25 February 2014
It's cool to hate Facebook – although it's very difficult to find a person without an account. It's not cool to be using Facebook – even though it's the most visited site on the internet.
We mistrust entities that get big, and with over a billion users, Facebook is massive. And that's the trouble – Facebook is a place where your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, stalker or confused grandparent can be. On Twitter and LinkedIn there's a separation between the images you give out and the people you are – Facebook doesn't really have that.
This means baby pics, stupid videos of cute cats, and suicidal declarations. It's no wonder that using Facebook can be a tortuous experience, and a place which has the potential to make and break relationships. Together with its attempt to change, monetise and become more Twitter-like (news feed, messenger, games, trending stories etc.) – there are lots of reasons to hate it.
But it doesn't matter. Facebook is here, and is here to stay. And one of Facebook's big aims is to connect everybody in the world, which will always conflict with many people's reasonable need for privacy. It was a reason why Facebook's purchase of Whatsapp caused consternation for many users who don't want to be targeted with ads, particularly if these are powered by 'private' conversations.
Unless you take yourself completely off, there's no real way of fighting back against the way Facebook is going. So we have to look at the positives – Facebook really has changed the way we communicate, allowing us to keep in touch with people around the world much easier than if you were only using email and phone.
There was one reassuring thing that came from Mark Zuckerberg's speech at this year's Mobile World Congress. Rather than a megalomaniac emperor looking to take over the world with like buttons, he spoke of a pretty worthy aim in the Internet.org initiative – connecting the world to the basic features of mobile internet.
Of course this will benefit Facebook - when people around the world think about the internet, it's their first thought. But having access will allow people to choose governments, access healthcare and communicate with loved ones around the world – which doesn't strike me as the work of an evil empire.