facebook? I posted it this morning" is the FB-user's assumption, and so the
need to have unmediated social exchange has been obviated. No need to 'catch-up'
at all. Worse still is the presumption, "If I just put something up on facebook,
everybody will read it." We have outsourced our communication.

None of which is meant to be an ideological critique of what facebook is.
Facebook's success is in doing social networking with a high degree of
functionality. But in the age of online social networking, we more than ever
need reflection on what it is doing to our society.

No comments: