I’ve got bad news for any kids who think that the whole social networking thing is owned by them. It isn’t. The average age of people using these sites is 37 years old and although users of Bebo tend to be somewhat younger, (average age 28), Facebook comes in at a very uncool 38 years old.
Of interest but absolutely no surprise is the news flash that all these sites are used by more women than men. Actually, it’s not of interest; not one tiny bit. I couldn’t care less about who uses bloody Facebook and all the other spawn of the devil social sites that exist. Now Google has launched Buzz it will probably bury the rest anyway but we’re not going to talk about Google’s scary growth and massive influence over everyone’s lives; that’s for another day. No, today we’re going to mallet Facebook.
I’ve long vowed to be the last person in the Galaxy to join Facebook. These days that’s a bit like saying you run over badgers for fun. The mentor of one of the founders of Facebook, one Rene Girard of Stanford University, is a proponent of the behavioural theory mimetic desire which suggests that people are essentially sheep like and will follow one another without much thought. Well, I’m not a bloody sheep and the last reason to do anything is because everyone else is doing it.
Facebook has created one of the most dangerous professional and personal landmines for everyone, especially the young. Reputations can be trashed in an instant, (not to mention houses), potential careers ruined and relationships eviscerated. Get your name in the press, apply for a job, get published and the first place the bloodhounds search is Facebook. Once something is on the net, it’s there forever. Facebook mistakes are all over the web, here are just a few.
It also represents a fantastic databank for the security services. Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who invested $27.5m back in 2005. One of Greylock's senior partners is called Howard Cox who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. This is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. In 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which "identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions".
Incidentally, following privacy changes late last year, your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook. This means everyone on the web can see it; it is searchable. No wonder someone has just hit them with a class action law suit to fight the changes.
It is obviously a fantastically successful company and probably now has a “population,” of more than 350m. I don’t much care about that either though. I’ve got my real friends, modest in number compared to the hundreds that people appear to gather on Facebook, and I’m not much interested in sharing the details of my life with near strangers. In my view, Facebook doesn’t connect people, it disconnects them. It makes it too easy to tick the box marked, “speak to friends,” and little effort is required to make people feel they have large, if illusory, circles of friends.
Well, bollocks to the lot of them. Nothing replaces a face to face chat, a telephone call or a handwritten letter which in itself has become one of the great treats of our age to receive. You mostly won’t be seeing me on Facebook; you might though find me at the Mill Tavern enjoying a real beer with real, laughing and living people. Anyway, real Jedi's don't need the Interweb; we use our quasi-telekinetic power to know what you're thinking.
Modest point to note, the Germans are becoming agitated about the lack of privacy. It'll be interesting to see if they get traction.