The No. 1 Danger of Using Facebook

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on September 29, 2011

(by Jared Spurbeck, Yahoo! Contributor Network) – Spending too much time on it and neglecting other stuff? Your boss finding embarrassing photos? Nope, and nope. People have been getting obsessed with stuff long before Facebook, and “Facebook addictions” making the news now mostly because it’s so new. Meanwhile, not everyone finds themselves turned down from a job because of embarrassing pictures, but every Facebook user is affected by the No. 1 danger.

It’s not Facebook addiction, in the sense that you need to get your fix like a shot of caffeine. It’s Facebook dependency, in the sense that you need Facebook. And that a single, profit-driven corporation is becoming as much a part of our lives as email and the Internet. No one individual controls either of those, but Mark Zuckerberg holds the keys to Facebook. And he doesn’t answer to you.

A single point of failure

The danger isn’t that Facebook will stop working all of a sudden, a la Twitter’s “fail whale.” It’s that a lot of power is being given to someone who wasn’t elected, and who has no accountability to the people on Facebook. The only people Mark’s accountable to are Facebook’s investors, and they have only one request of him: Make money.

That’s why Facebook can experiment with stuff like its unpopular new “Timeline” system and make everyone who uses Facebook deal with it. Where are you going to go if you don’t like Facebook? LiveJournal? Maybe that new thing Google is doing? Yeah, right. How are you going to see what your friends and favorite brands are up to if you’re not on Facebook? Plus all your crops in Farmville will die!

Having a Facebook account is like having a car. Everyone assumes you have one, and there are things you can’t do and places you can’t go if you don’t. Even online games and websites’ comment forms require you to have a Facebook account these days. Unless you want to give all that up, you’re not allowed to stop using Facebook.

And Facebook’s not like other companies

Not even other monopolies like AT&T and Verizon are in some places. Because to the phone companies, you’re the customer, even if it’s mostly because there’s no one else you can buy from. But to many Internet companies, like Google and Facebook, you aren’t the customer. You’re the product.

No, they’re not grinding you up and making Soylent Green. They just need your eyeballs, because they’re selling advertisers the right to put ads in front of them. And while there’s nothing especially sinister about online advertising … in Facebook’s case you can’t just change the channel or go to a different website.

You’re the perfect, powerless, captive audience. And Facebook can censor what you say about it, too.

This article was first published at on September 24, 2011.  Reprinted here September 29, 2011 for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Yahoo.