Monday, November 28, 2011

Facebook is Creepy

So I've been struggling with Facebook for a little while now.  On one hand, it is exceptionally useful for staying in touch with my far-flung family and friends.  I love other people's baby pictures and birthday parties, and now that I'm way away on the west coast, I need my fix.

On the other hand, I started my profile for work and have always viewed it as work.  I have at times fallen victim to the Overshare Mentality, but I hope that sites like STFUParents will cure me of my tendency to imagine that my life is all that interesting.  (Just read the Storytime tags if you need to be cured.)

I discovered late yesterday that people could see more of "my" stuff than I'd realized.  Thanks to that annoying feed at the side of the screen, this total stranger could see a personal message my teenage cousin posted on my wall.  I've also discovered that even though I have very strict privacy controls on my account, it doesn't prevent things from showing up if others don't have those controls.  I set all pictures of my nieces and nephews to be visible only to certain family members.  But I found that if my brother doesn't do that, the pictures still go in the public feed.  And then pictures of my baby niece can end up... in that annoying public feed at the side of the screen.

I find that creepy.  Why on earth would any stranger be interested in the adorable picture of my very, very cute curly haired niece is beyond me.  I know, I love babies as much as anyone else... but this is a STRANGE baby in a STRANGER'S HOME.

Let's have a little demo:
Appropriate Knowledge for Strangers: knowing that I am married and have no kids.
Response: Let's chat about the weather.
Inappropriate Knowledge for Strangers: knowing what kind of cake my nephew ate for his birthday party.
Response:  Ohmygawd, Creepy Stalker!  (Roundhouse kick to the head.)

Facebook just doesn't seem able to get that... and with every permutation of their site, they seem to share more and more and more public information.  (No, I really don't care what articles my friends read in their online daily local newspaper.)

That explains why I un-familied all my family.  I no longer have Facebook cousins, siblings, aunts or uncles, or a mom.  Sorry, mom.  I'm hoping that maybe this will keep things from showing up in that annoying public feed.

As a priest, I live a weirdly public life.  I get that.  I accept it.  I knew what I was getting into when I signed on to this.  I need to know what my Bishop looks like and to have an easy, casual way to drop a line.  I do not need to know what his brother's kitchen looks like or what his nephew eats for breakfast.

This is the line in the sand that Facebook is crossing.

Facebook is supposed to be about small talk and chit chat.  It crosses a line when it surmises that all relationships are equal.  This just isn't true.  Relationships are essentially different- what I tell my best friend is radically different than the sort of news I'll share with a work colleague or my sister.

Because at the end of the day, I signed up for this.  I knew what I was getting into.  My family supports me (mostly), but they didn't sign up for the public life.  They didn't sign up to have their baby pictures viewed by strangers in North Dakota.  They didn't sign up to have people who are interested in what sort of bread they baked or their theological views on the Rt. Rev. Budde's ordination vestments (my take: the woman needs a good tailor for her vestments, but her command of the cardigan is admirable).  They didn't even really get a choice as to whether or not they would be my family (mostly).

So I have no more Facebook family, in the hopes this might protect them a little more.  Facebook is rapidly becoming the virtual equivalent of the unwelcome drunken neighbor at the Christmas party- the one who brays on in a loud voice in the corner and who we all secretly hope will just either leave or fall asleep in the corner before she embarrasses herself anymore.

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