Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Facebook Conundrum

As of right now, I can't tell if this recent Facebook News Feed fiasco is some clever hype-raising strategy or a chorus of vocal immaturity of the majority of Facebook's users.

Folks, you all complain that Facebook is now Stalkerbook, and this News Feed will be the end of your "personal" life. This News Feed will, according to some, invade into their personal lives and create a network of stalkers following them and their activities.

Not only do I think this is outrageous, I think it's self-conceited to afford yourself such expectations of attention. People probably wish they were being stalked, more than they're worried about it.

Facebook has, and has always had, privacy settings. If you don't want someone to see something, you've been able to block them from viewing. The same is true for this News Feed service. Posting your profile on Facebook unsecured is like posting that same profile on a Times Square billboard. If someone's looking, they will see it, and you put it there. So let's all soak in this learning experience and not point the finger- not setting a personal profile to private will result in public viewing. Common sense.

Let's do a more example-like approach- let's look at this from the top, down. This is Joe User, and he's accepting invitations to events, joining Facebook groups, writing on friends' walls, and doing his private Facebook things (like messaging). He also made his profile private by clicking the radio buttons of "only friends can view my profile".

Can anyone, at this point, see his News Feeds or personal information? No.

Now, Joe adds a few friends here and there as he walks around campus and socializes. He adds these people as friends. Can they now see this feed? Yes.

Alright, we've come across a security failure! Not on the part of Facebook, however- on the part of Joe. While Facebook put all the juicy information in the forefront, saving someone the time and effort required to learn such things about a person manually, Joe gave them the clearance to do so.

So what this boils down to is thus: Joe must stop being a social whore and decide who he really wishes to befriend, lest the privacy functions of Facebook have no purpose. If you want to frolic in the social fields, that's what MySpace is for.

While there could be some improvement to the implementation of these News Feeds, the spirit and execution of such features does not go against the privacy Facebook ensured you upon joining. It just centralizes what would take an hour of research into one little feed.

This whole outbreak is purely reactionary. Give it some time to sink in, and I think you'll find the feed more enthralling and entertaining than a source of worry. You don't have a stalker now, you won't tomorrow, and I'll bargain you won't get one for... ever?

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