Facebook…it came up last week at UMW’s Faculty Academy, and has kept the blogosphere buzzing. Most of the posts I have read have been negative about Facebook. Rob Cottingham in Canada noted (and I love the dog cartoon):
This hasn’t been a good past few weeks for Facebook. Growing concerns over what Facebook’s deliberately doing to your privacy collided with news about what Facebook’s doing accidentally with your data.
There are two upcoming ways you can protest: by not logging in on June 6, or – if you’re ready to finally cut the umbilical cord – quitting altogether on May 31. So far, while they’re getting press attention, neither initiative is showing signs of snowballing yet, with registered followers numbering only in the hundreds.
As I noted earlier, danah boyd “ranted” about Facebook and “radical transparency.” (but I love how scholarly her rants are!). CogDog barked about it…but provided some th0ughtful (if graphic) commentary on the issues of privacy and sharing. One of his quotes:
I don’t place any value judgment on quitting versus not quitting Facebook; I think the bigger lesson is what happens when a simple system overlies something quite more complex and unfathomable. I am not naive to the information I give Google, because Google gives me back useful things, tools, information, yet Facebook feels somehow more sinister, more untrustworthy, more a murky fog covered minefield.
This mirrored remarks by Siva Vaidhyanathan last week at UMWFA10 where he stated that Google was vacuuming up all your data, but that Facebook was simply evil (and Google’s biggest competitor – because when you are on Facebook, Google cannot mine your data).
Pretty damning stuff.
Yet two other posts have me thinking about Facebook in a more positive light. First, danah followed up her rant post with one on “Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated.” She referenced Nancy Baym’s post last Thursday: “Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.” Nancy said:
I don’t like supporting Facebook at all. But I do. And here is why: they provide a platform through which I gain real value. I actually like the people I went to school with. I know that even if I write down all their email addresses, we are not going to stay in touch and recapture the recreated community we’ve built on Facebook. I like my colleagues who work elsewhere, and I know that we have mailing lists and Twitter, but I also know that without Facebook I won’t be in touch with their daily lives as I’ve been these last few years. I like the people I’ve met briefly or hope I’ll meet soon, and I know that Facebook remains our best way to keep in touch without the effort we would probably not take of engaging in sustained one-to-one communication.
The other was an announcement from Eduardo Peirano that College 2.0 was moving from it’s Ning platform to a Facebook group. I have enjoyed membership in College 2.0 for the past three years and immediately joined the Facebook group. With nearly 700 members, this move just made sense now that Ning is moving to a pay for use system.
I agree with Nancy. I get real value out of Facebook. It is where I tend to find pictures of my grandkids, stories of what is happening in the lives of my nieces, nephews and brothers’ families, and connections with my colleagues in Georgia and here in Virginia. There are a ton of potential social networking sites that could provide these functions, but Facebook is the one ring that binds them all.
I have also tended to see Facebook as different from other social media sites that I use. My use of Twitter, Slideshare, Flickr, and Ning have all been while wearing my professional hat. My use of Facebook is as friend and grandfather. I would not want to lose those connections…and I suspect Facebook is counting on this. The Youtube video I embedded earlier this week speaks to the size and volume of traffic that is the Facebook “utility” – as danah called it.
So put me down in the column of working my privacy settings but remaining with Facebook…at least as long as this country continues to provide utilities. Watching the debacle in the Gulf reminds me that this is not guaranteed either!
As always, I would be interested in your thoughts. What do you intend to do with your Facebook account?