Feeding the Beast

This is somewhat off-topic for this blog, it’s nothing to do with movies, but it interests me and it’s my blog, so here’s some thoughts on social media (copied from my intentionally-as-private-as-possible Facebook page). Enjoy!

Facebook tells me that my profile is “40% complete” – hey Facebook? How about this; “my profile is as complete as I want it to be right now”.

The reality is that social media isn’t going anywhere, it’s become how we interact with our group of friends. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, they’re all companies and their value is directly proportional to the data we give them. That’s why my profile is only “40% complete”; Facebook wants more of my data to be able to sell some aspect of me to an advertiser.

Facebook phrases it differently. They say they don’t sell user information directly to advertisers, and that’s a lawyers answer. Ads on Facebook are targeted based on your location, your gender, your likes etc and that of your friend-group as well. So maybe they’re not selling “you” to the advertiser, they’re just selling your defining interests to them.

But why should I care about this? Isn’t it better that I have an ad that is relevant to me pop up in my stream rather than an ad that isn’t relevant? Maybe I should just “like” the things I do, let Facebook (and you!) know, and let the chips fall as they may… But my problem is, the user-base is what gives Facebook it’s power and y’know, not inconsiderable wealth. What do we get in return, as the providers of that power from which the wealth derives?

We get a glorified bulletin board – personalised to us, sure, so we just see what our friends have put up, and the ability to interact with those things, but in such a limited way. Facebook now is essentially the same as Facebook five years ago, but guess what? More ads.

I’m not saying Facebook shouldn’t be able to make money from the fact that they created this social network that we all use, but at least they could keep improving it, right? There has to be some “give” if they’re going to “take” all of our interests and personal data.

Maybe we were all naive when we signed up. Nothing in life is free and crappy ads taking up the whole screen of the iOS app is the price we pay for that naivety.

I just think there has to be a better way. It’s not like Facebook is alone in mining user-data in order to sell ads (hi Google!), far from it, but perhaps the fact is that Facebook has lost our trust when it comes to our data, privacy and wanting to infiltrate all parts of our lives with the presumption that we’ll accept it, rather than creating the very best version of the application or service they’re trying to push.

There are many examples of this; switching our primary contact email addresses to @facebook.com to push emails towards their messages app is a common example and there are of course many more. Why not just make an email app that people *want* to use? Because that’s so much harder I suppose, so much more expensive…

But until we *all* decide to leave, there is no way they’ll do it. And so I come full circle – do I put in the other “60%” of my profile, or just leave it unfinished?

I’d love to hear some opinions about this, but I fear that whichever method of communication you use, you’ll just be feeding the beast.