I have a complicated relationship with Facebook. When it emerged as the king of social, knocking MySpace off its pedestal, I embraced it. It was thrilling to find old friends, to share things among friends who were thousands of miles away, to form a community of all those whom I’d ever known and loved.
Then the relationship began to take a turn for the worse: the network began to initiate a sequence of events which rattled privacy advocates to their core. I began to distrust Big Blue, frightened that the blatant disregard for privacy, and the open, ultimate goal of complete transparency would usher in a world in which privacy was an antiquated relic of the past.
To fuel the fires of my unease, I started to see my newsfeed filled with mind-numbing banalities. Meaningless memes, pictures of dinner, and unfiltered, random thoughts began to take over. Facebook was becoming a place I’d do anything to avoid.
Lately, I’ve changed my tune a bit. Zuckerberg has put out some genuinely useful features, and I’m now able to hide people from my feed, post only to friends by default, link apps and archive activity that may be useful to me later: Rdio, Tumblr, et al.
The unease is still there, nagging, but it doesn’t shout as loudly anymore. That’s not because Facebook’s goals have changed, but merely because they’ve refined their product to be more useful to me, somewhat canceling out some of my reservations.
All that is to say that there is no online entity with which I have such ambivalent feelings as Facebook. There can be no more “Facebook is good/ Facebook is evil” discussion, simply because it’s more complicated than that. It is both.
Whatever your feelings about the social network, there’s no denying that it’s huge. There will be many amazing things accomplished through Facebook, and there will be many atrocities, both trivial and of import. We’ve reached the point that Facebook users need to decide for themselves just what the social network means to them.
In that spirit, I simply want to highlight two posts of ReadWrite which highlight the ambivalence I feel, and which should inspire a bit of contemplation on the matter.
The first post was published back in July, when Facebook introduced its Graph Search feature. The piece highlights both the usefulness of and the red flags raised by the ambitious project.
The second post, which references the first, was published this week, and details the decision of Facebook to make all posts, comments, locations, and images available to Graph Search. Again, this could be very useful. Again, it could be very harmful.
I’ll let you decide.