If Facebook Users Really Valued Privacy, They Shouldn’t Have Joined In The First Place
It’s time for Facebookers to face facts: if they really valued “privacy,” they should never have joined a website designed for divulging personal information to begin with. However, judging by the reaction across the Internet – including here at True/Slant – to the social networking site’s recent shift in privacy settings, you would think that it had been revealed that the CIA has implanted listening devices in every home in America.
Perhaps I’m not the right person to hold forth on matters Facebook; I’m not even a member. I find the daily activities of most of my acquaintances to be absolutely stultifying. And that’s to hear about them in person; why I would want my personal computer bombarded with such inanity is beyond me. Like the wonderful Matt Labash, then, I find Facebook to be simply a collection of billions of megabytes of boredom.
But there are deeper reasons to be wary of Facebook, and they cut to the heart of the current uproar over privacy settings. Since its inception, the whole purpose of Facebook (and any social networking site), has been to blur the traditional distinction between the private and public self – to tear down those boundaries. Photographs, dinner plans, even ostensibly private conversations; all of these are posted publicly on the site. This has formed a sort of virtual Panopticon, where, if I’m a user, I can see everything everyone I know is doing, and everyone I know can see everything I’m doing. This has never been compatible with any sense of “privacy,” at least as I can understand the term. Hence, the current uproar is incoherent.
More troubling is the issue of corporate ownership. As Justin Kistner has observed, we’ve known for quite some time that Facebook intends to turn a profit on its users’ private data. In so doing, the site will essentially reduce individuals to little more than a set of consumer characteristics. Facebook is not about promoting organic individualism; it’s about finding character “types” – the better to target ads at. One of the most baffling things I’ve witnessed over the past few years has been to see most of the people I know voluntarily – nay, enthusiastically – divulge all manner of their personal information to a private corporation. Big Brother couldn’t have dreamed of such complacency.
The current “privacy settings” uproar seems more than a little misplaced. Of course, I’m certain that scores of steamed Facebook-using “privacy activists” are currently writing furious posts about how very mad they are about the change in privacy settings.
How much do you want to bet that they’re writing those posts on Facebook?