How Facebook changed our lives and privacy

Facebook needs no introduction, really. Everyone nowadays uses it and if one has still resisted the trend, they must be very tempted to surrender.
I joined Facebook about 3 years ago. I wasn’t sure what it was at that moment, but above all, one thing was clear! My online presence on Facebook helped me stay closer to the people I like, love and respect. At this stage all seemed nice and smooth.

After three years of Facebooking- the latter is actually supposed to be a verb- I have started thinking how, why and how long I was genuinely engaged with the site for. Without actively posting or sharing anything, I was still logging in everyday. But what was it that was generating my online addiction? And to my surprise, I wasn’t the only one to be trapped by the Facebook phenomenon.

For the past 8 months or so, I have been strongly engaged with the idea of privacy and to the extent this is still valid in contemporary societies. I am inclined to believe that much more human interaction takes place online than in real life, at least for some individuals. And the internet not only encourages us all to reveal multiple aspects of our identity, but it actually uses all the data we provide for the benefit of international companies. That’s the power of marketing and advertising, inviting people to tell you everything about them and then using it in your favour.

And there is something cynical about it. Every individual has the right to protect their privacy, personal space and private information, however, by March 2012, 901 millions of people were monthly active users and 526 million used Facebook daily. Let’s put it in other words. If your mobile phone network provider mistakenly leaked data about yourself, you would be very angry and offended. But in reality, at least half of that data was already made public by yourself through social media and forums.
You don’t type in your full address on Facebook; nevertheless, you do mention where you live, where you work and even where and when you obtained your professional qualifications. This put altogether, can be used to track one down very easily. You are making it so damn easy for wrongdoers to find and learn as much as possible about you.

That being said, how can you wish for privacy and further claim to be entitled to it, when the current lifestyle constraints us to share everything that we do and experience. Think about it, few relationships are serious if they are not made official on Facebook. You don’t fully graduate or get a new job, if you don’t post on Facebook at least a picture capturing the moment. More recently, people have been adding important events to their lifetime line from when they were born, to when they had their first baby or bought their first car. All this details summed up make a person who s/he is and ultimately how one experienced life.

As a counterargument, some may say that Facebook provides privacy settings. Well, it more certainly does, perhaps random individuals cannot view your profile, if you don’t want them to, but as a company Facebook collects all data and passes it on to advertisers, whom you actually further endorse by Liking their pages. There is a very interesting article discussing Facebook’s advertising value or the dollar value of a Like. In brief, no one knows how much your Like, comment and share value; how much they cost advertisers.

Ultimately, the video above shows a documentary produced by the BBC and invites people to take a look at Facebook from the inside. However, the most important aspect that I came across by watching it, was provided by Elliot Schrage, Vice-president of Public Policy at Facebook. Surprisingly or not, according to Schrage by liking a brand individuals are firmly communicating that they are associating themselves with that particular company or brand which arguably creates a story and a ranking mechanism. It is definitely worth watching the video and reflecting on how we are managing our Facebook accounts.

It is certain that today, social media and the impact of the internet create numerous challenges for people. It is more important than ever to manage your image efficiently, keeping a clear balance between what should be published online and what should remain confidential. We should see ourselves as brands and create a consistent image around our public persona in the same way companies construct their brand image. Facebook helps individuals keep in touch and enhances their social life, however, on many occasions, sharing your life explicitly has resulted in job dismissals or in never being invited to a job interview. It all depends on what you choose to like and how you choose to portray yourself to the outer world. Like this article if you agree!

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