Facebook Camp

Having just returned from FacebookCampToronto4, I have to say that the more I learn about Facebook, the more concerned I become.

First it was the Youtube video about how Facebook owns everything you put on it, and is (somewhat loosely) connected to all sort of people/agencies involved in various intelligence gathering initiatives and operations.

That aside, what was somewhat disturbing during the event today was the way no one seemed to have any qualms about Facebook’s gleeful blurring of the “advertisement / editorial” distinction that is sacred to reputable journalism (not to claim that Facebook is engaged in journalism, per se, but the analogy holds).

Facebook proudly promotes as a “best practice” that people using their ad system link up their ads to users’ social actions, so that when I see a news feed item that, for instance, shows my buddy has gone to some event, the event organizers who may have posted an ad for that same event can have their advertising content automatically incorporated into the news feed item, piggybacking their paid advertising onto legitimate news about what my friends are up to.

The other thing that bugged me…

was how the redesigned facebook profile page (due to come out next week, and currently viewable at http://www.new.facebook.com/profile.php, though it’s pretty buggy) was being touted as a way to enable more/better “self-expression.”

I think we need to wonder about the degree to which trivial and largely superficial changes to our Facebook profile constitute an enhanced venue for self-expression. It’s a form of 21st century dandyism; I’m sorry, but if the way you express your “self” is by resizing certain boxes on your Facebook profile, your self is in dire straits.

The last thing that bugged me…

was the way we talk about addiction today, and how the goal of a Facebook developer (or of the creator of a new cookie, a new song, whatever) is to create something addictive. And, in the case of Facebook, not just addictive, but simple and pared down enough that it doesn’t actually involve any serious engagement. The goal of the creator is to create something that people will feel uncontrollably pulled to use, but only for short, intermittent periods of time with no purpose other than continued, addictive use. Consciously setting out to create things that are addictive is fairly ethically questionable.

I will take off my curmudgeon hat now.

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