Facebook is, by every possible measure, an incredible success in the newly created “social networking” phenomenon. My Space was one of the first of these systems whereby people could communicate, en masse, with all of their friends and family members, and find out in turn what was going on in their lives. Pictures were posted, profiles were written, stories were told. You could find long lost friends or make new ones. Once My Space was taken over by the teeny boppers, and Mark Zuckerberg introduced his more sophisticated Facebook, My Space fell by the wayside and Facebook became the social network of choice.
Everybody Loves FB
Its popularity soared, and FB now counts its members in the hundreds of millions, and many think it will reach the billion member mark in the not too distant future. However, there have been some grumblings among members about how Facebook has been using and sharing the information that they have access to from their many fans. They know an awful lot about their subscribers, from their age, sex, birthday, where they work, go to or went to school, etc. And from that information, they can suggest people you may like to be hooked up with: friends, relatives, people from your field of business or even your place of work, high school and college alumnae, and on and on. TMI? Many people think so, and are starting to question how all of this information is being used.
It’s Your Choice
Of course, you decide how much information you put on your Facebook page, or even how much of it is true. Stories abound about fifty somethings with FB pages who say they are teenagers and try to friend young people. High creep factor. Then, of course, there are those who use their Facebook page as a means of posting pictures or items of interest to a limited group of friends and family. Sounds like this is a nice practical use of social media, and some such users have a picture of an animal in their profile and an unidentifiable name known only to their intimate circle. But even these limited users are starting to be concerned about the pervasiveness of FB, as new friends are suggested, based on the friendships of friends of friends of friends. Talk about six degrees of separation! Are you going to be friended by a swami in Nepal because your brother’s son was friends with a backpacker in Germany who met a guy who was going to an ashram in India?
How is the Information Being Used?
This is the big question. As it stands, the money being made on these social media sites is in advertising. You “like” a product or service, and it will be treated like a recommendation to everyone in your network. Is this just the beginning? We already know that Amazon knows every book you have purchased and makes recommendations not only on you past purchases, but also on the purchases of those who have made past purchases similar to yours. Is Facebook determined to know so much about each of their subscribers that every purchase you make will influence the purchases of everyone in your circle? This means that you are going to know about anything thing your kids are buying/looking at/subscribing to. Good thing? And how long until that translates to every opinion you express, or criticism you make. Maybe it is time to start feeling afraid.