Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Facebook - if you don't like the monster, then don't feed it!



I was going to write a big, long-winded review of the BBC programme Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook.

But I'm not, because that wasn't really what I set this blog up to do. 

I started writing it, and it seemed like, well, WORK.

And even though technology and relationships is my job, it never feels like work to me. Just a series of challenges that I do my best in.

Watch it yourself and let me know what you think. Here are mine...

The programme had it's good points, and Emily Maitlis is a pretty cool person, but she took a typical journalist's angle towards Facebook - the tired 'is Facebook a bit evil' stance.

At one point, Emily sat on a dreadful sofa and went through the Facebook advertising process.


You know the one - it helps companies find out how many dog lovers in Manchester like New Order, or how many men in the Greater London area use chest weaves more than twice a week.


Somehow though, Emily endeavoured to make the whole process sound like some sinister data siphoning information - unintentionally at times making the documentary sound like something Chris Morriss would have dreamed up.

At one point, I had to check under my keyboard for a voyeuristic cyber elf with a USB stick and an envelope bound for Palo Alto.

Let me clear this one up for you Emily. Facebook is NOT evil. But it is a business.

It's one that I don't always agree with, or enjoy using (hello, old Facebook Insights) all of the time. And it is true to extent that there are companies on there that don't necessarily play by the rules, or have any respect for their users. You only have to take a look at the number of companies currently breaking Facebook's promotion guidelines to see how much some of these companies care about having meaningful conversations with their audience.

But that doesn't mean that the majority of the people behind Facebook brand pages are subhuman social media vampires, sucking the fun out of your news feed. If you find the information that you get from a page. In fact, most of the ones I met are either really savvy, nice people, or a bit thick.

And Facebook? Well, they want a transactional relationship with you. They rely on it to power their site, and it works.

The only relationship that Facebook has with you is a transactional one. It gives you the tools to share information with your friends about the world around you, and in return, you give them the data you choose to share on and off the site (choose being the operative word here.

There is nothing inherently evil about that - it's the nature of their business, and although they have made some mistakes in the past (Beacon springs to mind), they're not dumping oil into the sea, hacking your phones or smashing your kneecaps in over a high-interest loan.

I get people's concerns about their data, and the supposed sanctity of it. But if you really, really care about your data, then there are now options out there - Diaspora and Twitter have simpler, more open attitudes towards the data you share with them. Join them!

Remember, if you keep feeding this monster that you are so afraid of, then it will only get bigger.