October 2, 2011The timelines they are a changin’

What kind of child were you? Did you have brothers and sisters? In the playground did your parents ever tell you off for not ‘sharing’ your toys? Or were you the kind of child who got everything, and never had to share?

Is sharing always a good thing? Do you think you got more pleasure out of that new toy when you played with it alone, or when you were forced to share it with others?

I ask because that’s exactly how Facebook works. Like a pushy parent, Facebook is forcing you to share more and more. And, perhaps inevitably, another tantrum has happened.

Facebook and Spotify force users to share intimate details of their lives

This time, it’s music. It’s bad enough that Spotify now forces you to sign up to its streaming music service with a Facebook account. Many people, myself included, naturally resist this attempt at data mining — they don’t want Zuckerberg knowing their every musical taste. I didn’t sign up (and pay money) to Spotify only for them to hand over my data to Facebook for free.

But the latest privacy outrage didn’t stop there. Once your Facebook and Spotify accounts were linked, an “auto sharing” feature was automatically enabled — with no ability to switch it off from within the Spotify app. In other words, all your Facebook friends could see every song you were playing in real time.

Obviously, most people saw this as too much. If I want (heaven forbid) to play Britney Spears at two in the morning on a Friday night, I certainly don’t want any of my friends to know about it. But the fact is we all have some guilty pleasures — we don’t want to share everything all of the time with everyone. Would you want to share with everyone on your friends list (who may or may not be ‘real’ friends) every meal you ate, every movie you watched or, even, every toilet visit you take?

It’s an old joke. But this cartoon from 2010 doesn’t seem to be so far off the mark. Facebook really is pushing us to share more and more — and many things, such as being forced to share the music we’re listening to, make us feel deeply uncomfortable.

You can opt out… but when did you opt in?

It took less than a week before Spotify were forced, by public outcry and drop-offs in usage, to give users a privacy option to prevent this over-sharing. I don’t want my Facebook “friends” to know every time I take a shit. And I don’t want them to know when I listen to “shit” music either.

There is such a thing as sharing too much — it’s okay to share when you want to,
but being forced to share is different — as Facebook and Spotify have found out.

Facebook’s new Timeline is almost upon us, and many people have argued that Facebook is getting too complicated [Mashable] for most casual users. It’s possible to prevent apps from automatically sharing information but it’s time consuming and complicated for most users. And there will always be the nagging feeling that the next time you log in to an app using Facebook, it sends data to your friends that you don’t want to make public.

Mashable have also highlighted three privacy fights the new timeline will bring — mostly to do with people from your present being easily able to dredge up things (or relationships) from your distant past, and hold the things you say against you. That’s quite difficult to do right now. The new timeline will enable your girlfriend, or your boss, to instantly find out what you were doing or saying five years ago.

Embarrassing photos from university? 4/20 status updates from before you wised up to the fact that only losers smoke pot? Hundreds of lovey-dovey messages from the ex who turned out to be a bunny boiler? They’re all back.

I’m not trying to be a luddite or a technophobe and I’m actually quite excited about some of the changes the new Facebook timeline will bring (as is, by the way, Don Draper). The idea of being able to share and curate a scrapbook of my life has appealed to ever since I got my first Livejournal over a decade ago.

But I want control over what, and when, I choose to share.

Spotify and Facebook didn’t slip up when they forced us into sharing the music we’re listening to.
That’s genuinely their vision of the future — a world where we share everything, all the time.

It’s not my vision of the future.

In George Orwell’s 1984, where our every move is monitored, Winston Smith’s interrogator says “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Perhaps this is no longer the case. With Facebook’s timeline, perhaps a more likely vision of the future is six billion people flinging shit at each other for all eternity.

Facebook Turdline? Don’t joke. One day, it just might happen.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 at 12:19 pm and is filed under Blog, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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