I have been on Facebook for over year and a half (since the end of February 2010 to be more precise), and there are a lot of advantages of being in a social network. You can reconnect with those whom you lost contact with for a long time, keep in touch with current friends, meet new people and create your own personal networks, share your interests with others, and sometimes increase your chances of getting a job through the right connections. The downsides however overshadow the positive aspects of social networking. Reports of internet stalking, bullying and the result of suicide attempts, hacking into and stealing ones’ identity, and virtually stripping naked with personal issues make social networking one of the most abusive hobbies. But like many people, privacy is a paramount concern as our interests could be exploited by those wanting to make easy money.
Recently, Facebook went below the belt by adding the feature what type of friends you have. Now if you want to be friends with someone you know through facebook or invite an acquaintance to join your social network, you are strongly encouraged to categorize him by the basis of whether that person is a close friend, family, or acquaintance. I found this out as I asked a person whom I met at a conference in St. Louis to join the social network and got this feature thrown in my face. For five minutes or so, I tried to get rid of the feature and was very close to cancelling the friend request. Finally, I got rid of the feature and the request was accepted. However, the new feature has caused a stir among people like me, who fear that our privacy, which has become more and more a tabu, was being compromised further. While there is logic in having that feature there to identify potential stalkers and criminals who are best friends or acquaintances of those who invited them to their social network, finding out who are my real friends, and who are just acquaintances should be the responsibility of the person who meets them and wants to stay in contact with them. Nobody wants to classify them based on what facebook has for options for them. And moreover, nobody wants to be classified by others in order to provoke jealousy, or whatever sick thoughts that are possible in the age of information. I think we have a responsibility to determine who should be allowed to join our social network and who should be left out. It is all part of a bigger responsibility we have when accessing the internet and either surfing for the information we need or post information online for others to see. This includes online columns like this one. Those who are irresponsible should be educated properly so that their conduct does not affect others. This also includes those running the social network, like the founder of facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
Recently, Germany decided to go on a legal spree against facebook because of policy concerns the country has. While internet trafficking has weakened the boundaries of countries like the Bundesrepublik, Germany prides itself on privacy as the population treats it like they treat their books: sacred and fragile- handle with care. While it is unknown how the courts will rule on the privacy issues, perhaps Zuckerberg and other founders of social networks, like Linked-In, myspace, twitter, and StudiVZ/ MeinVZ should see this case as a wake-up call to scale back on privacy infringements and respect the wishes of the individuals who just want to be left alone to mind his/her own affairs. After all, one has to know his/her limits, those of others, and as far as the new facebook features are concerned, determine for him/herself what should go on the profile and who should join the social network and who should be deleted altogether. In the year and a half I have been on facebook, this is what I learned, even when it was the hard way. I hope others are of that opinion, too.
FLENSBURG FILES FAST FACTS:
- The new friendship feature is one of many new features that facebook introduced as it did some upgrading to determine the interests and background of the 700 million users who use the social network everyday. Since its introduction at the beginning of the week, a lot of complaints regarding the complicity of the new page have been posted and many wanted the old format returned because of its simplicity. It is unknown whether the demands will be heeded or if they will be ignored.
- Litigations being sought by private groups in Germany claim that the “Like” Button on facebook as well as biometric features violate the privacy as stated by German law. Furthermore, in light of various incidents where hundreds of uninvited guests attended parties posted on facebook in Wuppertal, Hamburg, Kiel and other places, German authorities are considering measures banning facebook parties. So far no word on whether these litigations are successful at the time of this entry. Links to the stories are provided below: