Archive for May, 2010

Facebook, for me…

May 4, 2010

Two years ago, I was urged by my friend to join Facebook to see her latest photos. I had heard about Facebook but was reluctant to join mainly because I was already on a similar networking site called Orkut and I didn’t want to start all over again. Besides, I was also weary after a bad experience with “Tagged”. Does any remember being tagged? $#!%.

Anyway, I joined Facebook and boy, was I in for a surprise. I was elated to see that it was truly a networking site where people actually interacted, shared jokes, comments, music etc on a daily basis. It was fun and it became addictive! Even today I get major withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t been on FB at least once a day. The thing about FB is that it was launched at the time when the whole world was on par with information technology. Hence there is a wider audience and I was able to reconnect with many of my friends not just in the US but also in India, Venice, London, Australia, Singapore and more recently Dubai.

Until Facebook I had a few options of  keeping in touch with my friends and it was not very effective. For example, we would email each other but it’s like writing a letter, so time consuming and after a while it’s just forwarding jokes and chain emails. Or, we would coordinate a time to IM/Chat but living in different time zones poses a challenge. Phone calls were expensive, at least until Voice over IP technology became a success. As you can see, Facebook was a perfect solution to all these challenges in my life.

I started out with a few best friends. Remember the early days in school when we would be a group of 3 or 5 girls, huddled together, doing homework, reading, playing and having fun, aloof from all that’s going on around us. Yeah, I began that way.

Six months down the line, more and more people found me and I found them. It was like, wow, it’s you, the teacher’s pet or the most popular girl in school. And then hey wasn’t that the guy on whom I had a crush on or jeez, what’s she or he up to now. Familiar feelings?

Soon, Facebook became like a school cafeteria. I would waltz in and see everyone (their comments) and say hello to some and chat for a while (use Like button or leave a comment) and sign out. It also reminded me of my carefree life as a student, of who I was and how much I had morphed into a machine in this urban humdrum. Yes, my friends, FB to me is a platform where I relive my life as a student, as a teenager and sometimes even as a child.

Since last year, I started accepting friends from work (current and previous) and also from other areas of my life. So, my comments became a little more measured and professional. It wasn’t really hard because I am restrained in my communication anyway but it’s just that I became a little more cautious. Plus, I had to write with an international appeal as my friends live all around the world.

And, then came the announcement of the new Open Graph API and Open Graph Protocol. In simple terms, what this means for you and me is that this platform is now like a mega convention with many vendors coexisting and competing for your clicks. The difference here is that these vendors know all about you even before you go to their stall. This helps FB and all their partners to customize ads based on your personal likes and dislikes on your page to potentially increase clicks, conversions, sales and revenue. (Welcome to my world!) So, basically instead of me being part of a market segment or a demograph in terms of age, sex and ethnicity, the marketers will come directly to my friends, my family and me.

I don’t mind seeing such ads especially on products I use and like. It’s much better than seeing those that embarrass me. But I am deeply concerned with what can happen to my personal information if it was sent out to all the vendors and how it can be used (abused?) and it’s bearing on my day-to-day life.

I wish FB is sensitive to this fundamental need of ours, the sense of privacy. If privacy didn’t matter to human beings living in the civilized societies, then why do we build homes, have doors, windows, and gates? We could all just live like cave men. There are ample studies proving that the need for privacy is as crucial as the need for having someone to talk to. Unfortunately, there has to be balance between the two for a sane life. Is it so hard for companies like Google, Facebook etc to understand and respect this?

Coming back to me, I am hoping to remain connected with my friends forever, hoping that they would not drop off from FB for fear of their privacy being violated as I will still be around, probably more professionally if things were to go out of hand.