I am desperately waiting for a new social network--one that actually values its customers and the reasons they use social media. Until then, I'm stuck with the nation of Facebook. But it's precisely because of Facebook's arrogance in abusing its customers' privacy that I've had to risk offending a few people in my network recently.
Let me explain. A few months ago, Facebook rolled out facial recognition software and automatically made that option available on all of its customers' profiles--despite any kind of custom privacy levels we had already chosen. Right after that happened, I had a few conversations with some of my local friends (i.e., people I often see in the flesh and not on a screen) about their own preferences in being online. Some don't want to be "Google-able" because of the sensitive nature of their jobs. (There are a lot of those people employed by three-letter agencies in the DC area). Some simply don't want their business known everywhere and don't want to be tagged in photos. And some don't want pictures of their children online.
That made me think through the impact of my choices on their privacy. Because I am an author, speaker, and filmmaker I have chosen to put myself in a more public position, albeit one that barely blips on the celebrity radar screen. When Facebook got started, there wasn't a very good option to separate your personal network from your professional network. As I recall, you could create a fan page and that seemed awkward to me. I couldn't imagine asking someone to become my "fan" instead of my "friend." Eventually, Facebook allowed people to create public pages for their professional efforts. By that point, I already had a jumbled network of people as Facebook friends, some of whom I had never met, some I'd only briefly met, and some whom I really knew and could recognize their names and faces. And my personal updates and pictures of friends and family went out to all of them.
Procrastination won the day for quite some time because I didn't relish having to sort it all out. But after the latest Facebook blunder, I figured I owed it to my flesh-and-blood relationships to do the hard work of paring down my friend network and setting up a public page. I am still in that process. So far, most people have been very gracious about my notice to defriend them and my invitation to join my public page. I am honored by their initial interest in my activities, so I have been slowly writing personal notes to each and every one of them, explaining my reasons. It's a lot of work, but I hope it minimizes any offense. In the end, I'm sure that most people will find what I post on my public page a lot more relevant than the latest pictures of a cookout, kids playing or something else equally mundane in the course of life.
Having a Facebook public page also means that this blog will continue to be the place where I write longer entries. But my public page is likely to be updated more often with quick links and items of interest. I invite you to join that page if you want to be updated more than once every week to ten days -- or whenever I have a thought longer than 400 characters.
Oh, and while I'm explaining my views about online networking, let me also clarify that my Twitter account is primarily about film news and updates. So if you want to know more about the world of Citygate Films, please feel free to follow that. But it might bore you if you're not a hardcore film person. I'm also on LinkedIn, but not very active. Since that is a professional network, I really am selective about connections there. I will only accept links to people I have worked with or know fairly well.
Social media has so many implications for our relationships -- how we use it, when we use it, how it is read, etc. I'd like to hear more from you all how you process these decisions and what biblical concepts have shaped your use of it.