“Sick of Facebook’s lack of respect for you data? Then ‘Quit Facebook’ on May 31st!”
Of a worldwide user base of about 400m, roughly 36,000 felt strongly enough to sign a petition asking Facebook to change its policies, or face a drop in membership.
The furore about Facebook’s privacy was widely covered in new and mainstream media. It brought about a rare submission from the company – who have faced complaints from users about everything from changes in site appearance to missing ‘dislike’ buttons – into simplifying its privacy options.
Why? Because Facebook gets it – its active users make its business viable. The larger the user base, the more valuable the platform, the more targeted advertising can be sold, the larger the audience for brands to interact with. With each new genuine user, Facebook increases in value for its investors, advertisers, marketers and its users.
Which is why you probably clicked a link on Facebook to get to this post. You’re still there.
The platform adds value to your life by connecting you with far flung friends, old classmates and ex-romantic interests in a social setting that has never quite been captured elsewhere.
If you did leave Facebook, how would you keep up with what your friends were doing? Do you think they’d remember to create an ‘e-vite’ for their (massively oversubscribed but otherwise very fun) party? How about the pictures from said party – are they going to email around a link to their Flickr account? Send a round robin email to let you know which news story they liked the morning after? Probably not.
Facebook has changed the way that we as consumers interact with the internet. One-way communication was replaced by email; two-way communication was replaced by social media. The world’s a buzz, and you want to stay part of it. Social media has taken the social out of our email inboxes, personal homepages (remember those?) and instant messengers, and collated it in one place.
Who gets to see this data remains a sensitive topic – you don’t want to end up losing your job or flat because of a social network – but just how much super-private data are you sharing on the internet? Would you share the same information around the water cooler, in class or over a PA? If the answer is ‘no’, then you might want to rethink sharing it online.
Facebook’s overcomplicated, default ‘social’ privacy settings and its decision to switch all users to these settings can’t be excused. The company’s move to simplify privacy across the site is a significant waypoint in the development of social media – throngs of users are seeing the value of sites like Facebook each day, but platforms are now seeing the true value of an engaged and positive user base.
“Quit Facebook Day” may have been a flop – Facebook actually grew by 5.5m users in May 2010, and social media as a whole overtook search engines as the main destination for UK web users – but the concessions made by the company will have massive repercussions. Social media offers a real opportunity for brands to interact with their consumers, something platforms have encouraged as a means of monetising their services. This ‘democratisation’ of business has now made its first major impact on the platforms themselves.
Adam James Morecroft is PR & Social Media Associate at Vivid London
Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.