Note: This post is not about the rumor that Facebook is going to start charging for accounts.
Image capture source: Unthink.com
Written by Yong Kim
Facebook made some changes recently to their layout and added some new features. There are aspects to the changes that I like; and others I don’t. As usual, people griped. Also as usual, others provided some perspective, the most common sentiments being: it’s free and no one’s forcing you to use Facebook.
Let’s address the obvious first: Facebook is NOT free. We don’t pay for it with money, but we do give something to Facebook for its “free” service, something much more valuable than money: the copyrights to our profiles, which are comprised of our personal information. The service is “free” because everything we do (every comment, every single click, everything we share) gets logged, then datamined to produce metadata, which is then sold. There is a reason Facebook is worth billions of dollars. All of that information about us, the information about ourselves we so gladly provided and the data about our activities, is owned by Facebook, not us. If you want ownership of your information, then perhaps you should join Unthink.com, whose front page contains the catchphrase “emancipate yourself.”
But can we really emancipate ourselves from giants such as Facebook or Twitter? It’s true that we don’t have to use Facebook or Twitter. But with over 500 million members worldwide, not having a FB account is not much of an option. When just about everyone you know is on a particular network and keeping in touch through it, interacting on it every day, sharing the minutiae of their daily lives, organizing events on it, sharing and discussing current events, etc., not being on that network means you purposely leave yourself out of the loop. What’s more, you end up creating work for friends when they organize events because they have to invite you separately. After they share personal news with everyone on FB and/or Twitter, they have to use that antiquated technology called email, or (gasp!) call you.
Some perspective employers even ask for your Twitter domain, often requiring it, in which case by not having a Twitter account you’ve eliminated yourself since you can’t even apply for that job. And if a perspective employer asks for your FB domain and you say you don’t have an account, you could come off as antisocial or even like someone who has something to hide. So the argument that we don’t really have to use social media, well, I could also live without my computer, cell phone, email, TV, etc., even electricity if I had to, but at this point in our technology-saturated society, is that really an option? And with a ubiquitous service like Facebook, even the most cynical, Ludditical, and reclusive people I know have broken down and joined, if for no other reason than the fact that it seemed like everybody they knew were on it. Yes, we’re back in high school and conforming to peer pressure.
This doesn’t mean I enjoy reading status updates from people complaining about changes to FB. That gets old rather quickly. And when someone whines about every little update, change or feature (you know who you are), I have to resist the urge to delete or hide them. But we have rights as consumers, at the very least the right to voice when we’re not happy with a product or service, even when it’s “free;” because, in the end, it isn’t.