I try to keep watch for articles on Facebook’s every-adapting policies and accessibility, and what useful tips there might be on the subject. Yesterday I found this big-brother sounding article, “Who’s Watching You on Facebook?” (The use of phrases like, “being spied on”, “snooping”, and “prying eyes” really helps the motif). In many respects it unfolded in the usual way and reached the typical conclusion: “other people besides close friends and family see your stuff, so be careful what you post on Facebook, otherwise it’ll bite your keester clean off.” It then gave four examples from four different areas of life where the four seemingly hapless individuals got screwed.*
What troubled me about the article, however, and it appears in similar articles dealing with social media, is how it identifies the locus of wrongdoing. (I should say, how it inconsistently identifies it). In only one of the four examples does the article correctly name the real problem–albeit implicitly: if you owe money to debt-collectors, “[i]gnoring the problem won’t make it go away.” Conclusion: own up to what you owe and pay it. However, whatever standard or methodology used for that one is clearly chucked out the window when it comes to the two other big ones–i.e. “job hunting” and “legal snooping”.
With the first one, the fault is not with the person who drinks uncontrollably, reduces him-/herself to drugs, and/or brags about getting hammered or flying around in a yellow submarine; nor is it with the person who displays pictures where onlookers would otherwise have to pay a monthly fee. No, the fault is placed squarely on the decision to publicize such things on Facebook. And the reason why this act of publicizing is a bad move? It’s not because there is something wrong with the behavior itself, but because doing so might kill your chance for getting a job.
With the second one, the fault is not with Dorothy McGurk’s sinister decision to lie about the extent of her physical condition and milk the system for $850/month. No, the fault is placed on her thoughtless decision to post information and photos of herself, which show her to be getting on just fine–and enjoying things in the process. And why was this thoughtless decision bad? It’s not because Dorothy knowingly cheated the ones who otherwise seek to help those in (real) need, but because she will now no longer get $850/month.
In all of this there seems to be an underlying accusation against those ostensibly doing the spying, snooping, and prying–how dare they invade people’s private lives!–while those who lie, cheat, steal, debauch and demean themselves are portrayed as victims. Moreover, the tone of the article’s summary comes across as, “Let me show you how not to make these rookie mistakes.” (This seems to me to operate on a modified version of, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”). Thus, the article seems to offer advice on making superficial changes without affecting what truly matters; how to change but stay the same; how to divert the attention off one’s own evil and focus entirely on the apparent evil of those who disapprove.
I would ask, “What the hell is happening with society?”, but I think that would begin to answer the question.
* I will admit that the “password” example illustrates excessiveness on the part of the employer, and that type of power-play should be resisted.