Edo "Amin" Elan

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Facebook

In Social Networks on September 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm

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Four of my friends won’t go on Facebook. Their initials are L, M, N and O, a consecutively incremental alphabetical sequence that would probably appeal to their sense of aesthetics. You guessed it – though unconnected to each other, they are engineers. Their career paths are paved with non-disclosure agreements. They have worked on mainframes and hacked tiny phones, delivered for non-profits and vast organizations, worked for commercial, government and military organizations. They are hard-core geeks who code quickly, and code once. Most of what I learned in development management I learned from these guys.

Why won’t my gurus join Facebook? Because, in their eyes, Facebook is the Evil Empire du jour. My friends are shocked at Facebook’s privacy train wreck, and forward me news items about Facebook data leaks, and of hiring of Bush-era FTC people. They scoff at anyone updating their profile. They probably support EFF and feel all statuses are belong to the NSA.

They’re probably right. Covering privacy as a columnist in Web 1.0 days, I pushed an interview with EFF lawyers to Silicon Wadi print magazines. More recently I blasted Google on privacy issues on Israeli national TV.

What changed my view of privacy? Perhaps designing interfaces for social platforms changed my perception of privacy.

Now, my friends must be horrified that I evangelize Facebook to them. I coax them to join, so they can submit their personal likes and dislikes through OpenGraphs to Evil empires hidden behind the shroud of more fine-print than investigative reporters can wrap their minds around.

I only paused my sales efforts when I heard this resistance:

- “but what do you do there, anyway?”

Did I mention that L, M, N and O are men? Women get it. Some 20% more women than men visit Facebook.com (Quantcast). This matches statistics for iTunes. As Dr. Asher Idan says, “Men are from Gmail, women are from Facebook“. Women are more comfortable with the Facebook data chaos, including its potential betrayal, because they’re more social. One woman recently told me: “why is everybody hating those game applications? don’t they get this IS the thing to do in Facebook?”.

Women’s experience of real life is way more socially networked than men’s. They stop to ask directions while men fiddle with their GPS (I was waiting for a woman to invent the social GPS, then a bunch of Israelis did it instead and Robert Scoble beat me to them).

Women are more familiar with the consequences of sharing – how something you say may reflect on yourself, how it will be remembered by others, where it travels, how it can be overheard, how it may support a case for you or against you. A man may ask “what’s in it for me“; a woman asks “how will this reflect on me“.

One woman colleague recently shared with me her secret Facebook rule: “in Facebook, I brand myself – with each post, I think how it will build my image”. She enjoys it, where a man might have, well, bitched.

But What About The Risks

Is humanity blind to the risks? Oh, it’s fairly blind in general. Can it be manipulated? as easily as taking candy from a kid. But to some extent, we’ve already made the collective decision that sharing is so vital we’re willing to take risks. We may be making the wrong decision, as we sometimes do, and specifically when scaling things. But whatever the reason, the pull of the social is stronger than our rational defenses (don’t we adore poems and plays that sanctify situations when that part of ourselves takes over with disastrous consequences?).

In fact, even some anti-Facebook activists (http://deletefacebook.com) couldn’t resist using the “Like” button to share their dislike for Facebook. 3 days after being featured on BBC news, Some 250 people have clicked deletefacebook.com’s “Like” button to protest that Facebook encourages people to click such buttons. In this case, though liking is “a little irony”, they say with a wink/smirk. Why the smirk? Those 250 people willingly went on record as opponents of the Evil Empire, getting blacklisted just to protest publicly and save their friends. I guess this is Q.E.D. of sorts for the validity of Facebook.

Like others, I do remember my speeches about privacy. I also remember predicting a more social future, where snooping after people will be more shameful than any crimethink. Come, Friend me. Not just because of the gossip and the girls, but because if you’re not social, people – not governments – will start wondering whether you’re an outlaw or an IRS agent.

Because who else sends me traditional emails these days? Who else sends me a letter these days? Like my RL mailbox, my email inbox now contains paid subscription magazines, junk mail and bank statements. Friends, friends, you don’t want your messages to become part of my least loved inbox. You’re too young to die.

And Like Kyle says, “It Won’t Suck You In! Bwaaaa”.


Due diligence: I like some pretty controversial stuff, but I’m not going to share it with you or Facebook, duh.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more (plus we seem to have similar hardcore geek friends). Great postings, and btw: I just stole your RSS feed. Don’t even think about talking to the privacy police. Your RSS is in my reader now, and you’ll never find it. So let’s talks about the ransom money, ok?

  2. Am I missing out by not having a Facebook account?…

    From a public letter to some friends, titled “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Facebook”: > Is humanity blind to the risks? Oh, it’s fairly blind in general. Can it be manipulated? as easily as taking candy from a kid. But to some extent, w…

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