Looking at my list of friends on Facebook, I am struck by the collection of childhood pals, neighbors, co-workers... and yes, past romances. My friends list is a hodgepodge representing my social experiences over a lifetime. Each individual sits somewhere on a spectrum of emotion from pure joy to bittersweet memories, but most are firmly on the joy end. And that is why Facebook is such a mixed bag.
Facebook can be an amazingly cathartic communication medium. I have reconnected with numerous people from long ago, and with some found that our shared emotional baggage (sometimes carried for over two decades) was in fact just an empty suitcase... with mental wheels added to make it easier to drag along. So many cases of simple miscommunication or misperception unresolved until reconnecting on Facebook. It is really an amazing phenomenon, and an experience I have found shared by many people I talk to.
These wonderful social experiences stand in juxtaposition to those that are... well, not so wonderful - whether it is the agony of the technology and what is Facebook's responsibility, or the nature of the social engagements and what is user responsibility. For example, some old acquaintances should be left... well, forgotten. Some relationships are hollow, voyeuristic, and in some cases outright harmful. Each of us must take responsibility to establish meaningful friendship criteria. I think using Facebook as a giant address book is a huge mistake and for the password challenged it is a huge point of security vulnerability. I've developed an old and new friend trial period. I accept friend requests from people from my past, and if they engage with me in some meaningful way over the next few months, fantastic. If not, I friend them on LinkedIn and delete them on Facebook. New friends must be more than a business contact and would be someone I'd allow in my home (since that is essentially what I am doing when they access my personal photos).
The "legitimate friend" issue aside, Facebook has its own responsibility issues when it comes to security and engaging in self-analysis and more thoughtful consideration of how it engages in social engineering .
Not everyone is a fan
More than once I have been tempted to drop Facebook altogether - I simply don't trust their collective judgment or like how they pass the buck with "as is" statements. I think there is a serious lack of discipline by Facebook engineers who build capabilities just because they can. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of inadequate worst case scenario analysis or being social in a responsible manner. The Facebook controversies around security continue ad nauseum (most recently facial recognition), and they will most likely continue unless there is a sea change in the thinking in Palo Alto (i.e. default new social feature settings should lean towards being more secure than open).
Once a platform reaches 600 million users, it clearly has global significance (Chris Hughes at Bilderberg), massive social impact, and a giant target for those with ill intent. So, when will Facebook draw the line on pushing what is cutting edge social at the expense of security & privacy and accept that it has a moral obligation to act more responsibly? If the current pattern of development continues, users will draw their own line on privacy erosion, voyeurism, addiction, etc. by simply opting out.
Facebook's 9th Principle is to "publicly make available information about its purpose, plans, policies, and operations." Well, then perhaps they should add this from section 15 (Disputes) of their Statement Rights and Responsibilities to the footer of every view: "WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT FACEBOOK WILL BE SAFE OR SECURE."
And since that is the case, there is something fundamentally wrong with how Facebook views its responsibility to the public.