Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My love hate relationship with Facebook

I love the overall concept:

Use this wonderful platform on the world wide web to connect with friends and acquaintances all over the world.

Keep in touch with new friends, old friends and family.

Find old friends you've lost contact with and get reconnected.

Learn more about your friends and family than you ever did before.

Sometimes things you didn't want to know!

Which can kind of change things a bit...

A few years ago I read Ben Elton's book "Blind Faith" which describes a dystopian future where people must blog daily about everything going on in their lives and the idea of having a private life is heretic, in fact it's illegal. It's when our need to share so much of our lives with others goes awry, when big brother starts using that "sharing" to keep an eye on you. When you are actually denied private thought and political correctness is the norm. It's a pretty scary possible world, and I can see Facebook right in the middle of this.

Being connected is so good for people. Even an online connection is better than no connection at all, and I'd argue that Facebook has brought me alot closer to many people I didn't know all that well before. Like my cousins Cara and Mardi, who live in Melbourne and I've hardly seen since we were all kids over 30 years ago. I'm watching Mardi's kids grow up, I'm enjoying Cara's photos from some of the markets she goes to and sharing a few funny jokes. I definitely feel closer to them than I've been for years. I'm also loving keeping up with the antics of my two nieces in Canberra, and their irrepressible puppy Ruby. And it's such little effort to do so. A few photos uploaded, a couple of lines of comment, job done!

I've found old friends, like Jo in England, my ex cycling buddy from the infamous "Berlin or Bust" month long cycling tour in 1990. This Scottish lass from the Orkneys is now married with three girls and a stable full of ponies. I don't know that we have much in common these days, but it's just nice to keep in touch. Kind of like my mum who still sends Christmas cards once a year to old schoolfriends and families she stayed with in the UK and Canada back in the 50s. She's actually corresponding with some of the next generation now, but the connection's still there. Facebook just makes it a little easier.

I've created and joined groups on Facebook, based around common interests. I like how you can create an event and then invite people, and they can also invite their friends. I've done this for Coastcare projects locally, and you definitely get new people involved utilising these networks. I mean if it didn't work, there wouldn't be any advertising right?

Which is the crap part, the advertising. Not only do you get the ads down the side of the news feed, they are also encroaching within the newsfeed itself. Despite me understanding that there's no such thing as a free lunch, they are downright annoying and intrusive aren't they?

Apparently they use your personal profile to target ads for you. According to my ads I am fat, wrinkly and in desperate need of a man. How to make a woman in her late forties feel insecure, lonely and depressed? Log on to Facebook!!

I have been having a bit of fun removing, or rather "hiding" these ads. My feedback on all the weight loss, wrinkly skin and singles clubs ads is that they are offensive, because frankly, they are!! I've also labelled a few misleading, and alot uninteresting. I'm currently working out what to do with the ad for eco worms, I might keep that one for a while...

I've been contemplating changing my status to married just to see what ads I get then. I figure "in a relationship" would start getting me all the wedding planner ads so best to jump straight over that minefield into marital bliss. Do you start getting baby stuff? School enrolments? No, I'm too old for that. Divorce lawyers?? Swingers clubs?

The other thing I've found with Facebook is the "other messages". These are for people who aren't your friend to send you a message. They're good for buy and sell pages and the like, but there's also quite a few men trolling for lonely ladies as well. Whenever I remember to check these message there's usually a few little missives of love and friendship from complete strangers. Delete!!

My complete ire however, goes to Facebook apps. Not only are these insidious ways to get your personal details, they have ads within ads, and messages within messages and sometimes even ask for your phone number!! I regularly delete apps from my page because they have a nasty habit of somehow inserting themselves just because one of your friends or friends of friends looked at it once. Which is where you've got to use your brain a bit.

I'm not going to wax on about security, but I do think it's important that people regularly check their security settings and ensure that who they want to share with is correct. And to think before hitting the share button on some of the funny sayings and videos that do the rounds, because some of them are not just a funny saying, they're an insidious tracking device. And there's some pretty sick puppies posting stuff on Facebook these days....

I have some friends and family who haven't jumped onto the Facebook gravy train, and I respect that, and I've one friend who has removed herself because she is overwhelmed by the negative aspects of it.

I can still see more good than bad, but I'm keeping my eyes open and Ben Elton's dystopian future in mind.

But I will be sharing this post on Facebook!



  1. I get some odd ads--like Tide detergent. Does FB know that I don't do laundry that often? PS: I happen to use Tide anyway and have done so for many years. Recently, it was something for a dog adoption agency. Ok--whatever..

    I hate the damn apps, too. What a pain in the neck! I try to avoid them, but every once in a while, I get sucked in.

    I do love keeping in touch with people, but sometimes, it's a lot of work. You meet more and more people over time and that's a lot of people to be interacting with. Still, it's pretty cool.

    The book that you mentioned sounds interesting. I may want to check that out.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Some people definitely make Facebook their entire universe and want to FB chat a lot, which I just don't have the time or inclination for. I'm definitely a "keep in touch but don't expect me in your face much" kind of friend. I expect Facebook to do the "keep in touch" stuff by osmosis: I write a status update and all my friends should take that as a personal message about me, coz they sure aren't getting anything more. I message friends about specific things if I don't have their email address but I only occasionally do the chat stuff. You've either got time to do it (ie you're bored!) or you don't.
      Ben Elton has written alot of satirical novels about dystopian worlds. He's a British comedian with an Aussie wife (lives in Fremantle) who is pretty famous but have no idea whether that extends to the great unwashed USA.