Sunday, March 11, 2012

Facebook face-off

With the recent IPO of Facebook shares and construction of a Facebook data center in northern Sweden, it looks as if Facebook is here to stay. But I can’t say I’m staying with Facebook. It’s getting too commercial and too intrusive for my taste.

As an American who lives abroad, it’s a great way to stay in touch with far-flung family and friends. I enjoy my daily dose of friendly chatter. But Facebook is losing its charming folksiness.

My first beef is Facebook assumes a lot about me based on my age and gender, which are required information to open an account. My wall, or excuse me, “timeline” (I’m a resister) is filled with ads for arthritis medicine, weight loss products, and large-size bras even though Facebook doesn’t know my health status or weight (or so I think). But stereotyping has never stopped advertisers in the past, so why start now?

A couple months ago, I tried to update my profile. But I could no longer write what I wanted about my hobbies and interests. Everything was preset, and I could only click on icons to list my favorite books, movies, and music. I couldn’t write any free-standing information. Not wanting to be connected to these pages, I chose nothing.

But most upsetting is the meshing of personal and professional information. I recently saw a job announcement where the only way to apply for the position was through a Facebook or Google account, which automatically reveals the applicant’s age, gender, and looks (depending on the account picture). Nor did the announcement provide an email or traditional address where applicants could send documents to bypass a Facebook or Google login. For kicks, I decided to see if I could apply yet block access to potentially discriminatory information. If there was a way to do it, I couldn't figure it out.
I understand Facebook is a business and needs to make money. But it has gone too far. It’s sacrificing its reason for being to commercial interests, and I don’t know how long or how far I’m willing to cooperate. I know people who never have and never will open a Facebook account. I hope they can hold out.

I wanna talk to my peeps without worrying who’s listening in. It’s enough to drive me back to email and anonymous ads for penis enlargers.

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