Wednesday, June 4, 2008

So Whatddya Know?

Social networking sites seem to tap in to the idea that we should all be connected together and on-line. We should be able to do something, upload a photo, write a comment, update a status or simply forward something along to all of our friends for them to see.

Don't you mean, "So what do your mates know?"

It's not what we know that is important any more. What is important is what we share. The information we give out to people about our feelings and experiences has suddenly - through the exponential growth [ reference ] of social networking sites - become valuable. Valuable to our friends who are now taking notice of us... and valuable to big business who piggy-back their relevant and targeted marketing. Every post you write will be read by at least half a dozen of your friends. If you have a popular profile / blog it will be read by half a dozen thousand people. That's a lot of people that know stuff about you.

So what - I am more popular now than ever before!

Now that you are writing and sharing and people are reading your words and watching your forwarded funwall posts you are feeling like you are connected to people. I wonder though, just how connected one really is in a virtual, on-line environment. Where is the balance with real life. If you are not doing so well socially in real life but are managing "just fine, thank you!" on your social network then I suggest that real life holds the potential for much greater reward and should be pursued with even more zeal than the virtual world. If we would spend the same energy with actual people - you know - face to face: then we might find our lives even further enriched than is possible on a virtual social network.

An experiment

Here is the point - sort of. I am new to blog writing so making my point is a little difficult. I have to practice.

Consider what you could do with your time if you DIDN'T have a virtual social network and instead worked on the real social network.

In the following - half aside half to the point snippet I use Facebook as an example to describe my own experience with social networking.

I have not picked Facebook over another virtual social network for any reason other than that it was the one I belonged to before I decided to give it up.

Remember - Blogs are a way for us to hold public opinion without fear of recourse or legal action... I hope.

After about a year of holding an FB ( Face Book ) profile and managing - sort of - to keep it up to date, I decided to erase my profile. The reasons are:

  1. I was becoming increasingly dissalusioned with the product itself. The site seems to be slow at times, and lacks anything other than the fun wall to interact with. Vampire bites and the Booze Wall are a little too juvinile for my tastes.
  2. I was being spammed by facebook. It was a requirement for me to actively turn off email notifications. I prefer it when I am made to activly turn them on when I need something.
  3. I was becomming increasingly concerned about the notion that my profile might be linked to another ( through an intemediary or through some third party application like Fun Wall ) dodgey profile. My good name and reputation might be jeapordised in a way that I would have no real control over.
  4. Facebook own all my data on my profile in perputuity to the extent that they can sell it to another organization without my consent.
  5. PARANOID REASON - I am certain that governement organisations can easily obtain warrants to access the data.
Removing the profile was not a simple matter.

I had to first de-activate it. While it was de-activated I continued to receive emails about a class reunion I had no intention of attending.

Next I had to send an email to requesting that my profile be permanently erased from the servers. The reply I received pointed out to me that I could adjust my privacy settings and ensure that my data and reputation remain safe. It just didnt ring true to me. Here is the email:

Date: Sat, 24 May 2008 19:37:07 -0700
To: david@XXXXXXX
From: Facebook Support
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit

Hi David,

We appreciate your concern. We use user content in connection with various features and services on the site (for example, displaying it in profile pages, photo pages, news feeds and other messages to users' friends, etc.). Additionally, though it may not happen often, there are cases when law officers and judges issue subpoenas or other legal orders requiring us to provide certain information about specific users for use in court. Aside from such scenarios, however, we do not currently share any information with third parties except with the user's consent (for example, if a user elects to add a third party application), and we never sell your information to anyone. In addition, we may use aggregate data from the user base, but this data is disassociated from specific user information.

Except as described above, it is highly unlikely that Facebook will ever use any material that you have uploaded to the site. However, for legal reasons, we must keep the following clause in our Terms of Use to protect ourselves from possible litigation:

"By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between!
us and
you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content."

Additionally, this license or sublicense does not affect ownership or copyright privileges for material on the site.

Also, although Facebook was never intended as a tool to monitor people's actions, we cannot always prevent the site from being used in this way. By default, only your confirmed friends and people on your networks can view your profile. That said, we cannot prevent people with valid network affiliated email addresses from joining one of your networks. For instance, if a campus police department gives its employees a college email address, these people will be able to affiliate with that network on Facebook.

Aside from such situations, however, we do not grant anyone, including employers, law officers, school administrators, and even parents, any kind of special access to information on Facebook that they would not normally be able to view.

In order to avoid any issues involving your Facebook information, we encourage you to make use of your options on the Privacy page. These options allow you to restrict certain people from viewing your profile or finding you in searches.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any further questions or if you still would like to permanently delete your account.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

User Operations
Well thanks Theo, but it's not really good enough. I wrote back and once again asked them to remove my profile from the servers. They accommodated my request the second time round. Doesn't the above scare you? I guess I am still not all that comfortable having my personal details and expression open for public sale in this way.

I do understand that the Facebook team are a business and that they need to make money too. I just don't wich to contribute to an organisation who make so much money anyway and without regard for the rights of the indivuduals who make it so successful.

I was a photographer, I would not attempt to showcase my stuff on facebook. If I did I would watermark it really well.

Anyway - I know its a long post and I appreciate that you read through it all. You will find me expressing myself here and not on social networking sites anymore.

I understand that sigining up with Blogger has it's own risks but I accept those risks and state categorically that all data on this blog is open to the public domain for whatever they wish to do with it. Friends or no friends.

IN the mean time I have to go and work on building real relationships with real people.