“I felt a great disturbance in the Force… as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror…”
-Obi Wan Kenobi, “A New Hope”
There has been near hysteria building in the tech community, as well as
in the wider world concerning Facebook’s privacy policies, and possible
user betrayal. The safety of our facebook “avatars” are being
threatened! Have we sold our secrets and ourselves to an amoral
Facebook transformed the web, and along with it revolutionized human
connectivity, communication and supernova’ed the circulation of ideas,
but as the old Star Wars adage tells us “you have paid the highest price
for your lack of vision.” Facebook has attracted an unprecedented
number of users who automatically agreed to place their identities in
Mark Zuckerberg’s outstretched hands. It started with university
students who related to Mark’s youth and admired his forward
thinking. They jumped on a social spaceship, piloted by
Zuckerberg, to boldly go where no one had gone before. They also seem
to like pretending to be virtual farmers, cultivating a virtual
People are starting to realize that Zuck might be Vader and not
Anakin. As is usually the case with technology, what appears to
be empowering, and often is, can also lead to tyranny. If our
technological revolutionaries and friends from Star Wars have taught us
anything it is that the line between good and evil can be perilous.
Many of us have already smartened up and altered the way in which we are
using facebook. Maybe we’re not using private messages to send our most
intimate thoughts or secrets, for fear that they’ll end up public like
so many recently have. Some of us are resisting the urge to post
amusing, but slightly off-color signatures on friend’s walls, or
screening and scrutinizing the photos we post and tag. After all, what
will we think of them when we are 50? Even more concerning, is
wondering what our spouses, bosses, decision makers and the general
public think of the electronic follies of our youth? How will
anyone be fit to run for public office?
We also have to think about what this means for us historically, in a
larger sense, and not just in the facebook bubble. The Library of
Congress will be archiving all “tweets” from 2006 onwards, giving us
another reason to pause for a second before we hit that send button
willy-nilly. We really need to look before we leap (or tweet).
With social media comes social consciousness and social responsibility.
The bottom line is that you have to use your head before releasing
anything to the web. The power of words can have resounding and
far-reaching effects. Then again, maybe your words aren’t yours anymore.
They now belong to the government, or Mark Zuckerberg, or the magical
elves that run Twitter.
Copycat sites that champion user privacy are beginning to pop up
everywhere (ie. Project Diaspora), but are people really abandoning
Facebook? If they aren’t leaving now, what will be the new site or
feature that creates the tipping point and sends them overboard?? There
have been rumours circulating that MySpace is busy creating new privacy
settings, to woo back disaffected users that are frustrated with
Facebook’s new privacy changes. Is MySpace about to be the new hot thing
for the second time?
Considering all of the propaganda, speculation, and reports of
facebook’s indifference to personal privacy, people are definitely
alarmed. Maybe it’s time the usually clandestine Zuckerberg
addresses the world in an open letter that outlines the implications of
having put our trust in him. We’d like to know what his intentions
are, and remind him that our love is turning to fear. He needs to be
reminded of the sage advice of Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Hopefully our leader will lean more towards benevolence than hubris.
More than anything, Zuckerberg must learn that “With great power comes
great responsibility”. The lure of darkness is always seductive, and
seems to have quick pay-offs, but every major villain from Antonio
Montana to the Borg Queen is brought down by Data and the common good.
Indeed, what creates us can also destroy us… but just like Seven of Nine
we can defy the superpower collective and take control of our
Mark, we are hailing you: we’ve opened a channel for
communication. We have come in peace and we are your Facebook
civilization. We are waiting for your response.