I think I might actually be nearing the end of my rag with Facebook. I’ve stuck with the world-conquering super-network since its early, grimy days as a university-only messaging service, where the novelty of gawking at other people’s drunken photographs and thinking up ‘Rachel is’ statements was all thrilling and edgy. It was like MySpace, but for grownups. Well, now it’s like MySpace, for every tweenage idiot on the planet, and every single one of them wants you to know, yes you, right now, what angel job they’d be given in heaven, what mathematical vector they’d be if being mathematical vectors was allowed, and, especially, which boy in the Twilight series is their Dream Date.
And if you’re not taking these quizzes (and if not, why the cheff not?) you’re broadcasting your most personal, uncomfortable thoughts all over the status page. It used to be the case that in the throes of your melodramatic teenage angst, you’d scrawl it all in your journal to feel heartily embarrassed about later, or you’d write a heartbroken/soul searching song with lots of diminished seventh chords, or you’d just buy lots of black clothes and spend your evenings wondering why No one Understands You. This is all fine and dandy, and is a rite of passage as a teenager. As a species we concentrate all our ridiculousness into six years, so we can be relatively normal for the rest of it. Unfortunately, one person’s melodrama is another’s really boring drivel. And thanks to the Book of Face, now every single one of your online ‘friends’ (whether actual friends or friends of friends or people you think might make your friends page look cooler) can read all about every one of your ‘So-and-so wonders when life will get better for me enough already!!!!lol’ days. And if that includes me, consider me thrilled. Especially by the mixed third/first person sentences; I love those.
Of course, I’m well aware of the hypocrisy of this rant, because I’m not about to deactivate my Facebook account. I can reel off this argument because I’ve already gone over it several times to myself. It serves a practical purpose (family abroad; can keep up with their news and photographs without having to be intrusive or rack up huge phone bills). It allows you to Facebook-stalk old high school classmates, to see – let’s face it – if they’re married, having kids or have put on shedloads of weight. And there’s an undeniable little frisson of excitement to be gained when your status update or photo album attracts a flurry of comments. This is what worries me though: that this determination to relay every, tiny, intimate detail of your day, no matter how boring and/or inappropriate, is sort of…egotistical. Because, really, every time you tell that inviting little blue box that you’ve got a urinary tract infection (a real example, though I wish it weren’t), you’re assuming that your 371 friends (plus any number of their friends, if they comment on it) would be edified by that information. And you were so convinced of the worldwide importance of your bodily function news that you needed to publish it immediately on a public forum. I saw a status update on someone else’s computer the other day, sent while the person was in labour. Important news, undeniably. But isn’t the fact that you’re birthing a child more important than updating your Facebook page? Was it absolutely necessary to stop, mid-contraction, to type it in and press ‘send’?
I just found out that, unless you stumble across a tiny little tickbox on a forgotten settings page, your Facebook photos and details can be used to create ‘Facebook Ads’ for your friends. Basically Zuckerberg can appropriate your face in order to sell stuff to people, based on what you’ve put in your profile. I worked up a little energy and was shocked, and opted out. But honestly, I can’t see many people minding too much. Not when it means more people get to see your status updates and be reminded what a cool, hilarious person you are, right? Why should the site be bothered about privacy rules when none of its 250 million users are? It seems that while Facebook used to record people’s lives after the event, now it informs and influences the event itself. Your day doesn’t exist if Facebook doesn’t know about it, so take another moody-looking photograph and stick it on your wall.