Aaron R. Davis
Last week, the same assholes who took me to task for being whiny and ignorant when I complained that Netflix wanted to change me an extra 60 bucks-plus a year that I didn’t have, spent days crying like infants with crotch rot about annoying, superficial changes made to Facebook, a social networking service that is absolutely and completely free to use.
Yes, the biggest story of last week was not the fascistic police brutality occurring on a massive scale on Wall Street, but the new Facebook ticker, which somehow makes the experience of Facebook so oppressive that people can barely muster the energy to use Facebook in order to complain about Facebook.
It was the cutest thing to watch people complain as though Mark Zuckerberg actually sits in his giant Uncle Scrooge-style money bin and reads every single person’s status updates, like he’s going to have this change of heart and restore the old feed in response to the impassioned weeping. Yes, a guy who screwed over his best friend and a bunch of other people in order to make Facebook is really interested in your complaints.
But enough about hypocrisy and misplaced priorities. Instead, let’s talk about why this is all so very, very stupid.
This past decade is the decade that we all traded in our real lives and responsibilities and interactions for Facebook. And mostly I didn’t care. I enjoy playing FarmVille and my family only keeps in touch via Facebook anymore, so I joined up last year and, other than posting old pictures of me that my mother hadn’t seen in a while, I’ve been careful about some of the personal information I enter, because if there’s one thing Mark Zuckerberg loves, it’s selling personal information for further profit.
There have been privacy concerns — you can’t go a month without reading some stodgy piece online about how people are willing to give up so much of their privacy now — but mostly I think they’re stupid. A lot of those privacy concerns are always examples of absolute mundanity. Do I care that someone had the best roast beef sandwich ever, and then posted a picture of the roast beef sandwich as though I would never be able to even fathom the existence of a roast beef sandwich? Not really. But I don’t hold anything against someone for wanting to share the experience. And I certainly don’t think this hypothetical person has given up some kind of privacy simply for doing so. When someone at work tells me that they had an awesome sandwich for lunch, I don’t rub my hands and think, You boob, it’s only a short leap from that PRIVATE INFORMATION to your bank account number! Maybe it’s just me.
So we’re all on Facebook and we’re all sharing mundane crap along with interesting links and pictures and attempts to be funny about recent tragedies. People stuff. And unless someone’s actually just posting their Social Security number for the sheer high of it, I don’t see where anyone’s revealing harmful info.
I’ll tell you where I started getting concerned, though. This whole phone tracker app. Or as one could actually call it if one were doing one of those barely-factual scare stories on Fox News, the Friendly Mugging, Rape and Abduction Locator.
I have a friend who uses this thing, and I’m often seeing “X is at X University” or “X is at the X metro station.” That’s kind of creepy to me. It’s like some kind of carnival; a hawker puts up pictures and the barker — the app itself — is saying step right up and abduct this person. And why oh why would you want to tell the world that you’re at the bank? It’s like saying hey, check this out, I’ll be at the parking lot with fresh money in just a moment.
I don’t know, it just skeeves me out a little bit. I’m probably being like an overreacting parent here and just assuming everyone in the world is going to get raped and mugged and killed, but I do think as far as privacy goes, that one’s just a tad invasive.
Zuckerberg, though, is going further. At the stupidly-named f8 (stupidly-pronounced “fate”) conference this week, he announced more opportunities for himself to make money off of your spare time. More apps! More integration! More content-sharing! The guy was uncomfortably gleeful.
So now Facebook is going to integrate your entire online experience. Netflix, Hulu, Rhapsody, Spotify, IMDb, seemingly every single other site on the Internet will now be accessible on Facebook. Whatever shitty taste in music, movies, TV and everything else your friends have will now be an open source, and you can check what they’re doing and then do that thing.
Now, this is where I start to worry even more about actual private information. I have credit card information stored on sites like Netflix. I don’t actually want Facebook to have access to my Netflix account. I’m not interested in letting every one of my Facebook friends see what I’m doing every second I’m online. I don’t want people to be able to follow me all over the web and track what I’m reading, where I’m posting, what I’m watching and what I’m listening to. If I want to share that stuff, that’s one thing. But Mark Zuckerberg has decided to just step in and share it for me, and I’m not cool with that.
Seriously, when did our lives become commodities to be sold to advertisers? When did our wants, our desires, our likes, our experiences and our locations become such a financial boon to people like Mark Zuckerberg? This guy makes his fortune off of you. This guy makes money by taking a look at what you like and then selling that to advertisers so they can tailor their advertising to target you. That’s what this guy does. That’s all Facebook is. Only now with more MySpace-like content.
It’s all built on the incredibly incorrect assumption that I want everyone to know everything I’m doing, every second of the day.
This is the kind of thing that makes me want to build a bunker and never come out. I just hope that Facebook tracker app doesn’t discover the location of my bunker.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org