This is my second attempt at becoming a real blogger. Keep it brief, dammit! Kick the urge to say too much, too cleanly. That’s not blogging: it’s two parts rambling, one part journalism. No good. From here on, as often as possible, i will try to just bang out these posts as single-topic hits, with a 300-600 word target length. Snapshots from my travels; Screen grabs from my brain… Ommm….ommm…channeling Dave Winer.
I begin in this new off-the-cuff & targeted format with one big topic: Facebook and Privacy. The latest instalment features the 500mln strong social network rejiggering the way FB Groups work, notably the blatantly Orwellian feature that someone ELSE can join you in these groups. I don’t think that’s even proper English, which is a sign that something is amiss. Jason Calacanis coined the phrase “force-join” for the occasion. Anyway you slice it, where I come from this is NOT cool. To say you can opt out of a group you’d been opted into requires a “when-did-u-stop-beating-your-wife” click of your keyboard. In fact it is not a GROUP, in the way the word is presented. Language matters. It’s like the pernicious inverse of the famous Groucho Marx line about clubs and members…??
This is not, as was suggested to me, like tagging photos. If you are in a photo, it’s because you were in fact in that photo. You may wish you hadn’t been, but you were. Even so, the first time it happened to me I was creeped out…and a bit pissed off…a shot of 16yrold ME holding my crotch in faux b-boy pose popped up in public circulation…via my Facebook page…via the Facebook page of a friend from high school who i havent seen since…er….high school. Yoda Zuckerberg would say: Ah, but look at you now… you are voluntarily offering it up here, in the public square SQUARED. And he is right, of course, as the pure force of his vision and his business move the goal posts on what it means to share, and to be private.
Revolutions in social norms — not to mention billion dollar businesses generated by a company of 20-somethings — don’t happen by playing by the rules. FB’s goal is not to win the internet, it is to BE the internet. Their internet is indeed a “social” one that requires people to be connected to each other in vast new ways..if they want to stay in touch, if they want to do business. Vanishing privacy is collateral damage.
I just saw a friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. She was coming through Paris with her husband on a trip planned just as she and I connected on Facebook. It was nice to see her, and we have Zuck to thank, I guess…We talked a bit about FB…I said I was on it mostly for professional reasons…and every once in a while I check people’s photos. “Yeah, me too,” she said. “I just snoop.”
That seems innocent enough. But we know new communication platforms have the power to change the very way we see ourselves. TV is still changing us. Check out this disturbing story in Italy where the mother of a missing girl was giving a live TV interview, and found out during the interview that her daughter was in fact killed.
What will the Facebook/Internet version of such a scenario be? Will the benefits outweigh the costs? Mark Zuckerberg, subject of an invasive biopic that is currently No. 1 box office movie, is not spending his time/energy making these calculations. Nor should he. He’s building his business, making his revolution. The boundaries are for the rest of us to set.