There is something about Facebook that does not seem right.
Maybe something that the creators did not intend, nor imagine will get out of hand. After all, most inventions are made with the best intentions.
Or maybe, everything is perfectly right, it is just me.
When I gave in to popular demand ( actually only one or two friends made the suggestion, but ‘popular demand’ has such a nice ring to it ) and created my Facebook account a year ago, I did not have the slightest inkling of what I was getting into. I was actively into Twitter those days, but in Twitter, there is a certain distance in the closeness, and a closeness in the distance ( the way I perceive and peruse it ).
Initially of course, my only Friends in FB were those who I grew up with, or spent my college days with, or some of my grown-up days with. People whom I knew decades ago, and from whom I’d protected myself all these years, popped up with Friendship requests. It did not seem polite to decline them so I accepted many. Not all. No, there was no way I would let some of them into my ‘Friends’ list ( with the capital ‘F’ ), at least as per the definition of ‘Friends’ that I still hold on to. The world has long ago modified the definition of the word – the boundaries of ‘Friendship’ are becoming vaguer with each passing day – and the word has only a remote resemblance to its original self. Everyone who passes you on the corridor without a glance, let alone a smile, is your ‘Friend’ in Facebook. The CEO of your organisation who doesn’t even know you by sight, is your Friend in Facebook. The Friends of your Friends ( real or Facebooked ) are your Friends in Facebook. All of which sound pretty okay. When someone important ( like the CEO ) posts something clever on Facebook, some of the ‘Friends’ feel it is their duty to ‘Like’ it or pass some flattering comment ( after all, their appraisals must be at stake ). That goes on in your timeline, but you just raise your eyebrows or give a knowing grin or shrug, and push it out of mind.
What alarms me is the fearful invasion of privacy ( and the lack of concern ) most people exhibit on their network. I perhaps should not be, prepared as I was for this sort of thing. *Kind of.* And it makes me feel quite old. Once my Friends’ list grew beyond the borders of known friends and acquaintances, I removed all my personal stuff, including pictures, from my account. Sorry, but I still value my privacy – whatever I can salvage out of it. I still can’t help it if someone decides to splash a picture I would rather restrict to my personal network and tag it with my name, or write on my wall about things I consider private, but as far as possible I want my Facebook account to be protected.
I should not expect everyone to be that stingy about their privacy but aren’t there some pictures and updates that should be kept within their friend ( with the small ‘f’ ) circles, and not splashed to the entire community? Some of the wall messages that come up on my timeline are quite personal, they almost sound like one of the letters we used to write a decade or so ago ( can they not use the private ‘message’ option in Facebook? ). More alarming is to find some snaps or updates that reveal an unknown ( and unexpected ) side of a person. No, really, I can do without that knowledge. Remember the time when we were afraid to post our pictures anywhere in cyber space for fear of someone doing mischief? I belong to that era, and am not ashamed to say that I have not come very far. So it makes me feel awkward to find pictures shared irresponsibly ( and I am not talking of a few harmless family snaps ). Even worse are comments that people post on others’ status messages that borders on, or spills over to, rude, often not giving a damn that the words are there for all to see. I have a few ‘Friends’ who are so obsessed with the number of Friends they have on Facebook that they often quote it as a proof of something ( “I am so well-connected” or to that effect ), I don’t even know what. I am also told that some even play politics in FB, often taking sides with one and making another look ( and feel ) bad.
Yes, I do respect others’ networking preferences, which is why I don’t post this comment there: “No, it ain’t cool, dude. Grow up. The message you wished to convey has been grossly distorted by the time it hit the timeline.”
On Twitter, I do expect cr@p to appear, given some of the profiles we follow, and sifting through it all is part of the specification. But isn’t Facebook different? Shielding myself against what I consider a breach of privacy involved waddling in a huge set of Options and Settings, but since I believe it to be important, I did waste a lot of time in the waddling.
I am not saying that Facebook does not have its benefits ( otherwise I would not be still into it ). For example, it was almost surreal to find someone I used to know twenty+ years ago, absolutely not recognising him, and getting awed at his achievements ( and feeling very proud ). Finding old friends, promoting oneself, sharing, caring, conversing, raking old memories, are still beautiful, as long as they don’t unnecessarily overlap between unconnected groups.
If you’re going to tell me “all this is the beauty of it,” let’s agree to disagree.
And so life goes on.