Ugh. Ok, so I tried giving this topic a few weeks to sink and see if I could calm down about it but, no, I'm still not happy. Usually I'm all about new technology, online services, gizmos, gadgets and digital products that make my already considerably cushy life just that much cushier. Particularly, little things like Amazon remembering who I am everytime I come back, recommending books and holding all my credit cards on file, or Google's slightly big-brothery-I-know-exactly-where-you-are-and-no-don't-bother-clearing-your-cache-'cause-we've got-your-click-pathing-profiled-already tweaks to Google Maps, search ads and every other product they've built. Seriously, who doesn't want their map to zoom to your current location on load? Maybe I've just become used to that level of creepiness.
But Facebook, man. Holy crap. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love technology. I loves me some technology, but this is getting a bit much. I seriously, absolutely, positively do not want to show up on some site for the first time and see my entire friends list laid out in front of me with message and product suggestions tailored specifically to my own unique brand of stupid Facebook comments. There's stuff all over my profile that I wouldn't want showing up when visiting another site in any circumstance - voluntary or not.
Now some people might say I'm splitting hairs. Amazon, among others, tailors their product offering directly to you based on your usage patterns - searches, favorites, purchases, etc - but that's a sort of walled garden of hyper-specific marketing. I have to sign in to access this data, at least once when setting up my account and possibly every time I return, to get all these targetted offerings. Facebook, on the other hand, is proposing to just sign you up. Seriously. You've never been there but you're signed up the second you land on the page.
“…we’ve also explained the possibility of working with some partner websites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site.”
Is this the end of the world? Well, no. But it certainly feels like an invasion of privacy and a betrayal of trust. [More on trust in a minute.] I'll give you an example that I don't find to be far-fetched at all. Let's say I go to Sports Illustrated for the first time because I've just got to get a Swimsuit Calendar for my wall. Why? Maybe I'm lonely. Maybe it's none of your business. Oh, snap. That's just it! It is none of your business. But my good buddy decides to go to Sports Illustrated too. Maybe he's there for the same calendar or maybe he's there to read an “article”. Haha. Anyway, he might see a great, big picture of my face saying, 'Hey Buddy, your friend Ryan just bought a steamy Swimsuit Calendar.' Probably because he's lonely… That sucks. You see where I'm going with it though.
Is Facebook going to protect users from situations like that? Will they stop it at merely signing you in to a site you've never been before and restricting the “general information” from spreading out in concentric circles of shame and irritation? I doubt it. Facebook has betrayed our trust before. Beacon anyone? New opt-in-only privacy settings? Facebook will of course give users the usual convoluted privacy settings but make no mistake, you'll be opted in until you find the stupid setting to turn it off. I hope…
I realize the web - and mobile for that matter - are travelling in this direction at break-neck speed but I feel like the old man in the corner going, “Back in my day, the web was anonymous! You could go anywhere and do anything without fear of persecution - or at least embarrassment. It was private dammit!” I'm just tired of having my personal information sold and traded about without my permission. And, NO, telling me you're going to opt me in ahead of time doesn't count. Couldn't Facebook start us opted-out and convince (read: bribe) us to turn it on?
Social Media is here to stay and continues to expand by leaps and bounds, as a new study by Nielsen Online titled “What Americans Do Online”, shows 43% annual increase in the use of social networks and blogs. The study indicates that 1/3 of Americans spend their online time communicating via social networks and blogs than any other method. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and blogging platforms like Wordpress, BlogSpot and Tumblr are making a big imprint in the Internet space by initiating and continuing conversations going in a more social and lax manner. These are open and free platforms for people to express and share how they feel at any specific moment with no boundaries. These numbers speak for themselves as more and more online users continue to become more social and are very quickly turning social media into a main stream activity.
What is social media?
Social media include web-base platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Blogs, etc., used as mediums of social interaction, networking and broadcasting media dialogues. Unlike traditional media—print, broadcast, radio, mobile and so on—social media is a interconnected web of online digital platforms for interaction and relationships, not ads or content the way traditional media publishes. Social media relies heavily on technology and new trends, as online users become more familiar and comfortable with new tools that make it easier for them to communicate in a more fluid and free environment. This is why players like Google, Facebook and Twitter occupy important places in the space, as they offer users easy to use, useful and interactive technologies to make their online experiences simpler and more fun.
Erik Qualman—online marketer and author of the book Socialnomics—published two videos with incredible statistics he gathered from his research, which take the social media obsession to a completely new level. The high pace engaging video compiles a slew of key stats from many reliable sources that strongly demonstrate that “social media is not a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate”, as he calls it.
Here is a quick glance at those impressive stats:
1. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
2. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
3. Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years), Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months…iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.
To illustrate the importance of how social media today, its power, influence and true magnitude here is a truly astounding and dynamically updated statistics widget that was put together by online media producer and social media guru Gary Hayes. It feeds from a Flash application that shows how active & dynamic the Social Web, Mobile Industry and Game Business is, by spewing real-time results of what’s happening now and what people are doing in this very moment.
Do You Know Who is Watching?
But, because of the nature of social media and technologies available out there, online users must always be aware of privacy issues and concerns that may sometimes compromise personal information. Granted, the two big players out there: Google and Facebook make everyone’s online experience unique and a fun experience, but by the same token they are also keeping a closed eye on us.
Here is a great creative image that touches upon the issue of privacy on the Internet in a concise manner…
Privacy is in everyone’s mine and to keep a balance on what remains private and public is very important. Key Internet players must listen to the user’s concerns about this to maintain a healthy balanced relationship between user and provider. But, people must also understand that social media isn’t just a fad indeed and that Google and Facebook are here to stay and make social media more open and dynamic.
What are your thoughts about social media today and your concerns about privacy issues?
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