I do not understand this public outcry. Look: social media is about transparency. It’s about putting it all out there, letting it hang loose, and saying, “Hey, this is me. Deal with it.” It stems from a push against traditional media and advertising that forced people to fit into some sort of predetermined box of expectations. This move toward transparency is liberating, not stifling. And if you don’t want to participate, no one is forcing you to post potentially embarrassing photos from last night’s party on your Facebook Wall when you know full well that you’re friends with your boss and other colleagues from work.
It comes down again – like so many current hot-button topics in American life right now – to personal responsibility. We’ve become a society that is unhappy with virtually everything yet rarely accepting the fact that we are to blame for, if not the issue itself, then with not doing something about it ourselves to fix it. Don’t like the idea of the world reading your status updates or knowing your birth date? You have a few options:
- Spend fifteen laborious minutes that you’d otherwise be spending playing FarmVille and go through your privacy controls and make them fit your comfort level;
- Don’t put up anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want the world to see;
- Bitch and moan;
- Design your own non-evil Facebook clone called Diaspora*.
Or just pull the plug altogether and go off the grid, John Connor-T3-style — which I don’t recommend unless you want to be one of those people who complain about “those damned kids and their Internets” and get laughed at by those damned kids for being completely out of touch.
I’d say choose either #1 or #2. If you’re programmingly inclined, give those guys at Diaspora* a call and get on that bandwagon. Please, though, stop with #3. Seriously. You give far more sensitive information to companies around the world every single day and there’s no outrage. You give your phone number to the local grocery store to get those in-store discounts. You punch in your secret code every time you grab money out of your ATM. You hand over your Social Security Number to apply for a credit card so you can afford to buy things from Amazon.com which stores all of your billing and shipping information and keeps track of all of your recent purchases so that it can suggest to you what you might end up liking to buy on your next visit. And let’s not even start with Google’s GMail…
The truth is, you want people to comment with an “LOL!!!OMG!!” next to that photo of yourself doing a kegstand on Spring Break. You want people to flood your Wall with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” on your special day and send you little digital gifts. You want people to chime in on your latest genius observation of the world that you posted as your status update. That’s the whole point of Facebook and social media in general. Otherwise, you wouldn’t even have an account; you’d just have a big tackboard at home on your wall where you’d keep all of these gems to yourself for your own amusement.
And it looks like that’s option number five.