Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'd like to humbly offer my reasons for deleting my profile on Facebook, at the risk (and reality) of losing touch with many good friends--some of whom write opinion here.

The answer that I've heard time and time again to my recent move has been: it's online, it's the Internet...you should assume everything is public. If you don't want your information or data made public, you should not have made a profile on the service to begin with.

Yet therein lies the issue. When I first signed up with Facebook, back in 2006-ish, I was promised complete control over information I wished to keep private. Over the last four years, Facebook has continually changed its parameters and has constantly worked to un-cover information that would then be sold to third parties for the sole purpose of marketing. Or...for, perhaps, something else.

As Facebook has relentlessly changed its functionality, privacy controls have become opt-in, rather than in place by default. As users, we have been asked to constantly maneuver through the labyrinthine field of permissions to keep whichever pieces of data we want, private.

My second issue with the philosophy that "everything is public on the web" is: if that is true (or the norm) then what is to be done about the majority of us consumers doing, for example, online banking--moving money between accounts, or transferring into other accounts held with different banks, paying off credit cards, or entering our social security numbers into seemingly secure sites/fields etc.? It is quite un-nerving when you apply that open-web thinking.

And to the people who have told me: "I have nothing to hide, they can watch me, they can have whatever they want" I say: keeping information private does not always mean one is doing something illegal. One should have the option of storing information that will not be made public (think: private, IM conversations regarding one's sexual orientation).

But more than the annoyance of having my time line clogged with incessant Farmville or Mafia Wars updates from my high school buddies, or the inundation of requests for social causes and groups working to rid the world of evil, my departure from Facebook was fueled by the culture that is being nurtured by Facebook CEO, 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg. It scares me. These are inroads for invasion of privacy that are rapidly transformed into slippery slopes to totalitarian domination. Closed societies, if you've studied history, don't start off with a bang. They slowly and systematically take away rights and freedom. I know. I come from a country which modeled itself after Stalin's Soviet Union.

Already Facebook has partnered with certain sites whose functionality one cannot fully enjoy, unless he/she has a Facebook profile. That is not an adherence to the philosophy of a free web; that is the beginning of "world domination" so to speak. When I log into Pandora and it offers me choices based on my Thumbs-Up preferences on Facebook, I get freaky-deaky about the shared information.

Since the deletion of my Facebook profile last week, I am sad to announce that I've lost touch with a handful of good people. I have sent emails, yes, but the interaction is gone. I wonder if it's for good. We'll see.

I'm not confident enough people on Facebook really care about what's happening. The service has become beyond addictive, especially to people in my age range (late 30s-early 40s)--a fact that to this day has me baffled. Maybe, at the core, we're insufferably narcissistic. Maybe we think the most mundane details of our lives are exciting. Maybe we've been tweaked by our parents, or not given enough proper attention, to believe that we are now, suddenly, the center of the universe.

For whatever reason, I'm out.


James said...

"My departure from Facebook was fueled by the culture that is being nurtured..."

Nicely put. I gave up on Facebook a few months ago when the reciprocal nature of these networks began to freak me out: the place is a social minefield once you're friends with your colleagues and third grade teacher.

And the 'like' button (and its culture) feels increasingly like collective grunting.

Although I haven't logged in for a couple of months, I don't have the guts to delete the whole account. Sad, right? So strange when a website takes on such a degree of importance that deleting your profile is viewed as a bold move or noteworthy act...

Maybe now I'll finally pull the trigger.

anna said...

One runs into problems leaving Facebook when one needs to disseminate information to a large group of people quickly. I really don't want to go back to the days where I have to CC/BCC scads of folks when I could update a page on a website. Yes, I have to jump through a million hoops to protect myself, but I don't have to pay my web lackey to share schedule changes to my students.

Until I can find an alternative, I'm kinda stuck on FB.

Anonymous said...

for anyone interested in securing their profile, if they decide to stay, please read: http://www.groovypost.com/howto/security/permanently-delete-your-facebook-profile-account/

Anonymous said...

Anna, an alternative is coming: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/11/diaspora-nyu-students-dev_n_571632.html