Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Facebook: What's It Good For?

Concerning that broad cross-section of friends, relatives, coworkers, associates, etc., who have fallen from your everyday social circles, Facebook provides a relatively effortless way of keeping them updated. That tug of guilt or loss that comes with the sense that they've dropped from view is removed when, voila!, they become Facebook "friends." This means they can see the photos you've uploaded, receive your fascinating status updates, read your thoughtful notes, and check up on whatever else you've made available.

Considered the other way around, it gives you a painless means of following the people in your life. You can get the gist of what they're up to, what sort of person they've become, what they do work-wise, what their interests are, what they look like, etc., without actually having to hazard a direct interaction with them.

To my way of thinking, this is a pretty irresistible feature -- I don't think I'm alone in having a pretty long list of associates about whom I am curious, but not quite curious enough to write, call, or visit. I suspect I fall in that same category for many of my "friends." Maybe that's just crude prurience by another name, but we are social primates* whether we like it or not.

As I've touched on before, not everything about Facebook is to the good. There are drawbacks to this form of social interaction. And there are more serious perils to be considered:

Earlier this month, Facebook deleted a provision from its terms of service that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire. It added new language that said Facebook would retain users’ content and licenses after an account was terminated.
Granted, Facebook has rolled back its new terms of service given the outpouring of complaints, but they've revealed at least two non-trivial things: first, how they would prefer to regard the nature and ownership of user-shared data; and second, a willingness to alter their basic relationship with end-users according to their own shifting druthers.

I'm not sure I want a "friend" like that.

* The mention of primates reminds me of something potentially important: I don't care how much you've been working out, do not start a fight with a chimp. They're much stronger than they look, and notwithstanding their rudimentary moral sense, they will not be bound by the rules of honorable fighting.


larryniven said...

Absolutely nothing - say it again!

That's about as far as I can go with it, though, cause I think it'd be going waaaaay too far to say that facebook is friend only to the undertaker.

Dale said...

All things considered, I can't justify membership on FB. It's like pride as described in Pulp Fiction -- it never helps. It only hurts.