Friday, May 14, 2010

Fomenting Fury at Facebook is Fun! (and Folly?)

The Peasants are revolting!  The natives are restless!  The angry mob is coming with pitchforks and torches to storm the castle!

Who could it be inspiring such outrage?  Surely such righteous indignation must be aimed at villainous types like Goldman Sachs or British Petroleum or Sarah Palin -- you know, people and groups who continue to inflict real damage to our society and world.  And now the people are finally waking up to raise a noble revolt!

Not quite, actually.  But they are super-peeved about Facebook...and they're not going to take it anymore!

The ostensible reason for railing against the overlords at "Bookface" -- as it is mocked by some of the cleverer citizens of FB -- is the ever-dwindling lack of privacy and the ever-increasing complexity of what mechanisms remain to protect it.  This is true, of course.  However, seemingly forgotten is the fact that FB can only share what you yourself have provided; to express utter shock when something leaks out because the terms have changed or something more nefarious is afoot is a little like expressing shock when your best friend blabs about something she promised to keep secret.  There's only one way to protect yourself and that is not to share anything you don't want repeated.

But, let's face it:  we like to share stuff about ourselves.  This simple fact is the reason for Mark Zuckerberg's colossal success. However, we also like to think we're in control, and this simple fact is why Zuckerberg is being pilloried not only on his own creation but now the growing unrest has reached the august summit of The New York Times.  He promised us total control of how the information we provided would or would not be shared, and we eagerly responded:  excellent, thanks dude!  And really, what's a little fine print when time's a-waiting; we've got stuff to post and people to connect to.

In some ways I think the privacy issue is a red herring.  It's easy and fun for the cognoscenti and the technorati  to cluck at FB's failings, build new sites to bring back the good old days, or go back to the earth as it were by abandoning the whole enterprise altogether.  Rather, the real dissent in the ranks may stem from Zuckerberg simply getting too big for his britches.  Witness the personal attacks:  did you know he works in his pajama bottoms? or that he likes to don his fencing equipment when arguing a point?  or that he thinks we're all stupid for sharing our information?  What goes up, must come down.  We love to talk about our country's entrepreneurial spirit, as long as people aren't too successful (see also Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, et al.)  And it's much more satisfying to shoot spitballs at the Dear Leader than examine how we only too willingly helped facilitate the Face with our own friend-ly fodder.

Perhaps the newest nerds at the aptly-named Diaspora* will play the Pied Piper just like Facebook did when it enticed away the minions of My Space and Friendster, but I kind of doubt it.  FB has reached a critical mass that its predecessors never could.  But, it is Spring and perhaps the cycle will begin anew...and we certainly don't have any bigger crimes to confront, do we?