I hate Facebook, but not for the reasons you might think. I have been working on the Internet since 1984. I remember modems. I remember dialup connections. I remember bulletin boards. I remember a time when there were no graphics on the Internet and Lynx (an early text only web browser) was the best you could hope for if you wanted to access the World Wide Web. I remember Gopher and Archie, (two means of storing and retrieving files on servers at universities all over the nation before the World Wide Web became powerful and easy to use), FTP, Usenet news and binary files.
I remember a time when everything you did to reach the Internet was shrouded in mystery and magic (XON, XOR anyone?). I remember Mosaic and its later descendant, Netscape, fondly. I remember America Online and my first $600 online bill and CompuServe with their strange little account numbers, I remember the Well, where the best writers actually DID write there. I remember the constantly growing Internet that always had something new around every corner. It grew faster and changed daily, but no one really paid it any mind, after all it had existed for nearly thirty years and most barely knew of its existence up to that point. No one knew what was about to happen. Most of our science-fiction up to that time, even the most progressive and amazing stuff written barely considered the implications or the complications that would arise with this new technology.
Something changed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Internet began to balkanize. It began to coalesce. Its formlessness began to be changed by the sheer volume of people who began to find their way there. Millions came every year, faster and faster, each bringing their expectations to the Internet of what it should be rather than accepting it for what it was. A means of communication, that equalized everyone who used it. The chance to speak your mind without being censored, unless what you said was stupid, and then people just stopped listening to you.
The same way the printing press brought The Word, literacy and ultimately the sum of human experience to anyone who could read, The Internet brought The World to anyone who had access to a computer and could relay their experience to anyone, anywhere, who wanted to listen. This was more than a book, this was Experience transmitted at the speed of light. The false separations of humanity, time, space, distance, race, creed, color, were all able to be overlooked because, as the joke went, on the Internet, no one knew you were a dog, so we were all made equal by the quality of our electronic musings.
Then the Internet experienced a change, and not a good one. The big corporations arrived. They set up their shops, and began to tell everyone what to expect from the Internet. They brought their old models of behavior from their previous medium (television, radio, music industries) and tried to bring the mojo that made them incredibly rich to the Internet. And it didn’t work.
The Internet required new mojo, it was not enough to be rich, you had to be good, to be smart, to be crafty, to offer people something REALLY new. And more of the same stuff that made you rich wasn’t it. Which lead to the college dorm rooms. There were plenty of smart, motivated, young people just waiting for an opportunity to create something new and that is where some of the newest and most powerful corporations got their start. Yahoo, Google, Twitter and Facebook are four such mega-corporations that rivaled the Old World Media in power and influence in the New Media World.
Since the clash of Old World Media and New World Media, the Internet has been awash in the blood of their combat. Creativity for the sake of creating has been replaced with the heady swirl of technology being created in an effort to make profit. These technological remora remain close enough to the swarming sharks of industry to make money, but not so close as to be eaten in their Promethean combat, striding across the world, affecting entire nations, for good and ill, sometimes in the same day.
Everyone is seeking to make money, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it seems that is all I ever hear about now when I think about the internet. The latest gadget, the latest cloud computing scheme/tool/asset, the newest APP, a better API, a newer operating system, the newest content management system, the latest social media event that will make me millions overnight if I act right now and send money to my friend in Nigeria/Amsterdam/Moscow.
So what does this have to do with my hatred of Facebook, you are asking? Why the trip down memory lane? Because Facebook and its many monolithic clones have done to the Internet something that none of the early evils which inflicted themselves upon the Internet could do.
Old Media for all of its power, money and influence, was never able to convince anyone that it WAS the Internet; Old Media was unable to convince you that it was the sum of all knowledge and that ultimately if you wanted to do something on the Internet, you had to go through them. No one believed it and thus it wasn’t true. But Facebook has 400 million people who use it and believe that it IS the Internet and beyond its borders there be Dragons.
Stay within the walls of Castle Facebook and you will be fine. Play our games, shop with our ads, communicate with your network of friends you have never met, and you will be fine. We will bring you the media you need. Facebook has everything you could ever need, so there is no longer a need to forage beyond our walls for food or entertainment. And if you must go to get something outside of Facebook, we want you to use your Facebook account data to join that new service, so you can find your way back to your cornerstone of your New Media experience.
Here are a few of the other things Facebook does that I simply cannot abide:
- I am unhappy with the constantly changing but not necessarily improving face of Facebook. Every few months, it looks and acts completely different, and often for no discernable reason. All I can be sure of is by the time I get it configured the way I like it, it will be changing and the services I like the most, will be gone or mutated beyond recognition.
- I dislike their draconian privacy practices that allow them to give away your information to whomever will pay them the most. Anytime you engaged in any activity on Facebook, whether it be quiz or game, you are giving away your information. And they don’t have to tell you who is using that data. And it did not start out this way. Take a look at how it has changed over time.
- I am displeased with the fact that they choose to make their privacy rules and settings as an opt-out rather than an opt-in. As an opt-out, you are relinquishing rights and access to information that you may not be aware is being made public or being used by the public domain as part of a greater marketing model. As an opt-in, you would be treated with respect because you would have the option to CHOOSE to participate rather than being forced to.
- I am angry that the faceless Facebook executives look to sell those here-for-to unknown rights to the highest bidder as part of an advertising campaign, most of their 400 million users are not aware they are participating in. Adding insult to injury, they hid the information of their shenanigans inside a document as complex and longer than the Constitution of these United States.
- I abhor the fact that even if you wanted to leave Facebook, they reserve the right to continue to maintain your account hidden from the general population but your connections made through your account continue to exist unless you make an effort to erase your existence, element by element from the Facebook (and their attendent lackies) systems and servers.
- Such a removal of your virtual self from their servers is a slow and steady process but one you must undertake if you wish to truly disappear from the Facebook Continuum. Even if you take the effort, there is no guarantee that your efforts will net you any real gain because the servers that Facebook uses, has backed up your virtual existence since the first day you ever put any files on the Facebook site.
The real issue I have with Facebook and all of its descendants and imitators is this: Facebook can be a candle in the darkness, it can be an island in the vast sea of data that is out there. I say to Facebook, BE that entry into this vast ocean, but do not try an convince anyone that you are all that there is, and that you have the power to treat people badly because you BELIEVE you control their experience while they are on the Internet. Because better corporations than you have thought that very thing and they are now just roadkill on the Internet Superhighway.
Many of them are companies that I have already mentioned, AOL, Compuserve, the Well, MySpace (I know Myspace is still alive, but it is really just a zombie-like existence, desperately seeking brains for sustenance). There are over one trillion web pages on the Internet today, and more spring into existence ever second. Each is a place you can go to and see and learn something new. You could spend the rest of your human existence looking at a page a second and not even scratch the surface of the number of pages out there. (60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours a day, x 365 days a year x 100 years or 3,153,000,000 – that is over three billion pages leaving 97% of the Internet unseen by you even after all that.)
Don’t let Facebook or any mega-corporation dictate to you what the Internet should look like. Go out there and find as many unique experiences as you can. If you have the power, the interest, and the capability, MAKE something unique for the Internet. PROSUME; produce and consume, create something new, reach the sum of your human potential.
I recommend StumbleUpon as a great way to see the Internet you have been too busy with Facebook to see. Get the toolbar for your browser, make an account on StumbleUpon, choose the things you are interested in and have at it. I promise you, you will see things that you could never find using Social Media because social media is really only good for one thing; talking about itself. Step away from the closed proprietary universe of Facebook and return to the Internet you never knew existed.
You don’t have to leave Facebook, just turn it off so that you can hear the rest of the signal out there. Look at Facebook and other social media like you would the Sun. While you are using it, you cannot see the other stars that may offer you equally fantastic tools, opportunities and ideas that may be obscured by the brightness and nearness of social media tools. Let the sun go down, let those other stars come out for a while. You may be amazed at what you might find. If you have a tool you like to use to find the hidden jewels of the Internet, share them here!
I found this video using StumbleUpon. It shows the development of a media group from their simple animations to this, their current crowning glory. A weird little gem of the Internet. Enjoy it!