As much as I hate Facebook, I love Facebook. It’s an awful cesspool that brings out the worst in people, sort of like an Internet comments section that exists only for comments and swirls on in perpetuity. It’s also a furtive breeding ground for conspiracy theories and hasty responses to debunk those theories, both of which make me smile on the inside.
Facebook released a statement on June 2 assuring the public that they’re not listening to your phone calls. Kelli Burns, a mass communications professor at the University of South Florida, reignited fears that, because Facebook has access to your microphone, they are able to eavesdrop on you. Facebook does this, supposedly, to suggest more relevant ads to you and litter your feed with links that you’re never going to click. Devious!
Facebook has been begging you for access to your microphone, as well as your photos and whatever other info, apps, etc., it can scrounge from your smartphone for years. Burns isn’t the first person to suggest that it might be doing this in order to spy on you. Why it’s so interested in YOU is anyone’s guess. Sure, YOU or ME or US are probably just seen as commodities to a company like Facebook that profits (somehow) on us being us in an online forum, but since everyone nowadays seems so eager to share in public anything and everything about their lives, it seems like Zuckerberg and company wouldn’t have to hijack your precious microphone to learn everything they’d need to know about you.
Burns didn’t go as far as to outright accuse Facebook of any wrongdoing, but she said she wouldn’t be surprised if they were up to no good, which is sort of like accusing, especially in this knee-jerk reaction society we live in. So it shouldn’t be a shock that Facebook reflexively released a statement to defend itself.
“Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed,” Facebook wrote in the June 2 statement (side note: I love the capitalization of “News Feed” here). “Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information—not what you’re talking out loud about.”
The statement goes on to say that Facebook only accesses your phone’s microphone when you’re using a “specific feature that requires audio.”
“This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates,” the statement concludes.
Like many features on Facebook, you can easily deny the app access to your microphone by going into your settings and unchecking the pertinent box. And thus, disaster will be averted.
I understand, what with the NSA hiding in our bushes and peering through our blinds and whatnot, that we’re all worried about who’s out there watching us. Now that pretty much everyone has what amounts to a tiny spy camera built into their hand-held devices, it’s a very real concern that at any given moment our privacy will be violated.
That’s probably why it’s easy for Burns to be so paranoid. Sure, Facebook having access to your phone’s microphone is probably not that big a deal. Given the site’s number of users and the percentage of those users who likely have the mobile app downloaded to their smartphones, it’s probably not even cost-effective to have a whole team of employees whose only purpose is to filter through hours of recorded phone conversations in order to apply the correct algorithm that makes an ad for organic dog food appear on your news feed … sorry, News Feed. That being said, you can’t expect billion-dollar corporations like Facebook, whose sole way of making money is culling all of your personal information (that you input into its database) and selling it to other billion-dollar corporations, to respect your privacy.
Why worry anyway? If you’re really scared that someone is out there recording all of the shady shit you’re doing, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing shady shit. Just be more boring, like me. And, like, who talks on the phone anymore anyway? I forgot my iPhone even was a “phone,” because I talk on it so rarely. All I ever do is text. Ha … Wouldn’t that be funny … If Facebook was actually reading our texts … …
OMG OUR TEXTS.
On Friday, May 18, 2012 Facebook–you know, the website–became a publicly traded company. I have about as little interest in the stock market as most people who are interested in the stock market probably have in my column, but as with most people who are obsessed with the media, the Facebook IPO (which means initial public offering, as I have now found out) was big news.
That rat-prick bastard and founder, CEO and majority shareholder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, rang the opening bell as his company’s stock opened at $38 on the NASDAQ. At the ceremony he stated in that croakingly annoying voice of his that Facebook going public was a huge milestone for the company, but it wasn’t the ultimate goal for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based media giant.
“Our mission isn’t to be a public company,” the 28-year-old fucking billionaire said to the crowd. “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.” Well, la-di-da.
After a half-hour delay in the trading (presumably as NASDAQ officials posted, liked and shared statuses commemorating the event), the mad dash began to gobble up pieces of the world’s largest social network, which now boasts nearly a billion users. The price of the stock quickly rose 10 percent, but then as people realized they were clamoring to buy shares in a company that essentially produces absolutely nothing and provides a service of questionable value, the price dropped. Facebook closed up a mild 23 cents after its first day of trading.
Pundits and commenters were quick to chime in on Facebook’s lackluster showing. In a video posted by the Associated Press, Brian Hamilton, CEO of Sageworks, a financial information company, pointed to that little shit Zuckerberg, who is sole majority shareholder wielding a lot of power in the company, as a possible culprit.
“You’re making a big bet in one individual,” said Hamilton, who also brought into question the belief that Facebook’s user base is infinite. The video also ruminated over the debate of just how the social networking platform could actually “monetize its users” (i.e. us).
This is what sort of rubs me the wrong way. It’s not that I’m jealous of that fucking weasel-y, hoodie-wearing prick Zuckerberg for having an awesome Aaron Sorkin-written movie about his life or for attaining an almost god-like level of success–a level that not even in my wildest, delusions of grandeur could I ever have the scope or breadth of imagination to dream up for myself–at such a young age. Seven years younger than me to be exact. I’m not jealous. I’M NOT. What bothers me (really I’m not) is that what Zuckerberg and now all these fuckwits on Wall Street are making money off of is me, and not just me but all of you too.
Now, this isn’t like another product. Coca-Cola makes its money off of us too. It provides us with a soft drink that we fork over money for. That’s fine. They get profits, we get diabetes. Maybe that’s not the best example, but you see what I’m saying. But considering what we share on Facebook on an everyday basis, it’s really us that they’re selling.
Our lives are online now. Where we’re going; who we’re there with; pictures of our kids; comments from our mother; wishes for a happy birthday; who we’re in a relationship with, how we just became single and why it’s complicated now; how you feel about that asshole who just cut you off in traffic. It’s all on there. When pundits and commenters are using nebulous terms like “user base,” what they really mean is all of you, if you’re on Facebook. I’m guessing you probably are.
So what do we get out of this? It’s too early to tell, really. Maybe with the influx of investor capital, the site will see some exciting new improvements. Maybe the app for iPhone will finally work like it’s goddamn supposed to (I’m not holding my breath), but that’s all best-case scenario stuff. Now that it’s a publicly traded company, all those people with their hands in the pot are going to want to see returns on their investment. They’re going to see us (I’m sorry, the user base) as dollars and cents. What exactly are we worth? Am I making any sense? In any case, I’m sure whatever happens, we won’t see a penny from it. No one will give us a nickel for sharing our lives so openly so others can profit. Zuckerberg won’t have us over for a barbecue at his mansion, to thank us for making him so exorbitantly rich, that obnoxious, nerdy bitch. I mean, I’m not jealous, I’m just saying.
Once upon a time, a person would communicate with other people by stepping into their physical presence and speaking with them or by writing them a letter. This process was greatly simplified with the invention of the telephone, but the device didn’t cure the occasional need for physical contact. With all the effort involved in communicating, people tended to be a little more selective in the company they kept. That all changed with the dawn of the information age. Friendster, MySpace and ultimately Facebook help us choose our friends now.
Today, “friends” can be anyone we vaguely recognize. Oh, we went to the same summer camp when we were 6? Friend! You know my sister, but have maybe spoke to me one time for five minutes? Friend! We went to the same high school at approximately the same time but never actually had a conversation with one another? Friend! We have a friend in common but we don’t know each other? Friend! Friend! Friend! Friend!
When you look at all your friends, you will see behavioral patterns emerge. For example, we all have a Farmer Ted in our lives. He’s the guy who plays way too many Zynga games for anyone’s own good. You made the mistake of downloading whatever lame ass Facebook app Teddy sent and now your news feed looks like his 4H trophy room.
Farmer Ted is a joy compared to our next buddy, Grumpy Gus. Gus has some complaints and he plans to air them out on Facebook day after day. On a great day, his status might read, “Meh.” He hates his job, his house, his car, his girlfriend, his dog, his life, etc., etc., etc., and apparently, you need to know about it.
Of course, you also have Grumpy Gus’ polar opposite, Cheery McHappy. Everything is always roses, puppy dogs and chocolate cake for her. She likes to remind you that God does everything for a reason right after you suffer a particularly painful loss. This eternal optimist is quite possibly the most annoying person you know.
Cheery is a lunatic, and one day she will crack, unless she finds something to focus her energy on. To save herself, she may want to take a lesson from our next cherished pal, Workout Jane. Janey’s running a marathon every other week. Her status updates include daily caloric intake and a BMI count. Every day she seems to reach a new personal best while you sit on the couch in your sweat pants checking out Facebook.
When you are feeling lazy, your boy, Reggie Reddit, has everything you need. He reads the news and breaks you off with the highlight reel. This cat knows things…news, religion, music, popular uprisings, macroeconomics, long division, you name it. His Spotify playlist is unrecognizable, but somehow you know it’s all dope.
Reggie is full of great info, but sometimes you just need a distraction. When life is dull, our next compadre, Jamie Jet, can help. Jamie never stops traveling. One day she is in Anchorage, Alaska, eating salmon steaks and shooting grizzly bears, and the next day she is riding on the back of an elephant in the Congo. Who knows how she pays for all of this, but who cares? Jamie brings you the things that you don’t have the time/money/energy to see yourself.
If the pictures in your feed aren’t Jamie’s vacation highlights, they probably belong to our next homey, Sherry Baby. Sherry can’t stops taking pictures of her kids. Sherry is very determined to show you what perfect little angels her babies are. You, of course, are obligated to occasionally comment favorably on her precious, precious cherubs. She never seems to run out of pictures and/or kids.
Somebody has got to be paying for all of these kids. We all have that friend that is always on his grind trying to make ends meet. I call him Hustle Man. Hustle Man featuring DJ Wacky-Dee and the J Cat All-Stars have been sending you event invites every week for the past two years. Maybe your Hustle Man has a house to sell you. Hustle Man definitely has a business investment opportunity for you, friend.
Hustle Man wants you to read Submerge and become our friends/fans on Facebook. I’ve even decided to make the leap from 1992 to the present and get into this social inter-webbing that you crazy kids do these days. Become a fan and make bets on how long it takes Zuckerberg and Co. to kick me off. Who knows, maybe one day we will even be hearted, super BFFs!
Word by Bocephus Chigger
Lets be friends! Actually just “like” me: http://www.facebook.com/BocephusChigger
Life is a sexually transmitted disease that is 100 percent fatal, yet rock stars aren’t donating their time to throw concerts to raise awareness and combat the problem. Past generations only had the mirror and photography to remind them that they were creeping ever closer to their deaths. We’re lucky enough to have Facebook to remind us that we’re getting older.
Facebook is great; don’t get me wrong. I spend just about 50 percent of my waking hours on the site, either commenting, posting pithy statuses, sharing links that will make girls think I’m cool or interesting (both lies) or, my new favorite activity, liking comments other people leave on other people’s Facebook pages. It doesn’t count as stalking if you’re doing it so out in the open.
I currently have 333 friends. With only a couple of exceptions, I have at the very least met and have been solid acquaintances with everyone on that list. The few exceptions came about when I accidentally added people I thought I knew, because we had so many friends in common, but then after perusing their photos realized I hadn’t a clue as to who the fuck they were. I don’t drop “friends,” though, simply because I don’t know them, because that would limit the number of potential likes my aforementioned pithy statuses may receive.
Lately, most of the people adding me on Facebook have been family. It’s neat, because I haven’t seen or heard from many of them in years. It’s nice to know they’re doing well and can now benefit from the extraordinary amount of super-cool links and photos I “share” with my Facebook followers. A couple weeks ago, a younger cousin of mine–I’ll call her Sabrina–sent me a friend request. Sabrina is a smart kid. I believe she just graduated college. After adding her and visiting her page, I found out that not only is she off to a good start in her adult life with a good degree from a good school, but it also seems that she’s engaged to be married to a handsome young man with a similarly bright future ahead of him. I posted an earnest “Congrats!” on her wall. (I don’t believe it received a return comment or like, but I’m sure that’s just because she’s busy being awesome.)
I was happy for her, but then, as I do with all things, I thought about how this news totally unrelated to me would affect me. Then I realized that not only do I remember when Sabrina was born, but I also served as the ring bearer for her parents’ wedding. That’s the sort of thing old people realize, I thought to myself. Then I had an epiphany: For fuck’s sake. I’m fucking old. When did that happen?
It’s a sad thing to realize. Sadder still when you have less than $20 in your savings account, no health care and no pension with the best years of your earning potential in serious wane. Suddenly, Facebook was no longer the lone bastion of my dwindling cool-dom; it was no longer the place where I had a captive small venue audience to revel in my witticisms; it was now a sort of virtual crow’s feet marching across my aging face. All those crooked-number birthday reminders (and if I didn’t have those reminders, I’d never remember any of them, because my memory isn’t what it used to be), the wedding announcements, the baby announcements–everyone I know is married or having/had a baby. Everyone. Every. One.
I’m that guy. The old single guy who still gets drunk on the weekends (and sometime weekdays), because he’s too cool for the 9-to-5 grind; the one wives roll their eyes about when their husbands say they’re meeting me for a drink. How many rounds are you going to have to buy him this time? When is he ever going to get married?
Ugh. Maybe I should just delete my profile, but then I’d have a hard time justifying that I exist at all.