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Six Reasons I'm Not On Facebook, by Wired UK's Editor

David Rowan doesn’t care if you call him uncool – he’s not signing up.

“David, you’re sounding like an old dude!” Matt Flannery, who runs social-lending website Kiva, couldn’t understand when I explained that, no, I wouldn’t be keeping in touch with him via Facebook. “What are you worried about?” he teased in a break at the PINC conference in Holland. “Only old guys get worked up about privacy.”

Well, Matt, I admit I’m the wrong side of 30, and that I still avoid using emoticons in formal correspondence. But let me explain why I’m not active on Facebook, nor sharing my credit-card purchases on Blippy, nor allowing Google Buzz to mine my contacts list, nor even publishing my DNA on 23andMe.com.

My cautious use of the social networks has nothing to do with paranoia about privacy; and yes, I celebrate the unprecedented transparency and connectivity that these services can empower. But what’s increasingly bothering me is the wider social and political cost of our ever-greater enmeshment in these proprietary networks. Here are half a dozen reasons why.

1) Private companies aren’t motivated by your best interests
Facebook and Google exist to make money, by selling advertisers the means to target you with ever greater precision. That explains the endless series of “privacy” headlines, as these unregulated businesses push boundaries to make it easier for paying third parties to access your likes, interests, photos, social connections and purchasing intentions. That’s why Facebook has made it harder for users to understand exactly what they’re giving away — why, for instance, its privacy policy has grown from 1,004 words in 2005 to 5,830 words today (by comparison, as the New York Times has pointed out, the U.S. Constitution is 4,543). Founder Mark Zuckerberg once joked dismissively about the “dumb fucks” who “trust me”. I admire the business Zuckerberg’s built; but I don’t trust him.

2) They make it harder to reinvent yourself
“When you’re young, you make mistakes and you do some stupid stuff,” President Obama warned high-school students in Virginia last September. “Be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age whatever you do will be pulled up later somewhere in your life.” He’s right: anything posted online might come to haunt you permanently, yet all of us need space to grow. As the writer Jaron Lanier said in a recent lecture, if Robert Zimmerman, of small-town Hibbing, Minnesota, had had a Facebook profile, could he really have re-created himself as the New York beatnik Bob Dylan…

David Rowan is the editor of Wired UK magazine. He also writes The Digital Life, a monthly tech column in the Conde Nast magazine, GQ. This column originally appeared in CG’s September issue.

Read the full article at Wired.com.

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