I’m starting to think that it’s not Sunday unless the New York Times has an article on Facebook. This week’s story gives a pretty balanced view of the latest controversies with the young whipper-snapper, the absolute latest being Facebook’s lovely (not!) new layout.
But, first, what’s great about Facebook? Well, the opportunity to rebuild families, as in the case of Karen Haber, whose relatives were torn apart by the Holocaust; and the chance for someone like a schoolteacher in Denmark to friend his prime minister and then get the guy to come and speak to his class of special-needs kids.
What’s not so great? The fact that too many users still don’t adjust their privacy settings, leaving their profiles (and virtual underwear) out there for anyone and everyone to view. What’s wrong with that? Read the story about the guy who got fired for what he wrote in a status update or the kid who got nailed by his dad for underaged drinking. (After reading this article, I immediately checked my settings to make sure they were still at “Only Friends.”)
People have to take responsibility for their own reckless behavior on the internet, but a poor vision (in this case, by Facebook itself) just exacerbates the willfulness of some to bare all, even the most mundane: “Chris Cox, 26, Facebook’s director of products and a confidant of Mr. Zuckerberg, envisions users announcing where they are going to lunch as they leave their computers so friends can see the updates and join them.” I don’t know about you, but most of my Facebook friends would not be able to join me at lunch even if they wanted to because they live in other states!
Sigh. I would be very sad to see Facebook become a glorified text-messaging system or just another Twitter. Right now, it’s so much more for me: I stay in touch with friends and family who are scattered across the US; I can follow my favorite writers as a fan; my blog is seamlessly updated to my profile so friends who wouldn’t otherwise visit my blog, can still read my stuff; and I can follow other blogs. All in one application. I just hope that Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t lose sight of the real utility of Facebook.