post

Response to OJR’s “In Defense of Facebook”

The Online Journalism Review, of which I am an avid and appreciative reader, recently posted In defense of Facebook, in which they play devil’s advocate to the outcry against users’ inability to delete information from the site, and the site’s privacy-invasive policies.

I respect the attempt, but it fails to persuade. Of course I had to respond:

You write, “people ought to be encouraged to think before they post.” But much of the online world is ephemeral. Someone like myself, involved in online work since the early ’90s, is more used to data disappearing than being retained beyond my control. No one expects to be able to remove their comments in a forum. Everyone expects to be able to remove their email access, because you never know what kind of unpleasantness you’ll encounter from others. It may hurt to delete a profile you’ve invested in, but you do it when you need to. Facebook content should not be held to journalistic standards of consistency. First, the owners of Facebook are not responsible for my content, I am. They cannot morally claim credit or responsibility for what I say or do, even if legally they might be able to try. They are not my publisher, they are at best my writing pad or gaming board, and if I want to tear off the page and throw it away, or not play anymore, it should be allowed.

Second, Facebook is a social network. In the analog world, if I remove myself from a social clique because I find them unpleasant, they don’t see me any more. If I want to remove the ability to contact me, I can do that. If I tell someone one day I’m fine, and the next day I’m not, and the next day I’m tired, it’s not necessary to record it for posterity’s sake. But Facebook apparently thinks it is.

Facebook is more like an imagined secret society in a movie – once you’re in, you’re in, and you can’t take it back. Got a stalker? You can’t delete your profile. Get in and discover dirty chatters on Scrabulous and invitations to friendship from deceptive strangers aren’t what you want from a site? This is a place where people inflict countless invitations to movie quizzes, or to see their virtual pets. It’s unusually socially demanding and if you don’t have time to spare responding to all the emails and updating your profile, you can offend coworkers. But if you want to opt out altogether, you’re stuck. The reason – convenience in returning, which I’m unlikely to do if I leave in the first place – is ridiculously flimsy.

Facebook forcing me to be “present” when I want to leave is like paparazzi invading the life of a privacy-seeking celebrity, or a stalker publishing an online blog of his observations, or an identity thief using my data to accomplish his own ends. It’s just plain wrong.

I want out.

P.S. I notice there’s an “edit” option on this comment. Are you sure you’re not encouraging people not to think before they post by providing this? Could this be an implicit acknowledgment of the fact people sometimes want to correct mistakes, or take things back? ;–)

Speak Your Mind