Facebook is the new phone book

A while back there used to be this website which was a fun alternative to actual work. Lots of real people were on there and you could share jokes, photos and meaningless rants. I realised today that Facebook has reached a crucial turning point, because it’s not actually any fun. With more and more eyes on it, the atmosphere has shifted from a playground to a marketplace, and the profile of the company from the leaders of an expedition to a brave new world to a generic services company.

They have always been a company without precedent. I think it’s worth noting just how many big decisions they have taken without the slightest idea how they would turn out, and the big effect that it’s had on the way the entire world interacts with the Web. They have been super proactive! Imagine if the first social network had resembled the Facebook of 2011 – it would have been impenetrable and impossible. They created the market for themselves.

I can’t tell if the current Timeline move is genius, desperation or insanity, but I can tell what’s going to happen – with the increasing exposure of public data and “sharing by default”, Facebook will become the 21st century phone book. The momentum is such that to no have an account is limiting, because events and announcements pass you by. I think it’s unlikely that anyone will manage to supplant them. But at the same time – is this where they wanted to be?

We’ve had to become experts in privacy, identity protection, here’s an article on how to use Facebook for professional advantage, for example. Scammers and spammers are working hard to steal your identity and sell things that I don’t understand. This is not fun!! Digital media by default has lead me to start using a film camera, because having actual photographs has become an interesting thing in itself. The age of social media is fully upon us, but do they realise that by becoming ubiquitious, they are taking up between the print shop and the telephone company?

Edit: this article tells you much the same.

Privacy advice

This post was inspired by a great example of the not-fun I’m describing:

“I like to keep my FB private for obvious reasons except to those I am friends with. So if you all would do the following, I’d appreciate it. With the new FB timeline on its way this week for EVERYONE. . . please do both of us a favour: Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says “Subscribed”. Hover over that, then go to “Comments and Likes” and unclick it. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the side bar for everyone to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from invading our profiles. If you repost this I will do the same for you. You’ll know I’ve acknowledged you because if you tell me that you’ve done it I’ll “like” it”

I had a quick think about this one. Of course subscriptions don’t allow “hackers” to “invade” our profiles (this is a reference to the multiple “remove timeline from your profile” apps which are apparently all scams, there’s actually no way to do that). I don’t particularly feel like having an automatically generated personal website that’s out of my control, though, either. Is there a way to – not show the timeline?

The nearest I’ve found so far is:

  • Privacy Settings > Limit the Audience for Past Posts
  • , which I guess removes any public posts from public view

  • Manually selecting “Hide all” for every type of activity in the “recent activity” section on your timeline, which hides them for everyone looking at your profile as well
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About Sam Thursfield

Who's that kid in the back of the room? He's setting all his papers on fire! Where did he get that crazy smile? We all think he's really weird.
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