The good old days of Facebook, pt. 2

I began this blog with the following post:

Remember when only your best friends could see your moment-by-moment stills of weekend silliness? When only they knew your Dashboard Confessional lyric-ed profile meant you had finally dropped the latest loser? Six months ago my mother only vaguely knew that Facebook wasn’t a massage therapy text; now, we chat daily about my cousin’s muscle-filled updates from Guam and another cousin’s intense (and intensely interesting) love for puppy cams.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy connecting with my mother on Facebook. I am long past wistful reminiscing for the days of craziest photograph contests and curse-filled status updates. Now I reminisce for the days of old, when my wedding pictures weren’t used to sell cupcakes and self-identifying as “female” didn’t gear all of my sidebar advertisements toward weight loss.

The latter I almost understand; what am I going to do with a “BLOCK! BLOCK! BLOCK! BLOCK!” Old Spice advertisement (apart from laugh hysterically)? But as Nick Bilton’s NYT piece notes,

…in recent months, Facebook has revised its privacy policy to require users to opt out if they wish to keep information private, making most of that information public by default. Some personal data is now being shared with third-party Web sites.

As a result, the company has come under a blitz from privacy groups, government officials and its own users, who complain that the new policy is bewildering and the new opt-out settings too time-consuming to figure out and use.

Privacy: closing the blinds when it’s finally time to clean the ceiling fans. Privacy: 170 options in what seems like 500 different pages, or else “third parties” know that you enjoy playing Wii with your husband.

Every time Facebook makes a change, it causes an uproar. Search “Facebook” under groups (on Facebook, naturally) and you’ll find angry users who went 1 million strong against every newsfeed, minifeed, font change, and twitterish appropriation – users who are, by and large, still around, clicking 500 billion minutes a month on Farmville and Mafia Wars.

I understand and appreciate the immense advantage to connecting a user’s interests to their web experience. I actually find that quite brilliant. But sometimes, brilliance is creepy. Facebook “recommendations” (reconnect with your spouse! send your elementary school girlfriend a message! friend your boss’ ex-wife!) often fall into the crypt keeper realm. More than once Facebook has recommended a former colleague or elementary school friend, or even someone I’ve just met at the dog park in town, with whom I have no mutual friends. All together now: How’d they do that?!

Users and news outlets are screaming a bit louder about these newest privacy updates, and they do make me reconsider the way I use my corner of the Facebook world. Sometimes I wonder if their PR strategy is to just move through with changes, knowing that so many people have formed so many meaningful connections they can’t find elsewhere that they will whine, but ultimately enjoy their tailored browsing experiences. I don’t know anyone who’s actually fulfilled a threat to quit the site, so they’re clearly on to something. Do you have a better approach?

Well, my cousin is now on a naval ship headed to South America, I have hidden the puppy cam cousin, and we are living in a post-timeline world. Or at least I am. Is everyone updated yet? I did the developer early update trick and promptly spent three hours reading (and sometimes deleting) everything that’s happened in my life since 2006.

Perhaps I’m just growing older, but I am getting tired. Facebook stopped sending me emails when people posted on my wall, so when my friends who use that as their primary method of contact said hello, I had no idea. I changed the setting, but it took a while to figure out where/how to do so. The news feed is all jumbled. And… I just don’t care as much as I used to.

Timeline is smart. The newsfeed and subscribe changes are probably fine too, I’m just tired. I don’t want to keep adapting to your site, Mr. Zuckerberg. Maybe it’s the old fart in me, but leave well enough alone. Anyone else agree?

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