Facebook is a popular social network system used by people of all ages, but it isn’t for everyone. Just in the last few days, three of my friends canceled their Facebook accounts. Why might you want to stay or leave Facebook?
My first friend left on principle, calling the networking system Big Brother. A year ago, Facebook was in boiling water with a tool called Beacon used for reporting users activities outside of Facebook back to the social networking site. MoveOn.org hit the site with a petition signed by 50,000 against Beacon claiming it was a privacy violation. Shortly afterward, a lawsuit was filed against Facebook and Blockbuster for these activities. Facebook has since publicly recognized the failure of Beacon, but they haven’t let go of this bone entirely. Activity inside Facebook is carefully communicated and tailored to advertisers. For example, when I posted some photos of my new dog, that day I started to receive sidebar ads for dog programs and supplies. These same ads were also sent to my friends who commented on my dog’s photo. You can, to some extent, impede this by clicking on the security link and opting out of this add share program. Also, you clean your cooking before and after using Facebook, sort of like washing your hands before and after handling food.
A second friend bailed on Facebook because she had heard that potential employers are trolling the site for inappropriate or illegal behaviors. When too many of her friends tagged her in their party picks, she decided to get herself uninvited to the Facebook party. According to a Careerbuilder survey, just 22% of potential employers are trolling Facebook and Myspace for dirt on potential employees. While this number is relatively small, the number of candidates dropped by these employers was not. A ComputerWorld summary reported that a whopping one third of these candidates were dropped from the hiring process because of for some information found on these sites. Before lulling yourself with the numbers game (78% of employers don’t look, right?), consider that this practice is up 11% from just two years ago. It does make one wonder if Facebook peeping is a rising trend.
Finally, a third friend left Facebook because it was, well, too social. When people she couldn’t remember from high school were friending her, the newsfeed information felt like voyeurism, and the numbers of snowballs and hugs and invitations were creating a blizzard of e-mails, she decided enough was enough. She left because she wanted more control over who she talked to and when. A coffee with a friend at Starbucks, she said, felt a whole lot more intimate.
Facebook may not be for everyone, but I like it. It is a community with all the politics and pitfalls as any other community, but also the potential. I enjoy knowing what far away friends are doing and, yes, even eating for dinner. It is in the details that friendships are forged and maintained. I also love reconnecting with old friends and even those who weren’t all that close because through them I see the continuity of my past and present. And for those in my life now, I can use the site to make short work of organizing those meetings at Starbucks because when it gets down to it there really isn’t anything to replace a conversation face to face.