Today I read the New York Time article “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” by Pamela Paul. It talks about the profound sense of loss of privacy, for both source of information as well as the informed.
There is something about Facebook’s business model that troubles me. It seems to monetize the human need to share. It works at the level of the id, a place where motivations are chaotic and ill-formed. How many stories have you heard just this week about people using guns in relationship to a Facebook event? (Here’s two, if you missed them: “Father Shoots Daughter’s Laptop Over “Disrespectful” Facebook Post” and “Facebook ‘Defriending’ Led to Double Murder, Say Police”)
It seems to me that the being “open and transparent” that Facebook supports, and the deep emotional sharing that occurs sometimes thoughtlessly on Facebook, seems to exploit people at their weakest: when they are operating more out of their id, their heart. Moreover, it appears (based on the two previously mentioned articles), that Facebook content is sometimes consumed it that same frame of mind.
Zuckerberg has said in his letter on the eve of the IPO that “Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness” and “By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information.” He closes with lip-service to past criticisms of Facebook “We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.” It is interesting to point out that the issue of control is mentioned only once in the entire letter.
In the real physical world of personal relationships, sharing is framed with some context. This context is lacking in Facebook. That is what makes the control issue so problematic: how does one represent the context so that a person operating more from the id can move to operating more from the ego and make rational decisions? And, moreover, what is Facebook’s business motivation to prevent people from sharing? None that I can see.
“Good fences make good neighbors” is about social order being built on boundaries. Facebook is about removing those boundaries. Is this a good thing? I’m not so sure.