(2016 Comment: The privacy stuff still hasn’t really been solved. Also, “memories” is a more annoying feature than the whole birthday thing. My memory is pretty average these days.)
The internet has changed the world forever. With every mobile device under the sun now having internet capabilities, you can prove your friends wrong on a contentious issue in a social situation at blistering pace! Being able to insist to friend and foe alike that Roger Moore was not in fact the first James Bond, with absolute certainty (unless you’re a 007 trivia buff like yours truly), is something you could not do as little as five years ago. Now you can bring up the most heinous websites on the internet in the palm of your hand, and freak people out at will.
But this pervasiveness of the internet has not always brought about positive change. Myspace brought us the “Myspace angle”, where overweight people take pictures of themselves from an angle that does not reveal that problem initially (don’t forget, terrible HTML coding and embedded 1990’s Geocities-esk electronically sequenced versions of peoples favourite songs too). Youtube brought us videos of people urinating on seats at State of Origin games, cute animal videos, and fan remixes of scenes from the X-Files. Need I go into 4chan and the whole ‘Anonymous’ thing.
What makes the internet special is the sheer scale and availability of information. Just like the Contact list in your phone remembers your numbers, you don’t have to remember a damn thing anymore. Just Google and forget. In later years this quest for information has slowly seeped into peoples personal lives. Back in the 90s, your internet ‘persona’ would be confined to an alias on a chat relay server, or message boards where you could hide what and who you are in real life. It was a magical land of forged identities (though to some extent it still is) – then the magic faded and suddenly there was a thirst for seeing ‘real’ information. Facebook was the thirst quencher.
Sparing everyone the history, Facebook is the current social networking juggernaut. The website has mobile apps, mobile websites for devices that can’t have apps, as well as the power to scan your personal information and target advertising to you based on shit you’ve written about. Just enough availability to make sure you can update someone about your bowel movements if you want to. Sure, there’s a lot to like; being able to keep in touch with family or people abroad or otherwise away from you, and interacting with friends, or sharing funny videos and pictures. Yay.
But suddenly we’re getting deeper. Are you a technological pleb and don’t understand the privacy settings section? Well guess what – your whole damn life is available for the internet to see if they happen to pass over your name. Posts, pictures, updates – you name it and any bastard can see it in that circumstance. There’s been a lot of noise around about privacy on the internet but the fact is, once it’s on the internet it’s out there forever. Unlike generational memory, the internet NEVER FORGETS. Remember that before you go posting inappropriate pictures and tagging a friend that has an unrestricted profile.
It’s this never ending technological memory that’s getting people fired from jobs, arrested, embarrassed in front of family, and otherwise mocked by on-lookers for things that they’ve done that would otherwise only be revealed in a more private, intimate setting. Get black-out drunk at a party and pass out? Well guess what – those pictures of people drawing on your face are on the god damn internet. Threaten to kill the President? Well guess what, the FBI are right outside. Because this kind of interaction is so new, people are still legitimately surprised when personal information is getting divulged on the internet for everyone to digest.
But let’s get deeper still. Normally I’d say “putting a group picture as your Profile image is stupid”, though however stupid, it shouldn’t really be a problem. If people can’t pick you out, then they don’t know you. Just because you met someone through a friend of a friend doesn’t mean you’re ‘buddies’ now either. That said, we all have bunch of people on our lists we barely know. It all comes back to this ‘new’, awkward, online social interaction thing where people think: “Maybe they’ll be awkward in real life now if I don’t add them?” *Clicks Add*
Want to stalk someone? Well guess what, the FBI are…. nevermind. Stalking on Facebook used to be easy; innocently search their name and stalk them. Boom. Search through their pictures for the beach ones; whatever creepy idea you had. Now that everyone’s concerned about privacy, some shitty pixelated group photo is all you’ve got access to now. Thanks a lot Civil Rights groups.
Going out with someone? Get engaged, married, divorced or “it’s complicated”? Well guess what, now the whole planet can know who you are or aren’t banging. Better still, they can comment on it! A lot of people are conservative in publishing intimate relationship details to the internet, but many are not. If you are reading this and came up with the phrase, “It’s not official until it’s Facebook official” you can die concrete-feet style.
Got a friend with baby news? Great! A new life! Well guess what, now you can read about it forever because that’s all they are living for now. Yes that’s right, their baby means the world to them and as such, you need to know about every god damn thing it does immediately. Right down to their shit and sleeping cycles. Babies are great and everything but I am already bored of reading about them before you post them. Get back to nursing them and put the phone down or something.
Speaking of lives, are you out and about with friends? Are you having a great time? Well guess what, no you fucking aren’t because you’ve had time to tag yourself and 29 of your friends at some dive bar. If I’m having a good night with a bunch of people, I’m probably not tagging anyone. Or even checking-in in the first place.
Then there’s the ‘phishing scam’ groups. You know those Nigerian scam emails that stupid people fall for? Well guess what, the same people are falling for Nigerian scam Facebook virus groups. Well to be fair, I don’t actually know the nationality of these virus groups, but I do know that they are extremely irritating and the people falling for them probably have single digit IQs. Once you click the seventeen ‘yes’ prompts, you’ve signed off all-access to some scammer. Remember that when you start getting letters to your postal address about random shit from America.
Just when you thought all of the rants over peoples defecation updates, baby defecation updates, pointless life updates, and the terrible chat system were over, the most heinous of Facebook’s issues is upon us. Birthday prompts. “Facebook says it’s someone’s birthday today! I don’t know them very well in real life, but I better wish them a happy birthday on their public wall so everyone can see that I’m awesome, thoughtful, polite and shit!”. Well guess what, you aren’t thoughtful or polite. If you knew them well enough, you’d call them, message them or, I don’t know, go and see them.
I find the whole prospect of a prompted birthday message to be really heartless. If you can see and are actually friends with someone, you are a bad friend if you only wish them a happy birthday in the most impersonal of impersonal ways. Cheating and using birthday prompts as a reminder to text is okay I suppose.
Once you’ve waded through the viruses, pointless updates, shit chat feature, birthday prompts, rejected stranger requests, talked about someone in a status update without actually naming them, abused or congratulated someone on their relationships, and untagged yourself from embarrassing images, there isn’t a whole lot left to do.
Except deactivate your profile and put your god damn phone away in forever. What’s that? They still have all my info on their servers just in case I want to come back? Well it’s all already out there, so I may as well just keep on keepin’ on!