Y i no facebook: Choosing my social networking wisely

Despite the variably impactful criticism of my lifestyle choices, the argument that I must have a facebook (purposely lowercase) is the one that bothers me the most. I know the argument that if we let criticism bother us it means that we have some emotional connection to the things being said.

Yea, okay, of course.

It matters to me that I’m connected to the people for whom I care greatly, but there is something I care about more: my right to own my pieces of self.

After all the research I’ve been doing in/on the Internet, I know that I can never have complete control over my data, and where it goes. But what I can decide is where I place it, and why.

My essay on Twitter from May gets at this a bit. I back Twitter because they have much more transparent policies on how they control their user’s and the government’s access of information.

Facebook, on the other hand, feels no inclination whatsoever to inform their users of the blatant exploitation of their own information. Don’t believe me? That’s nothing new. The major criticism of my refusal to use facebook is that I’m enveloped in a conspiracy theory. Hilarious.

So, for those of you who think I’ve gone bonkers, here’s some “legitimate” articles for you:

On privacy: http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/22/technology/facebook-privacy-changes/index.htm

Their questionable acquisition of an Israeli company to begin facial recognition: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/06/21/facebook_facial_recognition_how_to_opt_out.html

The highly publicized merger of fb and instagram: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-teitelman/facebook-instagram_b_1418168.html

Here is a guide to protect yourself on fb (because we must apprise ourselves of our own safety on something as harmless as facebook, right? ): http://www.sophos.com/en-us/security-news-trends/best-practices/facebook.aspx

I sincerely hope you take the time to read those articles; it is so imperative to know how you’re affected by your participation in the social networkings of the Internet.

The reason I write this post is because I came across a very interesting article this morning that taught me a few more things than what I have already known about facebook, and such. Since I’m a heavy twitterer, it was good for me to understand the way they are beginning to use my identity too.

If you read any article and not others, read this one! http://www.buzzfeed.com/mattbuchanan/why-twitter-turned-its-back-on-instagram

This article details the way our various social networks (Twitter, fb, google+, linkedin, etc) are waging data war with one another. I venture some of you are saying, “Who cares?!” Well you should. Look closely at the language in the article.

Matt Buchanan starts this article off with a dauntingly large (from my browser at least) photograph of what the attempt to import one’s twitter friends to one’s instagram through an apple device looks like. We are slammed into an immediate rejection of an app option with this visual. Incidentally the title of the denial being “Unable to Find Friends”, we could question what that means, and we should.

What does it mean that we cannot find our friends? Is this really the problem?

Like any instance or circumstance, several truths emerge from the inability to incorporate twitter with instagram. I’ll list a few possibles.

Buchanan calls this inability “slightly annoying”, and something else. The something else is what drives the article behind the slightly emphatic rhetoric. We should ponder over the annoyance, and what it means for us users who want that seamless user-friendly experience with our social networking applications.

What is somewhat inflectional, I find, is that Buchanan doesn’t leave the “annoying” thread, but uses that as his lens to discuss the more flagrantly sinister moves behind these actions. He first refers to our inability to pull our friends list as “terribly annoying”, then softens it considerably in the next sentence to “simply annoying”. The shift is immediate, and for what reason?

Buchanan then boldly names the budding inability for the major social networks to work together: “We’re in the middle of a data embargo war, where the data we pour into services is increasingly siloed, so our experiences are less rich than they could be.” A war is it? Well Buchanan, you’ve piqued my interest. If it is war, I am certainly concerned. What is the war over? Data? Huhm. Furthermore, Buchanan’s choice of verb is worth noting; silo as a verb means to preserve in a container.

And where would such war-ravaged data be preserved? Oh, here:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

(this I reblogged before from http://jopauca.wordpress.com/  [an undeniably necessary source for all the good things])

A few of my friends call me a conspiracy theorist for mentioning these connections, but it deems attention and research prior to dismissal. Why would such a data center be necessary? This is a question that needs answering; it is also one that permits an extensive look at how valuable our data really is.

Buchanan begins to relate this: “This is where we should step back for one second: What the hell is a ‘social graph’? And what the balls is an ‘interest graph’? They’re the most valuable things that Facebook and Twitter own. It’s the sum of all of their data, the heart of what makes everything they’re doing work.” Hmm…these graphs that social networks make/use/apply are the something they covet. Social networks keep them from one another almost as forms of copyrighted, patented tools (and I mean tools in all of its linguistic incarnations). According to Buchanan, graphs are what make these networkswork”. So the question is begged: what kind of work are they doing?

Facebook tracks how we’re all related to one another. Twitter tracks what we’re interested in. Google is some combination between the two (note that down). It’s no wonder Buchanan goes on to say (after the pretty little graphic): “If one company had access to both of sets of data — a map of who everybody is connected to, and all of the stuff everybody is interested in, they’d have a mighty powerful (and scary) set of data, useful for everything from recommending stuff I should or read (or do) to delivering incredibly targeted advertising. And that dataset would be even more valuable if only one company had the fullest access to both kinds of data.” Yea, if one company (ahem see data center above) had access to all of this information, they would have those things. But what is the “scary” all about?

The scary is the possibility that one company would have all ownership of how we assemble ourselves within our social networks—complete control of our virtual selves. Now I know this gets us into the argument between reality and the virtual, as if both are separate.

For that I have a well-fleshed article on the lack of difference, analyzing Obama’s twitter self: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/07/16/the-president-as-a-brand/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

This is thanks to @cyborgology via Twitter.

So here we are in this journey. Facebook started the fight, and now all social networking sites are withholding sharing of their precious stash of our selves from one another. We wouldn’t want them monopolizing reality or anything, so clearly this isn’t a cause for concern.

But for those of us not modernists, we are becoming very aware of what our worth is in the Internet. After all, why would this war take place if our virtual selves were worthless? Why would they build a data retention center in the middle of nowhere to handle insurmountably massive amounts of our information?

Why?

I could go on and on about my theories, and I probably will as time goes on. However, what I would really like you all to do is research this yourselves. I would like you to assess your worth in the Internet, and decide on your own how you’d like to participate in this war that is happening whether you accept it, or not.

While you either do that, or ignore me as insane, I’m going to refrain from facebook and instagram no matter the social consequences because I know what I’m worth in the very least: being made aware of when my rights in the Internet are violated. Twitter will do this, for now. And you can find me there.