I live about a mile and a half from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. They are literally my neighbors. The value of my home has increased due to what local realtors call the “Facebook bump,” and while I’m not planning on selling anytime soon, due to Facebook’s proximity I enjoy the fantasy of greater net worth.
Through Facebook I have reconnected with long-lost friends and family, supported various social movements, products, and companies. I regularly post my comments about happenings in the world, link to favorite stories and videos I’ve found, and post photos.
I don’t play Facebook games, nor do I use Facebook login credentials with any other sites. I have very tight security controls within Facebook.
And yet I often wonder about the value proposition of Facebook. While I don’t pay directly to use it, there are significant indirect costs associated with allowing myself to be their product. Facebook uses information about me to target advertising that I do not want to see, sells my information to others that I do not want them to have, and (so it seems) is constantly in hot water with US and European regulatory agencies about various privacy breaches. (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Facebook for a recounting of these issues).
I recognize that Facebook is not alone among companies that have been criticized for violating customer privacy. Sony, Craig’s List, Google, and Apple–all companies whose products or services I use–have also made major errors. (See http://goo.gl/X3cTY).
But for some reason, I am more forgiving of these other companies than I am of Facebook. In the case of Apple, I am a dedicated Mac and iOS device user, so the value proposition is different. Google also offers me great value through core software services such as email, documents, calendaring, address book, photo editing and sharing, and of course, search.
Facebook offers me no such core functionality or benefits. Its value proposition is different, and in my view increasingly weighted towards the company and less towards its customers (aka products).
While I am not ready to completely pull the plug on Facebook, I am ready to put it on life support; to pare back my use to immediate family and one group that consult with. If you are my Facebook friend and notice that I have a smaller level of activity or have disappeared from your Facebook list of friends, please don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, and I think it’s not really about me. It’s about a company that has done little to earn my continuing trust and active participation.
I suspect I am not alone in my misgivings about Facebook. I have no idea what their future holds. I am skeptical of any sort of large-scale Facebook boycott, though increasingly I am reading more about what some call Facebook Fatigue. (go ahead, Google it). What fatigues me are not TMI messages, inane videos, or irrelevant advertising but the constant vigilance required to keep ahead of Facebook’s attempts to roll-back privacy and use my data to their ends. I’ve had it, Facebook. TTFN.