Fear of a Facebook Planet

And so Facebook has been floated on NASDAQ, leading to lots of economic excitement and Mark Zuckerberg become rich beyond the dreams of Luthor. It’s probably the biggest tech story for a long time, mainly because Facebook has become so pervasive. It’s everywhere.

But I’m a sceptic, bordering on techno-dystopian (maybe a lot of us are and that’s why Blade Runner is getting a sequel). I love the internet, don’t get me wrong, but nowadays Facebook leaves me cold.

I think it might be the privacy thing… No, wait, it’s not. It’s the opposite. It’s the publicity thing. Facebook seems to want to know when we do anything – here’s your timeline, here’s what you’ve bought in Farmville, here’s your Words With Friends score, here’s a picture of you with a traffic cone on your head posted by someone you haven’t even thought about in years… It’s not content, it’s noise.

Now, I admit I’m guilty of that, mainly using my FB profile to tout my blog posts. I hope they’re not noise, but some may see it as such. Fair enough. I admit my hypocrisy.

But while that stuff may be noise to you and me, to marketing gnomes working long and hard in the data mines, it’s information. And now FB is going to make mondo amounts of money by hitting the stock market, it’s going to be under pressure from shareholders to keep making more money.

Now, it doesn’t make stuff, it’s reliant on one thing – our data. And when the pressure mounts to keep growing, to dive ever deeper into Scrooge McDuck-like piles of money, it’ll be our data for sale: our likes, dislikes, the people we’re friends with, the words we write in our status updates. People already look at stuff like that and think ‘ka-ching’, it’s going to get worse. In one sense this is the brave new world of the information society, get used to it, but FB may well be ground zero for this sort of thing…

(I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came up with the bright idea of it becoming a pay-to-use service. That’d be interesting. I suspect Google+ would become a lot more popular…)

(And that’s before we get onto the Twitter joke that’s being doing the rounds: the reason Facebook has gone public is because no-one can find the privacy settings.)

I dunno. I sound like someone telling hoodie wearing kids to get of his digital lawn. At least I haven’t got on to how Facebook’s about to mutate into Skynet.

But the world will still be turning tomorrow; some people will be richer and social networking may or may not change into something unrecognisable or unwelcome.

And the sun will still come up.


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