Cutting off your nose to spite your Facebook

A Facebook friend recently posted this interesting piece by Tom Hodgkinson (of the Idler fame) about the evils of Facebook on my page. Tom Hodgkinson, who I believe is a classic downshifter living the low-consumption, vegetable-patch cultivating lifestyle we all aspire to nowadays, says that the Facebook founders are baddies because of their neo-con philosophies and the capitalist nature of their businesses.

The piece reminded me of the fascinating time I had in San Francisco during the dot-com boom and the way that people’s politics and their (typically, entrepreneurial) spirit would occasionally seem to be at odds. For example, Craig of craigslist, a droll individual who took to referring to himself in the third person as “the Craig” was a real geek god, having started up a global swapping, dating and chatting bulletin board single handed with very little investment. Craigslist was a non-profit, but eventually it made “the Craig” personally very successful – and I for one would certainly say ‘why not’? I met enough Burning-man attending, blue-haired Internet start-up squillionaires to realise that the Internet was making a lot of people with quite radical politics unexpectedly rich. In California, political activists on the Left were as wired as their opponents. I spent some time working for a media pressure group called Media Alliance which campaigned on such arcane topics as “free access to ISP’s”. In San Francisco, if you rang people up to try and get their opinion about this, they’d frequently know what you meant (much to my astonishment). I’m sure there were plenty of people in California who rejected all the marvels of technology for political reasons, but I only met one, and he lived at the top of a sequoia tree.

The Facebook founders are clearly a lot more straightforward than the 90’s Internet entrepreneurs, being from a second or probably (by now) third wave, and are just trying to make money. They came up with a great free social networking site (it’s so annoyingly simple, but it works) and are now trying to work out how to make it a bit less free, hence the annoying adverts and really dreadful ideas like Beacon (which they didn’t try over here, thankfully) which told all your friends what you’d been buying on the Internet (puh-lease!!!). But I really don’t know if spurning Facebook a la Tom Hodgkinson is the way to protest about it, should you wish to.

a) all your friends are probably on it, so unless you can force them all to migrate to Bebo or Ning or Myspace or something, you will have to communicate with them in old-fashioned ways such as the telephone. And that is so.. last century. b) you can use Facebook to communicate your disdain! “Facebook, stop invading my privacy” or “Facebook applications know more about me than my family does” are two groups I found for Facebook haters c) you could join with a false identity and subvert the system from within, as an imposter a friend of mine got landed with recently did d) it’s all a fad, it’ll die out in ten minutes anyway. Won’t it?

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