Everyone is raving about Facebook. Some of its much praised functionality includes its capacity for managing one’s personal network of contacts, its capabilities for viewing images and text in real time and even providing the ability of viewing other people’s contacts. Groups can also be created, ranging from political, cultural and reivindicative causes (e.g. “Stop Terrorism”), from the most charitable to the most selfish and rude.
Some of the stories told about Facebook are positive, but others are very frightening. For example, I heard the story of an employee who spoke his mind about his boss on another people’s wall, only to discover that the boss himself was on his contact list and was able to see what he wrote. This person ended up being fired.
My Facebook life started once I got enough invitations from friends to join in. Only then I reluctantly decided to register. At the beginning it was boring and I did not pay much attention to it. As I got more and more contacts, I started to become more interested in it. I spent quite a lot of time choosing the appropriate profile picture (I even got comments praising my cool self-portrait!) and I wrote an attractive description of my personal life. It was a sure way to show my growing network of “friends” how “cool” I was…
Unfortunately many of my real friends were either not interested in joining or did not even have an email account themselves, let alone Facebook membership. Yet my list of so-called friends continued to grow steadily. Then a competition began and people started to measure who had the greatest number of contacts, as well as receiving invitations to install new applications that did really unusual things.
Although I consider myself a techie, the truth is that I never managed to find a lot of usefulness in the extra add-on bits of applications that other people were increasingly inviting me to join in. At some point in time I decided that I would stop having only people I know. My “friends” had started to add celebrities to their contact list even though there was little chance they knew them.
Even if these celebrity contacts were not the real person, at least it would look good to have them on my own list, I decided. Soon I started inviting celebrities from my contacts’ lists, profiles like the ex-president of Spain or some of the main politicians I follow up closely. Now, I thought, I would be able to get to know them or even they would know me!
At this point I started to check Facebook daily and became formally addicted to it. I even decided to start my own blog (the one you are reading now) and update my Facebook status with a link to my blog article every time I wrote one. My blog stats did go up significantly, but the overall impact was disappointing. No famous guy from my contact list ever approached me.
Everything started to go downhill for me when Facebook decided to update their interface into a newer version. I did not like it that much, but it was okay. I was not going to protest for the new interface like many people did in a Facebook group themselves. However, I started to receive more and more irrelevant news about people who would write on my celebrities’ walls and messages that were a load of rubbish. As I joined more and more groups, I also began to get too many invitations that I was not really interested in.
As time goes on I feel more and more reluctant to put personal details on my Facebook account. I fear some clever hacker could take my personal information and use it to fool my bank and get my credit card details. I try hard not to disclose any personal information and have erased a lot of what I previously had in my profile. I still worry though about this because some of my personal data may be recorded somewhere I do not know.
For me the most worrying thing about Facebook is the lack of control I have on who gets to see the information I put up. True, I am responsible for it because first I have to add the person to my contacts. However, a real friend one day joked with me about something I wrote once in Facebook and felt a bit embarrassed. He was able to see something I had preferred to keep private. At the time it was not made clear to me that what I wrote would be visible by my entire network of contacts. Although I did not say anything that was rude, I did feel that perhaps I should not have written it.
Luckily for me I am going off Facebook these days. I do think it is a brilliant idea, and I even have joined the development side of it. I am really interested to learn how this technology works from the inside-out. One day I might even start my own business using Facebook as a platform to bring together people sharing similar genes in their genome. (By the way if you are interested to collaborate with me on this idea please drop me a line!) Anyhow it will be interesting to see whether Facebook is able to constantly reinvent itself like Google has done or it declines victim of its own success.