Glass Houses and the Neighborhood Watch – The Facebook Folly
Let’s say a man decides to build a glass house in the median of a busy highway. He makes sure the glass is one hundred percent transparent as he really likes seeing the sun. He also likes being able to wave at his neighbors as they drive by and wait in traffic. He doesn’t want to waste the time putting up curtains or shades since it’s a lot of work and he wants to come across as an open and accepting sort of fellow. One precaution he decides on, however, is a petite white picket fence around the edge of the property. It won’t keep the deer or neighborhood dogs out, and it won’t stop a speeding car. Still, it looks nice and gives him a feel-good sense of protection.
Then there comes the terrible day. The man wakes up to find out a pipe burst under the sink and has flooded the kitchen. His wife yells at him for tracking mud across the floor and the fight escalates into a screaming match. He receives a notice for a heavily overdrawn debit card and he pulls out the bottle of whiskey to drown some of the pain. Later that day, he steps out of the shower without dressing and walks into his bedroom only to find a few people sitting outside the windows, watching the house with intent curiosity. A few look concerned, some downright bored and a few just observe with a smug interest. Infuriated, embarrassed and ashamed, the man hurriedly dresses, gets in his car (recently dented from a drunk-driving incident) and speeds to the local police station.
“I’ve had peeping Toms! They’ve been watching me! Arrest them, officer, they have no right to nose into my life. Only people I trust have permission to cross such boundaries! I didn’t tell them they could just hang around! TRESPASSERS!” A few people turn heads, some shaking sympathetically and some sniggering behind a cupped hand.
The officer rolls his eyes and, humoring the crazed man, follows him back to the house where bystanders have stepped over the foot-tall fence and are now watching his teenage son sharing some beer with his friends and posing for lewd pictures that they’re planning on putting on the internet. The officer glances in, appreciating the neatly trimmed hedges in the back yard through the very clear front window, tips his hat sarcastically and wishes the man a nice day.
Dear Facebook Users, Friends and Strangers,
Facebook is a glass house. You built it, decided who you wanted to invite in and who you wanted to leave outside. You pasted every little detail of your lives, from drunken teenage raves to sexual orientation to marital problems (and successes, some to the nausea of your friends). From there you sent every restaurant and hotel and gas station and newsstand you ever set eyes on to Facebook from your iPhones and you posted every photo of your wedding, your children and your vacations. You tacked up your phone numbers, addresses, relationships and religious beliefs. Just to be sure that you didn’t have “unprivileged” people peering into your lives, you put up a tiny picket fence of security measures: passwords, limited profiles, restrictions, strongly worded statuses directed to SELECT viewers. You felt like kings behind the tiny little gates with their tiny rusty locks, and you continued to feed the selected people your entire lives, minute by minute.
Knock knock, the entire world from hemisphere to hemisphere is sitting outside your windows.
Whether you choose to admit it or you lack the common sense to comprehend it, Facebook is not your secret journal. It doesn’t keep your hopes and dreams under lock and key. It is a wide-open chronicle of every breath you breathe because you make it that way. I’m going to present a few very real scenarios to you to illustrate the folly of people putting their face in the Zuckerbeast’s* creation.
1. “I post vague, deeply upsetting statuses that list half the details of my life struggle. But YOU aren’t allowed to pry.”
More than once, I’ve had Facebook friend who give sob stories in song lyrics, poetry and vague digs at people they hate in their 420 character status. They may be totally detached and give no clue what’s going on, but it’s hard to ignore a status copied straight from the “Never Too Late” lyrics on Sing365. The other alternative is to post statuses that give half the details, describing part of the situation and none of the outcome, or the entire situation while leaving out names. Anyone who comments on these, desperately curious or genuinely concerned to discover what’s going on (we care about friends, that’s why we’re connected on Facebook), BEWARE. If you say the wrong thing in your comment or appear too interested, you may face a response similar to this: “How dare you! Only the people who DESERVE to know who I really RESPECT have that level of knowledge. It’s none of your freaking business.”
I have one thing to say to these people: If you don’t want other people commenting on your troubles, don’t post or don’t be friends with anyone who hasn’t climbed to your level on the mutual respect ladder. Either that, or auction off your friend slots to people who “really matter.” The rest of us are just chumps you string along to make us think you want to connect. And you feel the right to smear opinions and remarks on my wall?
2. “I post every detail about my life from everywhere, starting in my coffee shop and ending with my bedroom. Anywhere that falls in between gets tagged too. Where do you get off being so nosy?”
I can’t write this one without laughing. These people really send me doubling over with a snort and an elbow nudge. Do you know the reason that celebrities use fake names and often say they’re attending two different venues? They don’t want the paparazzi to follow them. They know how to try to get people not to pry – by keeping information secret. You think Facebook is just a neat sharing tool for spreading your life like hot manure over the internet. That may be so, but don’t bother getting all hot under the collar with people who ask questions. By laying your daily escapades, deathly boring or wonderfully exciting, all over your wall, you have no right to get upset when people inquire. You have no right to get upset when people make comments on how much you go out, what you eat, how many binges you’ve been on or what men/women you’ve slept with. You have handed every one of your friends a newsletter of your [usually] mediocre lives and then expect people to just pretend like you’re never there. No, you need affirmation that your life it great enough to share every part with everyone, but only on your terms. You are Supreme Commander! You can delete any comment with an opinion you dislike and you can disable anyone who says you have nothing to brag about so you brag about everything. Don’t be surprised if you leave your home address written on every bar napkin and bathroom stall and hundreds of curious creeps, thieves and bored wanderers show up at your doorstep. I have no sympathy for you when you get mad. I also don’t want to be laying next to your husband or holding your hair when you vomit at the club. But you put me there constantly and, when I do comment, you take personal offense because I must have an ulterior motive. No, you shared, so I thought I had the freedom to say something. Next time I’ll just show up every place you tag and ask if I can cut in.
3. “I have so much stuff about my life I don’t want parents and authorities to know, so I’ll post it on Facebook. Why am I jobless and my mom knows I drink underage?”
To introduce this final key point, I must say very directly that if you don’t want people knowing aspects of your life, DON’T POST IT ON A GLOBAL SOCIAL NETWORK. “Global” means “relating to the entire world.” This isn’t your neighborhood or state or country – it’s everyone. Once again, that tiny picket fence you put up is an idiotic waste of material! Sure, it looks good and it might stop the rabbits from hopping into your herb garden, but anyone with two legs and any brain left will just step over it. Friends of friends, Google searches, groups, weak privacy settings and the inability to close one’s mouth are all portals directly into your so-called “private page.” I’ve been able to view weddings of people I don’t know, vacation albums of friends I’ve never met and phone numbers of total strangers, simply because I know a mutual friend or I clicked on their profile. Moreover, it’s not like you have all your Facebook info tucked neatly away into the lock box in your basement. It is stored on a server controlled by people you will never see. It will stay on the internet as long as the internet exists, and eventually future employers might utilize it to see whether you’re really job material. Those drinking pictures from high school? To an employer, law official or parent who can access your page through anyone you know? It wasn’t cool or funny, it was just plain stupid. You don’t want your parents to know you’re gay or living with your girlfriend? Don’t post it on Facebook. You don’t want to let that ex-boyfriend know you cheated on him with his brother? Don’t post it on Facebook. You don’t want that nerdy kid from your tech class getting your cell number? If you don’t see where I’m going, you must be one of the people who does these things and never realizes it’s you. Facebook is not some secret club. It’s a glass box that you have the key for, but everyone else can look in and watch.
This problem has occurred more and more recently in the past few months. Whether it is a total loss of common sense, especially in my generation, or whether people are just more naive than I would be willing to accuse them of, I don’t know. All I know is this: These are scenarios and attitudes that are sent across the web every second of every day. In the end, you can go to bed and turn your lights off, but people can still see the glow of your TV, your nightlight and the stars through your roof. When people talk about you, you start pointing fingers for who let word out, but you won’t admit you started the gossip by printing it and handing it out to a crowd. In short, your life on Facebook is a glass house that you build and maintain, but you get mad at people for slowing down in traffic and peering in.
If this is you, any of it, you have serious reconsidering to do. The rest of you, let this serve as a warning of how not to ruin friendships and how to keep a hold of your life.
Be friends with only those you deem worthy, or don’t dare say anything about “privacy settings.”
If you don’t want it known by one person, don’t let it be known to millions.
If you don’t want people to ask questions or voice opinions, don’t spoon-feed them your every waking moment.
In the end, post whatever you want. But don’t bring out the flamethrower when I pull up a lawn chair.
*Terminology brought to you by The Oatmeal
Posted on June 17, 2011, in Angst, Reflection and Observation and tagged allow, anger, boundaries, common sense, facebook, fences, friends, glass houses, posts, privacy, rant, sharing, transparent. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.