Saturday, June 4, 2011

You Can't Get Away From Facebook

Like so many others, I have a Facebook account that I regularly checked for a little while, but now rarely update. It's nice to be able to have a bead on where all my old high school and college friends are, and let them know which end of the country I'm occupying this year, but I just don't use it on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, I just can't seem to get away from it lately. Facebook is no longer simply a social network you can forget about once you leave the website. It's everywhere. And it's starting to drive me a little crazy.

First, there's the damned "Like" button plugin. I hate it. When it was first launched, it started mucking up the code on several websites I regularly visit, and the worst part was that they were on every article and every page, which meant constant reloading. I don't always have access to the most up-to-speed computers and browsers, so even the smallest additions can substantially increase my page-load times. More third-party cookies is never a good thing. Of course Twitter and Google and others are following suit, which will compound the problem even further, and leave me with another row of clutter to scroll past. What is the use of the "Like" button anyway? If I really enjoy an article, or movie trailer, or LOLCats macro, I'll post a link to it if I want my friends to take a look, or acknowledge it by leaving a comment, something to the effect of "I Like This!" The only thing the "Like" button is really for is to help maketers and data gatherers figure out my browsing habits even after I've left the Facebook site. And you just know they're going to have to update all those buttons eventually, because they so love to tinker with the layout on the site, which is going to break everything all over again.

And just a few days ago, we got reports that Netflix and Facebook are in talks to possibly get chummy with each other and start integrating their sites. I guess that video-on-demand service that Facebook launched in March to supposedly compete with Netflix isn't working out as well as Facebook wanted. Anyway, this move was great for Netflix's stock price, but the end result may put Facebook's brand of social networking square in the middle of my new favorite media platform. This makes me very uneasy. As I mentioned before in my Youtube post, the idea of putting social networking together with media consumption is a good one, and will probably have a lot of benefits. But Facebook's history of privacy snafus and really skeevy information-sharing practices results in visions of Big Brother dancing in my head. (For those of you who are curious, the Big Brother in my head looks like a sinister Ernest Borgnine). I can just see it now. I marathon a couple of subtitled "Godzilla" movies, and suddenly I'm getting pelted by friend requests and adbots from Osaka. And more of those damned buttons, screwing with my videos streams.

I know, I know. My internet browsers have filters and security settings that would allow me to remove Facebook from my Internet browsing experience permanently, but do I really have to resort to that kind of nuclear option just to get through a normal session of reading the entertainment news or watching movies on Netflix? I like having a Facebook page, and I like the core service. But they way that they've been aggressively muscling in on every far-flung corner of the Internet lately has been a pain, and avoiding them takes so much more effort than it should. Part of it is that I'm also kind of ticked off at the sites that have allowed all these "Like" buttons to proliferate everywhere, joining the Facebook bandwagon in the hopes of more page hits.

I don't think I would mind Facebook's expansion efforts so much if they were better at implementation and weren't so obvious and obtrusive about their attempts to take over the Internet. I'd feel a lot better if we could get just one more button somewhere, one that could let users opt out of the "liking" business altogether, to tell the data collectors to go take a hike. But I guess Facebook would need to be even more prevalent and more omnipresent in order for that to be feasible. And In order to be more subtle, they'd probably have to be even more clandestine and employ more convoluted security practices.

They would need to be, well, Google.

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