Facebook: Business in the front, party in the back.

A lot has been said lately about Facebook getting lax with it's privacy settings. I'm pretty sure no one is on the edge of their seat waiting for me to weigh in on this, even if I have trumpeted the usefulness of something like Facebook on numerous occasions, sometimes pointing out how safe I felt my information on there was [though this is rarely the main thing I give the site credit for]. As the privacy concerns go, I encourage everyone to read this article on Slate.com by Farhad Manjoo, and if still incensed, head over to moveon.org, which has made a relatively useful visual chart to show you what gets shared and when, and even provides you with a link to sign a petition, if you think that might get something done.

No, what really spurred on this entry were two blogs by friends of mine, one by the oft-linked John over at the Bathroom Monologues, and the other at Shiso Style by the Japanese-based [for a little while longer, at least] Heke.

But first, this privacy matter. I will admit, I am not as up in arms as I probably should be. I've never technically considered privacy a right, as much as something that an informed individual can have if they're very diligent -- because of this, I don't take surveys [in my entire life, I've done one -- and it was because the person I did it for was someone I thought a great deal of], I don't fill out customer feedback forms, I refuse to use discount cards at grocery stores, and when possible I try to purchase things online from individual businesses, and not through their setups with Amazon. I go so far as to extend this to a matter of politics, and tend to avoid things like polling too -- just as a blanket rule, of course, anyone who wanted to know what or how I thought need just engage me in conversation and it'll become obvious where I stand pretty fast. Some call this paranoid, and while I think that's fair, in what I see as a consumer-driven society the most important information I can keep to myself is how I spend my money, and what purchases I make.

And yes. I find that depressing too. But that's the world, Alice.

Anyway, as far as the information on my Facebook page goes, I have trouble getting worried about it being taken and used in any particular way. Yes, I think Facebook is overstepping in terms of control of this information -- an all or nothing interface covered by a mask of user-friendliness and simplicity is what killed AOL -- but in the long run, that will do them more damage than it will me. And furthermore, if they desperately think they can piece together who I am and what I'm doing from a list of bands and TV shows, articles and blogs I like, and the name, address, and phone number you can get by Googling me, then more power to them. Adobe, Google, and MySpace weren't able to turn into Big Brother with all of that, and I don't expect Facebook will either. And though it takes a little diligence, as long as I, the user, can still control what information Facebook has by paying attention to the information I give it, then I won't be closing my account anytime soon.

Which brings me to what I really wanted to write about. Facebook is a tool, like all social networking has shown itself to be. I use Facebook, mostly, for three things:

1. A Personal Assistant.

I can't afford to hire a girl Friday, or a guy Tuesday [let's avoid the sexism conversation over why who got what days]. I don't have a PDA -- hell, I'm still using what most people would qualify as a disposable cell phone. But Facebook does something the best automated rolodex only hopes it could do -- it keeps all my friends', acquaintances' and fellow alumnus' contact information, their phone numbers, e-mail and physical addresses, and birthdays in one handy, mostly search-able database. And if none of that is listed, well, then I can send messages directly through the service to the person.

2. To Keep Up With People and Make Connections.

At this point in mine and my peers' lives, time isn't always something we have an excess of. People get busy. As if that weren't depressing enough, because of where I went to school, and where I ended up after, the bulk of my friends, or even just people I'd like to keep up with peripherally, are not down the hall anymore. I can't call a lot of my friends to go out for dinner or a drink right now, so as poor of a substitute as it is, when it's possible to check in with someone and keep up with what they're doing in life through Facebook, I will. It's far better than losing these people because I didn't try to keep up at all.

3. To Promote Myself, and Have Fun

I'm an attention whore. I have a blog, so this shouldn't surprise anyone. I like having a place to post snippets of things I write, to say "look, I did this" or "hey, I'm working on that." It's shameless, but I've come to terms with it, and Facebook is a nice place to show people who might actually care. Five of the seven readers I have started coming here once I started posting my new blogs on Facebook, and you just can't argue with those kinds of results. And it's not just about me -- though I don't pimp friend's work as much on Facebook as I do here or on Twitter, it's still a rad place to post links of things that I'm enjoying, or have just finished reading. And while it's probably not as much fun for people like Farmville or Mafia Wars are, I enjoy that.

Ah, and I have one big rule for Facebook: I'm not about to fucking argue over politics there. Once or twice I've run into people giving me shit for my hardcore Obama-love, or my stance on gay rights, and I'm not about to turn my page into a pulpit or get openly angry at someone's ignorance. I've been on the site long enough to have gone down that road before, and if I wanted that kind of crap, I'd still post on comic book and pro-wrestling message boards.

And sure, I bet all of that sounds really obvious, and simple -- and it largely is. The most useful parts of Facebook for me are the aspects of the service they've always provided, and as long as they continue to offer them, I'll probably hang around... and keep neutering everything else they include in the package [it's okay, if you got that, you can laugh]. And because the things I use Facebook for are relatively base in their execution, something interesting has happened with it where it's mixed my personal life, and what I'd consider my more "business life."

Specifically, I'm doing work now with a boss who I consider more of a friend, on a job that came to me through Facebook. As a matter of fact, both of the freelance jobs I'm doing now came because of Facebook, snuggled between messages about a friend's puppet show and me talking about how I can't wait to see Malcolm Ingram's "Bear Nation." And that's strange, because there is still something "college" to me about Facebook, where it's supposed to hook me up with friends, it's supposed to be a place where I swear in my status messages, or post vague things about how I'm feeling that I hope people won't ask about. But now I post pictures of the comic Justin and I are working on, and make offers to people to proofread stuff for them... while still using it to hook up with friends, swear in my status messages, and post vague things about how I'm feeling. I mean, if I were the type to be photographed passed out in a lawn chair holding a red cup, I almost wouldn't be okay with that, that crossover between what I do in my off time, and what I do for "work." But I'm not that guy, and I don't really work anyway, so there's something about the crossover I like, that I find charming. Even if it's probably bitten me on the ass in ways I can't even comprehend yet. But it's straightforward, and I appreciate the idea of that, if not the execution, and have been thinking quite a lot what it means for us, going forward.

Which I guess does come back to privacy a bit. And I wonder, since my main goal is to get as much information about myself and the stuff my friends are doing out there as possible, if maybe I'm not the best person to be weighing in on this whole accessibility of information/privacy issue. I'm definitely having one of those moments where I'm wondering why I'm not perched atop a soap box, pounding angrily at a copy of Orwell's 1984 with the backside of my hand.

Oh well. I've spent way too much time talking about nothing at all, and coming to no sound conclusions by doing so. We'll justify this entry by calling it a brain dump, and being done with it.

In other, Mojo Wire related news, you'll notice at the bottom of the right hand column I've added a Blog Roll, which will show the most recent entries of the 50 or so blogs I decided to put it. It was most important to me to get in folks I know, and Bennington people who are blogging, and was done partially because as little time as the Twitter links take, some days I just don't make it around to them until late, and even though I'm nocturnal, not all of my few readers are. I also added a few other people's blogs that I just enjoy reading, and would like to give some meager traffic to, if at all possible. If you notice anyone I left out, or there's something I should be reading but I'm not, don't hesitate to let me know. I compiled them quickly, and didn't include everything I read. It just would have taken too long. There should be a drop down where you can see the most recent entry of them all.

The only drawback are Tumblr blogs. Blogger still doesn't want to play nice with those. I'm looking into fixing that, but it might take a little time. Suggestions are welcome.

Also, you may have already noticed in my "about" section, but I have a MySpace page now. I've actually had it for awhile, as I reserved it way back when we were working on Trendsetter, when Kyle said I might want some sort of presence. Even though it seems mostly like an anachronism now, I activated my account because I've been meeting some local people who still use it, and it's a quick way to get in contact with them. Plus, all the extra work and errands means I've been listening to even more music, and until I have time to take the last.fm dive, this is nice alternative. I don't look at it often, and pretty much just run my blog and mirror for my twitter on there. If you still have a MySpace page, for whatever reason, you might want to add me, to make me feel less like a herb with only his favorite bands and some weird performance artist as his "friends."

I'd also be curious for some feedback on something. My friend Glen recently made a "Like" page for his blog on Facebook -- of course, he actually posts about far more important stuff than I do, and has all the pretty pictures going up and a fairly consistent pace. Basically, all it does it let you click "like" on entries on the blog so it'll post them to Facebook for you, which seems like a vaguely cool thing to do and way get some attention on the Mojo Wire. However, the two writers who I pretty much use for a litmus test for this sort of thing [John and Eric] haven't done this, and as much as I'd love to be considered a trailblazer, if two of my more talented peers don't think it's worth their time, I don't want to embarrass myself.

My schedule is pretty full for the rest of this week, feeling a little crazy about it. Might be why I feel so addled. Trip into town tomorrow... back to the court house. It's probably a good sign that I had to check the internet to find out how to request a police report. Sleep schedule has been all messed up too.

Not all bad news though. Getting to go to Boston, see some of my friends from college in the middle of June. A friend of mine, the first person I met at Bennington is getting married -- pretty big deal, and how I managed to work everything out so I can go is still a bit of mystery. Let's just say I'm lucky to have the people in my life that I do.

Hm. That sounded too sappy for me. Not my fault... I even miss New England.

2 comments :: Facebook: Business in the front, party in the back.

  1. I think you've taken a good stance on the Facebook privacy thing, as you might remember I've always been on the lax side of this issue. Mainly for the reason you point out; I think it's funny to give FB all your information just to block it all. Someone who really wants to use that info to do damage will look at those "security measures" and laugh. I have a close acquaintance (who will remain anonymous here) that can use any computer to find anyone's Social Security number and credit card numbers in about two minutes; I've seen him do it with my own eyes. If somebody wants to single you out and wreak havoc with your personal info, they can do it no matter how many little boxes you've checked on Facebook. It's for that reason I've never even looked at the privacy page on Facebook; for me it just doesn't matter. Now granted I haven't put up my home address or phone number so the not-so-computer-savvy can't just bug me when they want, but that seems like common sense to me. And if somebody wants to see that Hellboy is my favorite comic and touch themselves at night, more power to 'em.

    As far as the fanpage and stuff I've done recently, first I should point out that the fanpage and the "like" button for each post on my site are separate entities. I tried to get them to communicate with each other, but Facebook has some more work to do in that area. Basically the "like" button on each post is for more exposure, and the fanpage is so I don't have to add as friends the people who only want to keep track of me for my art. I tend to only add people on FB that I actually know so that my news feed isn't cluttered. I mean I love it that people want to check out my work, but I think adding them as a FB friend isn't the solution to that. In that regard it has been a huge success, because only about 100 of my FB friends have joined my fanpage, and it has over 230 fans. So that's well over 100 people that can easily follow and offer feedback on what I'm doing with my professional life without me having to see all their status updates and think "wait...who is that again?"

    If you want the code for the individual like buttons let me know!

  2. Ah. I did not realize they were separate entities, mostly do to a long diatribe I sat through about how they work, which was apparently very, very flawed.

    But I would like the code for the "like" button. I don't know that it would make any difference, but it'd be a nice thing to try out. Part of me says people would have clicked "like" on the links I put on Facebook just as easily, but the other part of me says -- expose yourself!

    Er, not in that way. But yeah, if you'd send me the code, I'd appreciate it.