I was scrambling eggs the other day and in the background on the radio was Mark Zuckerberg, gushing about the wonderful changes taking place on Facebook, and why it’s such a good thing that Facebook is taking over the social-networking world and making every bit of information about everyone available to everyone else, all the time, everywhere.
Not long before this, I’d read a Q&A on the new round of Facebook changes and encountered gems such as this:
Q: What is the scrolling, Twitter-like list of my Facebook friends’ activities doing on the right side of the new layout?
A: Facebook calls this the “ticker” — not to be confused with, but similar to, Twitter. The idea is to show a live feed of everything going on with your Facebook friends and pages you follow as it is happening. There will be information here that doesn’t appear on your regular news feed, such as songs your friends are listening to on the music service Spotify, news stories they are reading or, eventually, even movies or TV shows they watched on Netflix.
I’d thought Are you kidding me? but the horror didn’t really kick in until I heard Zuckerberg in full visionary mode. It hit me that this super-achieving dweeb really is out to take over the world and rearrange it to fit his vaguely totalitarian views on information, communications and community.
He’s 26 years old, but only someone with the mind of an old Stalinist would be so dead-set on “making the world open and connected” — the phrase written on the inside of Zuckerberg’s hoodie — as if there is anything inherently good about unlimited openness and connectivity.
It might not even strike Zuckerberg as ironic that he’s the gatekeeper of this brave new world; that he and his cronies are aiming to control who’s connected to what, by grabbing everything else on the Internet and serving it up to users as they see fit.
The more our online lives take place on Facebook, the more we depend on the choices of the people who run the company—what they think about privacy, how they think we should be able to organize our friends, what they tell advertisers (and governments) about what we do and what we buy.
We shouldn’t take for granted that Zuckerberg’s invention will remain benign. In fact, anyone who doesn’t see Facebook as a potential monster probably thinks he or she really has 780 “friends.”
Footnote: I use Facebook (a few of my friends really are friends) but in a minimal way, and the time I spend using it decreases with each new creepy revelation about the people who control it.