Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Defense of Standing by Facebook

By M. David Hornbuckle

Reposted from M David Hornbuckle Dot Com 

With all the media hoopla about Google+ a lot of people are once again talking about jumping the Facebook ship, and that's worth looking at. So far, I have not actually seen very many people trade one for the other. Most people I know, if they've signed up for Google+, they are trying (and mostly failing) to keep up with both, usually favoring the familiar over the new toy.

I can't emphasize enough how important Facebook has been for me in the past 2-3 years in maintaining my social and professional life, so I'm not going to give it up without a fight. Facebook has many flaws, but the complaints I hear most often about it are things that are easily resolvable.

If Facebook is prodding you over and over to be your homepage, you probably have your security settings on "ultra paranoid mode." If you say No to the request, a cookie is set to remember that answer. If your browser doesn't accept cookies, you are just going to have to deal with that. Maybe Google+ doesn't have that prompt yet, but it will come as the application attempts to grow. Getting the most out of Facebook, just like getting the most out of the internet in general, means you have to take a certain leap of faith and not worry so much about the paranoid security issues that plague the blogosphere. Reasonable security measures are valid, but if you do things like set your browser to never accept cookies, the internet just doesn't work.
People in your news stream you don't care to hear from? Hide them. Just click the little X in the upper right corner of the post.  You can always defriend or outright block people who are particularly troublesome, but hiding people keeps them out of your way without disrupting their experience. They'll never know that you aren't reading their posts.

The "Circles" feature on Google+ is admittedly interesting and more intuitive than the similar features on Facebook in many ways. I know I'm relatively alone in this, but I went to a lot of trouble a couple of years ago to put all my FB friends in Lists. However, these Lists aren't as flexible as Circles. I can filter my feed to only view things from friends in a certain List, and I can use my security settings to block Lists of people from viewing certain things. But I can't easily share a post with only people in one List while depriving it from others. I hope FB will take a cue from Google + and improve the flexibility of Friend Lists. The new way Groups work on FB may be intended to resolve that issue, but again, it's not that flexible. I want to organize people on my end, but I don't want to force them to comply by becoming part of a "group." Friend Lists accomplish this, but not perfectly.

Google+ is sort of interesting to play around with. It does a couple of things FB doesn't do, like the "Hangout" feature, though I haven't yet found anybody to "Hangout" with. None of my friends seem to be on G+ at the same time I am. Plus, I relish the times when I get to "hang out" with my friends in real life, and I think this sort of thing just makes it easy to sit around at home instead. I can see it being fun or useful in certain situations though.

Moreover, Google+ doesn't have a lot of the features that I absolutely count on Facebook for. I use the Events feature religiously to organize my social calendar. I like being reminded when it's someone's birthday, even someone I don't talk to often. It often prompts me to spend a little time catching up with that person. I have many FB applications blocked—things like Farmville and Mafia Wars. I don't mess with most of that stuff. But I do play Scrabble and a couple of other games on FB whenever I need to give my brain a five minute break during the day. Google+ doesn't have any of these games.

In addition to personal social stuff, I have three "business" identities I manage frequently (Ghost Herd, Birmingham Free Press, and Steel Toe Review—plus a couple of others that I don't use as much currently), and Facebook is the easiest and most efficient way for me to engage with fans/customers/readers who are interested in those things. I don't personally know all the people that are "fans" of those pages, and I don't want to communicate with them as "M. David Hornbuckle" because many of them don't know who M. David Hornbuckle is. Facebook allows me to have these multiple identities and manage them relatively easily.

Finally, before you say "Facebook sells your personal information to other companies," I say, who cares? If you don't want Facebook to know anything personal about you, don't tell Facebook anything personal. But I fail to see why this is a problem. How this works is, Facebook's advertisers look at the things you say you are interested in and target advertising toward you based on those things. If you are going to have ads anyway, isn't it better for them to be for things that you are interested in knowing about rather than just random stuff? Targeted advertising on the internet has been revolutionary. Nobody at Facebook is sitting around masturbating over your Caribbean beach pictures because you posted them. A more or less automated process is looking at keywords and other clues in your profile and deciding you might be interested in a cheap Jamaican vacation sometime. What's so bad about that?

Moreover, the internet is and should always be considered a public place. If you don't want your shit out there in public, don't use the internet.

1 comment:

  1. Dude you're playing right into their hands. Facebook has totally got you man. You're a goner man.