Saturday, May 29, 2010

Is Quit Facebook Day worthwhile?

Quit Facebook Day: As you may of heard, a group of Toronto men has started a movement to make May 31, 2010, "Quit Facebook Day". This is being done to protest Facebook's reported lack of respect for their users' privacy.

I'm certainly no fan of every change that Facebook has implemented, but overall I've benefited tremendously from joining the social networking site. Quite frankly, it would take a lot for me to leave -- and I do mean a lot. In fact, Facebook has become so ingrained in my online life that I cannot imagine ever leaving... ever. Of course, I said the same thing about MSN a few years ago and I now barely log in, however Facebook isn't the same thing as MSN at all.

Not being on Facebook these days is like not having a telephone, or electricity. I've noticed a few people mention online that they would be quitting Facebook on May 31.

My initial reaction was one of incredulity. How could they even contemplate it? If you're serious about networking, Facebook offers an extra level of sharing and information that you just can't get with Twitter and certainly not with MSN.

While it's true that the constant (and sometimes seemingly trivial) tweaking of Facebook can be maddening at times, it just means you have to be extra vigilant at ensuring your privacy settings are properly maintained in order to ensure that the information you don't want shared with others is protected.

My advice: Stick with Facebook, but ensure your privacy settings are monitored regularly to ensure you're comfortable with them. As well, do a Google news search from time to time to keep up with what's new. You'll also notice that your Facebook friends will post helpful hints from time to time to help you maintain your optimal settings at the right level. Just check out the advice first to ensure it's not based on rumours or hoaxes. There are also Facebook groups you can join to ensure you stay on top of privacy issues.

Squealing to parents: I had a dilemma earlier last week when the teenage child of some close friends started clicking "like" on some questionable Facebook content. If you took the questionable content to the extreme, you could consider it hate speech. Now, I didn't think the child meant it as hate speech.

They just thought it was funny and clicked "like" without thinking. Unfortunately, the page they "liked" ended up on their newsfeed that got broadcast out to all their Facebook friends.

To the child's Facebook friends of the same age, the page was likely humorous and harmless to them. To the adult Facebook friends (mostly older relatives or friends of the family), I can pretty much guarantee that some eyes popped out of heads. Mine did.

My dilemma, quite frankly, was whether or not to squeal to the parents. Was I being overly sensitive? Overly protective? Too nosy? I sent a note to parents of similarly aged children and asked them what they'd do. I included a screen shot of the questionable posting and asked, "If this was one of your kids, would you want to know?"

I honestly didn't know what the response would be. I thought they would, but I also didn't want to overstep my bounds. The response that came back was a firm "yes".

So, I ratted out the kid. I'm not sure how it was handled at home, but at least the parents know. (I also asked them if they wanted to know if I noticed something fishy going on and they said yes, so I did check first.)

If you're an adult and have teenagers (family members, children of close friends) as Facebook friends, it's a good idea to check with the parents of the kids to see what the boundaries are. Do they want to know? Not want to know? Only want to know if something is clearly illegal? It's a matter of judgment, however it's your duty as an adult to ensure that minors on your Facebook friends list aren't getting themselves into trouble.

With that said, you also have to accept the fact that the kids may get angry at you for tattling. Fair enough. Better to be mad at me than get suspended from school -- or worse -- for posting questionable content.

How-to videos on YouTube: This may sound like an obvious thing to most people familiar with the Internet, however it begs reminding sometimes when we use an excuse like, "I don't know how to (fill in the blank)." Whether it's how to properly cook lobster, how to paint a wall, how to put on makeup or how to tie a tie, remember that YouTube is an amazing repository of free content. Just type in "how to" and then what you want to do, and a bunch of videos should come up.

Now, like I said, this may sound excessively simple to some, however I've often forgotten this myself. With millions upon millions of free videos, YouTube is an excellent source of advice on cooking, home renovations, personal care and nearly any other issue you need help with -- even homework! (Google "how to do long division" and you'll get a quick tutorial.)

Free Twitter backgrounds: Although most serious Twitter users use a program such as HootSuite or TweetDeck for their Twitter experience, there are still those who only use the Twitter homepage.

Even if you don't use it, it's good to ensure that it looks decent and isn't too generic.

There are a few free Twitter background services available out there, including twitrounds.com, twitrbackgrounds.com and twitbacks.com. Some are more customizable than others, so check around to see what suits you best. If you're serious about Twitter, put some work into your Twitter.com homepage.

3 comments:

Julia said...

I'm with you Brian. While Facebook ranks 3 in my social media priority (LinkedIN is and always will be #1 followed by Twitter), it is a very useful tool. Witness corporations including a FB logo on their marketing material - Winners, Pizza Pizza (in ON, are they in NB yet?) and on goes the list. If they think FB is important enough to build a customer community, it's not going away anytime soon.

For those who feel they need a "quit Facebook Day", my feeling is if you go to a party and you don't like it, you don't have to stay, you can leave, but you don't have to try to get all the guests to leave with you.

bcromlish said...

Great post Brian - You have brought a situation to my attention that I would have never thought about. The fact is that youth will always look at questionable content online, it is part of the natural learning/making sense of our reality in this day and age. Im not a parent yet, but does one prefer children to do this rebellious intake from home or out with friends? I really do not know where I stand on this - it is a tough call.

As for the overall privacy issue, here is a great post I read from a fellow Gen-Y blogger that I think you will find to be quite enlightening. Andrew is a great blogger, he discusses about how the privacy issue isn't about facebook at all!
http://wordpost.org/2010/05/the-openclosed-fight-is-about-philosophy-not-facebook/

Downes said...

It's worthwhile, but it's too soon. We want and even need the functionality.

We need to wait until September 1, when Diaspora - http://www.joindiaspora.com/ - is expected to release a first version. Then we can replace Facebook, keep ownership of our data, and secure our own privacy.

(And yes - I am one of those 4500 people putting my own $$$ behind the Diaspora concept).