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Please, Don’t F Me

November 16, 2010

So Facebook rolled out another feature: Messages.  How soon until the backlash begins?  I’m not saying I don’t live in glass houses on the Internet, but allow me to cast a first stone since I don’t happen to live in this one.

To voice the concerns of a grammarian or a philosopher, one would expect Facebook Messages to degrade deep conversation and correspondence into spattering chats.  Chat certainly has its place, but I’m guessing that discrete topics and modes of discussion will suffer due to the subtext of politeness stemming from the awkwardness of reading a massive block of text in the formatted window.  People will feel the need to deliberately avoid occupying a full screen’s worth of text in a single message so as to avoid seeming like a blabbermouth.  Length and depth will give way to back-and-forth.  But maybe that’s what you want?

Much hay is being made over Facebook’s email filtration system, but why do you want Facebook deciding whether a given email is part of your legitimate business or simple SPAM?  They themselves are in the advertising business for crying out loud!  How could you not expect the affiliates who are paying Facebook’s to get premier (read: abusive) inbox treatment?  I’m willing to predict this will be a new “feature” you’ll have to opt-out of down the line, but will be induced to rejoin the fold with promises of app functionality, a raffle entry, or some entertaining video-on-demand that “requires access” to your inbox.

On the privacy front, Messages also undermines the argument that one doesn’t have to give Facebook any information you didn’t voluntarily enter into it.  With Facebook Messages, if I (non-Facebook user) respond to your (stupid) email from your stupid account, Facebook gets to snoop on me too.  And don’t forget that Facebook will happily give over any information it collects to whomever it wants unless you sign up and log in to actively opt out of the data-sharing (for all the good that does in practice).  But you’re still accepting their Terms of Use and indemnifying them of liability in the process.

Regardless of the privacy concerns that rarely rouse the masses, and since I am all too aware of the personal, practical benefits of abjuring Facebook (e.g., dozens and dozens of hours saved since quitting), how about a functional reason to not use Facebook Messages?  If you were to send someone several emails to their account from your email address, all of those separate emails are treated as one conversation. Separate emails with different subjects are meaningless in Facebook Messages.  Even though I’m told that subjects sent from email clients outside Facebook are bolded in the conversation, why give up the ability to separate things?  Have you never wanted separate contexts and conversations that are not part of one monolithic feed?

All of this is emblematic of why closed, proprietary systems where the user is reliant on the whims of a Mark Zuckerberg (or a Steve Jobs, I fully admit) are engineered the way they are.  Facebook, Apple, and any other competitor with significant market power wants you to need them to do even the most basic things that are already technologically possible in the first place.  How else do you think Marky Mark can force your employer to unblock Facebook access at work?  Otherwise, you tend to flit from competitor to competitor, and that’s no good for business.  As it is right now, if you want to export your friends’ email addresses to another email service, you have to go through an approved (loophole-ish) channel.

In all earnestness, please don’t become more entrenched in a platform that renders you beholden to an entity that has repeatedly shown its reckless disregard for the welfare of its users?  Digging deeper down into the walled garden isn’t going to get you to reach any lights at the end of the tunnel.  But at least you’ll probably have plenty of company.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2010 7:01 pm

    Fuck facefuck.

    It makes me feel dirty, daily. If it didn’t help me make money, I would axe her like Catherine Howard.


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