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Stallman: "Facebook is an international parasitism project." (mit.edu)
350 points by psawaya on Apr 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 293 comments

I was an outspoken Facebook-hater for a long time. Perhaps my most quotable moment on HN to date was saying "I have no love for their product or their business model, but their engineering is diesel."

My wife recently convinced me to give it another try. I didn't use my complete name, and was judicious about the information I associated with my profile. And yet, I proceeded to connect in a deep and healthy way with some people that I'd fallen out of touch with, and nurtured some newer relationships.

It's a tool that has a Tendency to be dangerous, prying, and abusive to its members. But even as a field of vast moral hazard, I've come to view it as "navigable and worth the risks."

Perhaps not the most glowing endorsement, but if they can convince me they're more valuable than they are dangerous, they've really done some things right in the last few years.

> connect in a deep and healthy way with some people that I'd fallen out of touch with

You must have had fallen out of touch for a reason, hadn't you?

I think this is the major reason why I am not using Facebook to find and connect with my old friends. If those connection would have been worth keeping up with, I am sure I wouldn't have lost them at the first place. Now, of course there are stories when some family members got lost at teen age and found each other through social network, I get it, but those are in minor, gems worth a short article on social blog.

After you re-connected with them again, after a while, most likely the same thing will happen. You will get out of regular touch and they will fall in the grey zone. Of course its harder to "loose" people nowaday because we living in much smaller world. And on the top of that, if you are a hard worker, if you have family, a bunch of close friends with whom you socialize, go to restaurants, movies, camping, etc, then do you really find time to socialize online? Isn't it enough that we forget about our spouses or parents birthdays sometimes, about anniversaries, other important events, don't always make on time to pick up son or daughter from school? I believe if you at least try to fullfill your daily obligations towards your job, families and friends, then you don't have time for social networking.

This might be one of the rare cases where "you'll understand when you're older" is the most elegant and truthful response available.

But I'll understand if that's not very satisfying, so...

Interpersonal connections just do not exist in some sort of static and immutable categorical hierarchy, wherein all those that share in the Platonic ideal of WORTH KEEPING are definitely kept above some threshold of positive health and repair, and those that do not are just as destined to fade naturally. If you're "sure that" you would recognize and maintain any connection that is worth keeping, then you're only correct insofar as the connection might not be worth maintaining for the other person. :)

The reason for this is that, in short, you can't see as far into the future as you think you can.

As you get older, you (hopefully) gain some perspectives that retroactively change the past. You occasionally notice important, even semi-profound things about people you used to know; things you had never really noticed before, that you could not have possibly noticed before because circumstances had not yet unearthed those facets of their character. High school isn't life. College isn't life. The first ten years of your career aren't life.

"Life changing" experience can come at any time, and it doesn't just change your life after the experience, but also reaches back into your experience of things that occured before.

drops mic

> "you'll understand when you're older"

In order to know this you had to be young and "get older". Social networks are only 10 years old, approx.

What social network did you use 25 years ago?

Social network != internet-connected social network. My statements are more about people (and the experience of living among them) than they are about Facebook or any other internet site. Graph visibility / searchability has increased, bandwidth has increased, latency has decreased. But the rules of human interaction and gaining perspective on the human condition have more or less (I suspect, not really my field) stayed relatively consistent since the days of parchment and ship transit.

Lots of rationalizations for why you don't keep in touch. Lets admit that geography, convenience, jobs get in the way as often as anything. It takes little time investment to write a thoughtful note to an old friend, facebook or not. It doesn't have to be family vs friends, we can make time for both.

>You must have had fallen out of touch for a reason, hadn't you?

This is exactly what made me realize it was OK for me to drop Facebook.

I was unreasonably worried that I would again lose touch with these people who were my friends back in college. We fell out of contact after graduation, and then rediscovered on Facebook years later. These were folks with whom I didn't have a whole lot in common at all - maybe I might have lived on the same dorm floor with them, or maybe we were study pals in data structures class, or something else similarly un-meaningful.

Then there were the people I actually cared about and made efforts to keep up friendships. I looked through my phone contact list, and realized not only did I have telephone numbers and email addresses for every last one of them, but I had made use of it often. Facebook was not how I communicated with the people that matter anyway.

Facebook provides a low friction way to stay in contact with people. If I were getting a daily status update email from each of my 100 friends, I'd go crazy. Checking FB while waiting for the subway is easy. Similarly, I can publish updates without worrying too much that I'm secretly infuriating my friends who have more important things to be reading. I can post interesting links without imposing the expectation that you read them (as would happen if I emailed a cool story around). I don't mean to sell something you don't want to buy, but a semi-private microblogging platform is a wholly different connection experience than email.

Imagine it this way. Your friends are data, you have limited capacity, and you access them with some pattern. Suppose you live in a world without Facebook.

Your wife and kids are in your registers. You see them all the time, and generally they're either a room away or (at the most) a phone call away.

Your best friends are in your L1 cache. Sometimes they come up to the registers after you've been hanging out with them for a while, but even if not, they're only a phone call or text away in the L1 cache.


Your friend from elementary school you haven't talked to for years is on disk swap. He lives in Japan, and you might want to contact him if you're traveling there.

In that world, it's still very cheap to access your most frequently-accessed connections--your wife, kids, best friends. However, as you go down the memory hierarchy it becomes very expensive to access them. And so, you contact them less often.

Enter Facebook. Now your friend from Japan is only a post away. You don't have time to have email threads with all of your friends, down to that friend from elementary school. But you can occasionally keep up with that friend by browsing to his timeline, occasionally seeing some major events "X got engaged", and maybe sending a light message. Suddenly your disk became an SSD and it became much cheaper to keep in contact.

Your registers and L1 caches haven't changed much. Now you can contact them in the medium that's most convenient at the time. You can message them from your phone (fb messenger), or skype them on your computer, but you can also just call them or talk to them. Facebook gives you more options for accessing the most-accessed friends. As a result, it both expands the size of your caches and main memory, but also makes each level faster to access so you can keep in touch with more of them.

So I don't think the right approach is to think of friends in a binary fashion: Worth keeping in touch with, and not worth keeping in touch with.

Instead, it's a gradient, and communication platforms like Facebook just improve the gradient so it's worthwhile (i.e. possible and easy) to keep in touch with a lot more of your friends.

The same convenience can exist on a different platform, that doesn't have the same abuse of its members/participants.

Outspoken misanthrope with poor social skills and a tendency towards an absolutist black/white view of the world dislikes social networking? Color me surprised...

I agree about the absolutist black/white world view but it is unclear to me how RMS is a misanthrope. Skimming the whole discussion on that mailing list it's also apparent to me that - while RMS did go offtopic by advising people to not use Facebook - poor social skills were in fact exhibited by the next commenter who replied to him in a very sarcastic and hostile way.

Taking the subject matter into account it would have made sense to instead chastise Stallman for exploiting an entirely different discussion (apparently about some student project) and injecting his own absolutist view into the original story that was at best only tangentially connected to Facebook.

Well, there is the mailing list incident where, when someone congratulated another contributor on the birth of their child, Stallman labelled the entire phenomenon of childbirth as "menacing" and went on to say "these birth announcements also spread the myth that having a baby is something to be proud of, which fuels natalist pressure, which leads to pollution, extinction of wildlife, poverty, and ultimately mass starvation."

Not to get into the whole discussion about whether that was the right forum or etc, but by definition I'd say being generally anti-humanity-propogating-itself meets the bar for "misanthropy".

Also the conversation a few weeks back where free software enthusiasts who developed non-free software at their jobs were talking with him...


> You see, I make software for most of my living. And I talked with Stallman (in email) before the show, about how I would love to get any ideas he has on how a developer, of proprietary software, can move that software to a Free and Open license… while still keeping food on the table for his family. From a practical standpoint.

> This is a topic that has come up time and again. And I really wanted to get Stallman’s thoughts on the matter.

> So, near the beginning of the interview, I ask him about that. How does someone like me make the move to working on only Free Software and still support his family?

> The end result was that he feels that all developers and businesses of proprietary software should fail. And that it is more important for there to not be proprietary software… than it is to be able to feed your children.

> I’m not kidding. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not putting words in his mouth. I even asked him, point blank, to verify his stance.

> He did not say that having Free Software is more important than kids having food to eat. I repeat: He said that it was more important that non-free software be gone… than for you to be able to feed your kids. That’s how evil he thinks non-free software is. Evil enough to justify causing significant harm to your family to do away with a small amount of it. (Of course this isn’t the first time Stallman has been anti-children.)

Do you care to elaborate? Your whole blog post is spent describing his rude tone, not addressing any of the content of his remarks.

It is really, really not obvious to me whether the world would be better off if you and I stopped writing proprietary software, did something else as a career, and wrote free software as a hobby. That is a hard question. My intuition agrees with Stallman.

Whether or not you agree too, it's obvious from his published opinions that he has thought hard about (and acted in accordance with) the specific goal: what helps humanity the most? That is the clear point of his answer to you and it is the polar opposite of misanthropy.

Stallman may be misanthropic but not his message.

Compare RMS' achievements in the social field (you know, like starting the social movement to popularize free software) with, well, just about anyone else on this planet before judging his social skills as poor.

Yes, he did a lot. 25-30 years ago. What's he done lately?

Sticked to his principles to remain a beacon that reminds us why the foundation he built those 25-30 years ago is still worth fighting for.

I disagree. His actions lately have driven many, including myself, away from supporting GNU projects and into supporting other free alternatives. Using the GPL 3 on software such as gcc has caused many people, such as Apple, the FreeBSD foundation, and the OpenBSD foundation, to seek alternative sources for GNU software, such as the clang project and the pcc compiler project. His reluctance to use modern technology, such as cell phones, has distanced himself from many who realize the benefits of such actions, and who know that such devices are available prepaid, and with off buttons, for if you want to use them anonymously. His petty name-calling of closed-source products that he doesn't like, such as iClone for the iPhone, has served to turn off many to his message, to the detriment of the FOSS community.

I agree with many of his principles, however, his time has come and gone. His view of computing seems stuck to how it existed 25-30 years ago, which is proving increasingly detrimental to recruiting new people to the cause of Free Software. By ignoring why people use closed products, such as his views on why Free Software users would use closed source dictation software ( https://lists.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/csail-related/2012-Feb... ), he has made Free Software less capable of competing because it doesn't do what people expect software to do. Once he realizes this, and that one can and should look at why people use alternatives to GNU software, then we can possibly move forward. Unfortunately, I don't have much hope that that will happen as long as RMS is at the helm.

I see his role a bit different - RMS stance on software freedom should be understood as a constitution. Setting in stone the ground rules that can then be amended, but not overturned.

Sure - current generations deal with a different reality compared to when he started out, but there is still paramount value in having his philosophy at heart. He may be old fashioned when it comes to new technology and he sure is quirky in a way that drives away some people, but all that doesn't stop people from interpreting what he has done and applying it to the world today.

I think the real problem is that you put RMS on a pedestal that he doesn't belong on. He is not the root node for what happens in Free Software today and I'm sure that the examples you cited weren't really that much about him, or even about the GPL3.

He has a very distinct, central viewpoint: freedom - and the link you quoted shows that you simply have a differing opinion about where to start thinking about software. You start with the user expecting features, RMS starts with the user deserving freedom. Both viewpoints have value, but RMS represents a constant that shouldn't be messed with and does not necessarily get in the way of your objective.

It is much more sensible to respect his service and do your best to live up to the standard he has set than to deconstruct his persona based on it being somewhat anachronistic. In my opinion, the best progress is made in dialog with our history, not in annoyed, knee-jerk revolt against it.

You know what, he shipped. GNU is still important today, and so is FSF. So stuff your attitude. If you don't like his opinions, ignore them. You can't ignore his achievements.

AFAIK he has very bad RSI and doesn't write much code these days. He spends most of his time talking at conferences.

Which I realize, which is why I wasn't asking what's he coded lately, but the more broad sense of what he's done. As I posted to skore, much of what he's done of late has been acts of pettiness and divisiveness that have served to do little more than to push users and developers away from the FSF and GPL. A good leader understands the politics of their actions, and RMS has been doing an increasingly poor job of that.

Now that you got your ad hominem out of the way, maybe you could focus on the issues RMS brings up.

He didn't actually bring up an issue there. His message reduces to "I don't like Facebook and don't think you should use it because I think is harmful to your users in some unspecified way."

For those curious, here's what appear to be his views on Facebook:


That doesn't strike me as a serious set of issues either, more a collection of possibly-bad things put together by somebody who didn't like it from the start.

That's not to say that there isn't a good case to be made for staying away from Facebook. But I don't think Stallman is making one.

That's what I've thought for a long time too, until I realized that the person writing http://www.osnews.com/story/25469/Richard_Stallman_Was_Right... has a point.

Wow, excellent link. I never saw it this way. Has it been posted on HN? It should be if not.

Woah. I had no idea csail-related archives were published on the web....strange feeling to realize you've been in a glass house the whole time you thought you were in a regular house.

I only post that comment here because it served as a reminder to me that, for all the privacy reasons we shake our fists at Facebook, FB actually does a lot to surface privacy issues to us that were always there (like whether or not a lab mailing list is publicly available) but you might not have noticed.

Stallman is right.

What Facebook provides is a completely unoriginal set of social networking tools wrapped in a mediocre presentation layer that requires you to surrender some of your most precious human rights in order to access it. Their users are their product. They sell you to advertisers and even more unsavory corporations like Zynga that are looking to lure you into a constant dopamine feedback loop to sucker you into buying virtual goods, so you can get that same dopamine fix faster still. Both corporations are parasites of the worst sort, because you're not only giving up your privacy, freedom, and money, you're doing so for a short term and minimal reward.

There will not be another Facebook, you can no longer be a "social network." Social networking at this point is just a common feature set that countless websites can easily replicate. In the future, social networking should just be a protocol that enables features like sharing photos, anecdotes, and relationships using a decentralized system. Bit torrent with identity. Or without identity if you so choose.

> that requires you to surrender some of your most precious human rights in order to access it

I'm genuinely curious, which human rights? I created an account, don't really use it... and don't feel like I've had any human rights taken away.

There's a distinction between having something taken and giving it freely. Facebook haters have the cognitive ability to make this distinction, but lack the integrity to do so.

Ad hominems never help your argument but do degrade the discussion. Please avoid them.

The idea of "giving away" a right is not that simple--for example, I think there are certain rights you cannot legally waive. Even if what Facebook is doing is legal (which it probably is), this same principle can reasonably be extended to condemn what they are doing from an ethical standpoint.

Additionally, Facebook does not only affect the people using it. Information about people without accounts (provided by people with accounts) is still archived and searchable, potentially by unsavory entities. For these people, a certain right to privacy is basically taken away, and certainly not given away.

I'm serious. Deliberately failing to make that distinction is intellectually dishonest, and that degrades the discussion.

As to your second point, Facebook is not running around taking pictures of you. Your friends are. If your privacy is being violated, it's your friends (to use the term loosely) who are doing it. Facebook provides a platform, but they are not the primary actor. That's another distinction I don't see being made frequently enough.

Privacy and free speech.

I see privacy, but how do you give up free speech?

Can you post a picture with nudity in it? No? There you go.


Freedom of speech is freedom from censorship by the government. Even that has restrictions, though. You can't incite violence against other people or cause other people to come to harm through your speech (yelling "Fire!" in a theatre being the canonical example).

You're agreeing to Facebook's Terms of Service when you use their site. You are agreeing not to upload that kind of content when you sign up.

Of course. Not to Facebook, but free speech doesn't imply a particular venue.

So I assume you can post a picture with nudity on the NYT website?

This has to be the most vapid and ridiculous example of free speech I've heard in a while.

The reason nudity is not allowed is because minors are on Facebook and it would be illegal to do so.

...easy enough that my parents can use? That doesn't introduce a cognitive load of "oh shit how do I do that again?"

If it's a decentralized system and it uses a free and open protocol, there could be many different clients. I am sure many of them would be very easy to use, and as far as cognitive load goes, Facebook's many capricious and poorly considered UI sea changes over the years have created countless cases of "oh shit how do I do that now?"

I am somewhat surprised to find that apparently I am just about the only one who has nothing but complete ambivalence to Facebook.

I don't see it as the parasitic pariah Stallman makes it out to be, nor do I dote on every status update of a friend or family member that scrolls across my screen.

If you were to ask me if I hate Facebook, I might agree. But the truth is I hardly use it enough to muster up much of a reaction. I almost never post. The only thing I really use it for is to get invited to things or figure out when someone's birthday is. I'm secretly very lamely proud of my non-activity.

But it's a scourge against humanity? It's a parasite on our populace? It suckers unsuspecting people into a one-way relationship where they are wholesale taken advantage of with no gain?

I call bollocks.

You're not the only one. Most of us avoid posting because of our ambivalence.

I think I know what Stallman is getting at. I've been thinking about how resistance movements work. In general, they use the power of personal connections to resist the power of a government. Facebook amplified the effect of this kind of power for the Arab Spring by augmenting those kinds of connections.

What if those governments had preexisting intelligence about the social graph? In World War II, Germans used paper punch cards to collate information about the so called "undesirable" residents of France and other occupied countries, and rounded most of them up in a matter of days. Just having most of the social graph in digital form would be devastating intelligence to be used by an oppressive government.

I hope the engineers at Facebook have put together a "self destruct button" for Mark Zuckerburg, and that he would have the courage to use it if the government turned oppressive. In all likelihood, this did not/will not happen, however.

I am very sure they do not have such a button. Primarily because they do not think about those consequences. To the contrary: Their social graph is so valuable I am sure they will do anything to protect it from being destroyed.

And how do you know your government has turned oppressive? It won't be as visible as with the NSDAP the next time. Some would argue its already under way.

Destroying Facebook from the inside, assuming you had control over and an understanding of whatever system they use to manage their server farms, would surely be trivial. I highly doubt there's something as apocalyptic as a designed "self destruct", or even a need for it.

This is the only time I've ever agreed with RMS. Facebook is a disease. Please do not require me to log in to it for your cause.

I agree heartily. In the late '90s AOL had millions of users. At the end of many movie trailers there was an AOL keyword instead of a web site URL.

I knew many people who had AOL, but I also knew many people who did not. But it always struck me as absurd that film studios would bet their entire online effort on AOL's walled-garden instead of taking slightly more time to develop a web site as well.

(As an aside, unrelated to my point, the "Space Jam" web site is still live, where are all those AOL keyword pages?)

There is something similar happening today. No one would go back to the days of AOL, yet people find it perfectly reasonable to rely on Facebook to be the sole online presence for businesses and organizations.

This isn't a story about a local coffee shop having a poll to find out which roast is the most popular and doing it using tools that Facebook conveniently provides. This is Intel (based on the linked thread) developing a Facebook "app", with all the energy, money and time that entails in order to hold a contest of sorts.

Would it really have been that much more difficult to do it themselves on the open Internet? They could have still used Facebook to promote it even.

This is AOL all over again in the worst-possible way. I don't hate Facebook, and I didn't hate AOL. I just don't understand the logic behind companies and organizations that lock themselves into a walled-garden when they have other, better, options.

Came back from a talk by a Facebook Data Team member a little while ago. Don't have time to look it up now, but he cited Bakshy et al 2012 as a paper describing Facebook research in which a proportion of "Likes" from friends were censored for selected users in order to gather information on a social science question. The talk was pretty incoherent on what question they were investigating; I get the impression that it was pretty innocuous, something like "more activity in your feed makes you share more," maybe. Still, it makes me wonder why people are signing up for this fishbowl.


This looks like it could be the paper in question.

I had the same reaction (though I can sympathetic to some of rms' opinions). It's a false dichotomy to say "do you hate Facebook more than you care about $fixing_some_big_global_problem? I reckon if your cause really, really wants to recruit people, they would look beyond Facebook.

> Please do not require me to log in to it for your cause.

The worst part about it is oftentimes it makes the most sense to require Facebook for login. The gains are: 1) development and maintenance of only one login system. and 2) Easy integrated sharing/liking to expand support for your cause.

You can't really expect to win a rational argument with a site owner who sees how the benefits of requiring Facebook outweigh the perceived costs.

I agree that Facebook login should not be mandatory, but I do like the option to not have to create another account with every site just to leave a comment or try their service. Facebook and OpenID should be standard options, as well as local accounts.

Although I dislike some of Facebook's policies, I don't hate them.

I deleted my facebook account because I determined that what it cost me to host my data there (and to consume their services) was more than I was willing to spend - and that this cost was creeping up over time without giving me the opportunity to decline.

The currency in this case is the information that I'm providing them, either explicitly through postings and 'Like's on external sites, or implicitly by their plumbing of my social graph.

I would actually feel much better if facebook were a paid service, since then they would have an incentive to maintain me as a customer.

I'd rather that a third party with whom I've already established a financial relationship (Apple, Amazon, UPS or Fedex, etc) could provide an authentication token that could be used as a universal login.

I love how the response is basically "c'mon Richard, let's be more short-sighted about this." https://lists.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/csail-related/2012-Jan...

I agree with many of Stallman's views to some extent, but it's very hard to ignore that he is willing to sacrifice anything and everything for what are essentially minor decisions.

It's good that we have him around to consider the utopian extremist viewpoint, even if it's rarely the favorable option. We aren't all made of money... the benefits outweigh the risks for most services where we pay with our ad-viewing, closed platforms, and information gathering. People can volunteer time and effort into building free systems, but nobody is going to donate data centers and storage space. I think there are limitations to the free mentality for widely adopted services.

They are no longer minor decisions once they are adopted by the masses.

An instance of a common practice is a minor decision, in my opinion. You may be adding fuel to the fire, but the proportion is insignificant.

So am I the only person who thinks this characterization of facebook as a "parasite" or a "disease" is meaningless, useless hyperbole?

Facebook isn't any more of a "parasite" than email.

email is not a private company looking for using you as their product.

"Using" - more like you provide information which is the price of admission. Same as it is with any other company providing a free service. Characterizing Facebook as "evil" for this is quite silly.

And much like email, you can roll your own. It's much harder, but it's possible.

If people are willing to give up their privacy to use facebook and find value in using facebook, i'm fine with that and i won't enter a jihad to make them stop using facebook, although when i can i try to make sure they are a minimum informed about what they are giving up (while trying not to be too insistent, just providing information).

As for you can roll your own facebook, this is absolutely false. Facebook tries to get the whole planet registering with them, and don't have and probably will never have a protocol letting a fully featured "facebook bis" integrate with them (except maybe if legally bound to).

e-mail is a completely distributed service. People using gmail are not segregated from the others.

Now I'm also not pretending that facebook is evil for all that. I was initially reacting at your comparison between facebook and e-mail, which made little sense.

substitute "e" with a "g" and there you go

I'm not taking any sides on this, but yours is another hyperbole, Facebook is definitely not as harmless as email. If every email from everyone around the world went through the same company, and they could data mine it as they wished, then they would be on equal terms.

I didn't say anything about harmless, I said they're not a parasite.

Neither is hosted email. They are centrally-managed communications systems which you are free to use or not use as you will.

A LOT of email goes through Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail each day.

I love rms, but he needs to learn to spend his time speaking for things and not against things.

How'd the campaign against Apple go, rms?

Here's a good counterargument, entitled "In Defense of Negativity": http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/20110903-00

From that site:

   "Should a campaign for abolishing child labor talk only about how valuable adult workers are to their employers or how happy kids are when they don't work?"
No, they should provide better more efficient alternative than child labor.

   "Should a campaign trying to abolish land mines talk only about the benefits of bomb-free fields and intact lower limbs?" 
No, they should provide better alternative to land mines so everybody switches to it.

   "Should a free speech organization only speak out about the social welfare brought by a free press and never against acts of censorship?"
No, they should provide better means of communication that cannot be censored like that.

> No, they should provide better alternative to land mines so everybody switches to it.

This is ridiculous. You're saying that anti-landmine orgs should spend their time finding more efficient ways to kill people.

> No, they should provide better more efficient alternative than child labor.

What if no such alternative exists? Just because it's economically efficient, doesn't mean it's right.

> This is ridiculous. You're saying that anti-landmine orgs should spend their time finding more efficient ways to kill people.

In a sense that this new weapon would obsolete land mines, and thus solve all problems of land mines. I don't see nothing ridiculous about that.

> What if no such alternative exists? Just because it's economically efficient, doesn't mean it's right.

Let us believe that it is not like that, otherwise ultimatly everyone that not uses child labor will die out, all that not uses land mines will lose a war. And no amount of negativity will stop it.

The ensuing discussion is good.

I recommend you all read this reply; I laughed pretty hard https://lists.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/csail-related/2012-Jan....

I can't quite see what's funny about the response.

the combination of a pertinent observation (that facebook's "800 million active users" userbase was perhaps less relevant than one might think, or why spam mailing lists with a link to a facebook poll), and the over-the-top comedic writing style used to point it out. i laughed pretty hard at it too.

> In other words, the question of comparing the good of these projects against the harm of Facebook arises because someone made an snap choice.

Who says it was a snap choice? For X project that needs viral promotion to achieve critical mass (either in support--like a donation drive--or just participation--like a vote), you can rank places to put that mechanism by how viral and well-connected the networks that "flow through" that place are. Facebook frequently tops such rankings, if there isn't a specific niche hang-out available where you can target all the "super-connector" nodes at once.

Not completely unrelated, but Exfoliate for Android (not by me) is a great tool to automate deletion of your Facebook content (posts, likes, photos, etc..) that are older than x days. It's incredibly useful, but a hard find if you don't know it exists..


This might make it harder for normal people to find, but FB keeps your data around after it's "deleted" and I'm sure law enforcement has access to it as well.

You're right, but don't miss the bigger 'security picture' where we don't deal with absolutes, but probability and ease.

This wouldn't protect you from a CIA sponsored deep dive of your information, but it does give you a considerable advantage over your peers, scammers, and many levels of legal inquiry.

Many of Stallman's complaints about Facebook ( http://stallman.org/facebook.html ) apply equally to Google.

Does anyone know whether he regards them in the same light?

If you follow the first link on the page you linked to there ("I don't use it") there is a brief discussion of his view of Gmail and Google+:

"As for Facebook and Google+, I reject them on principle because they require people to give their 'real names'. I am proud to identify myself when stating my views; I can afford to do that because I am in a fairly safe position. There are people who rationally fear reprisals (from employers, gangsters, bullies, or the state) if they state their views. For their sake, let's reject any social networking site which insists on being told a user's real name... Google+ says it will offer to hide the user's real name, but demands people prove an 'established identity' or provide ID. I am suspicious of this requirement, but not sure what it will mean in practice..."

"People sometimes ask me to recommend an email service. The two ethical issues for an email service are (1) whether you can use it without running any nonfree software (including nonfree Javascript code from the site), and (2) whether it respects your privacy... Last I heard, Gmail was satisfactory on issue 1, and probably so are many others. On issue 2, I have no way to verify that any email service is satisfactory. Therefore, I have no recommendation to offer... However, I can suggest that it may be wise to use an email service that is not connected with your search engine. That way you can be almost sure that your email contents don't influence your search results. You shouldn't identify yourself to your search engine in any case."

One problem with the privacy-protectionist view is that half of my email recipients use one of the three major email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail), so even if I decided not to use them, half of my email would end up on their servers. Taking that into consideration, and adding the fact that I haven't found an email service that I've liked within an order of magnitude of Gmail, it doesn't make sense to boycott it. You just have to assume that the email providers are reading your messages and act accordingly. Some things I talk about over email, and some things I don't.

Only half?

(I wish I was joking.)

Arguments against the Real Name policy are valid if all your thoughts, opinions, and actions all funnel through that one social network. In reality, however, there are many alternate forums for expressing your views with varying levels of anonymity, and I think that's a good thing! The freedom to choose anonymity between forums is great. I'm glad that certain networks stick to a real name policy.

This is not quite correct. It's not a binary. The existence of one weak alternative network wouldn't be enough. We need an actual plurality of active networks.

These issues are real when you have large organizations like Google and Facebook who stand a reasonable chance of extinguishing a significant part of the diversity.

Does it really matter? As much as I agree with rms on the matter, I don't want him to become the High Judge of what's good and what's evil.

Wanting to know his opinion doesn't make him the High Judge.

I'm curious because slthough I'm critical of Google for various reasons, I think it's hard to make a case against the value that Google search has brought to the world.

In the particular thread about Facebook RMS is pretty absolute in his boycott. I wondered whether he'd be more nuanced with Google.

Most of that seems to be aimed at ChromeOS - which is predictable.

I'm more interested in what he thinks of Google as a service.

While i was on facebook and left, my decision to leave was accelerated by the privacy concerns, rather than being the first(temporally) cause themselves. Infact, the first thing that caused me to worry about being on fb, was the amount of time i ended up spending there. All in all, am happy i am not connected/updated with all my friend's statuses. :-)

I feel it more a mutualistic (symbiotic?) relationship. If it were not, I believe people would abandon the platform --which they may, at soem point when something else proves more beneficial to them. Kind of like gut fauna --but more optional than gut fauna.

Parasitic, seems a bit strong --but I guess, to make a point, the analogy kind of works --just not for me.

Dunno what is the point of this article, but I definitely agree with what he says.. did the OP post this to embarrass this dude? it did the opposite for me.

Not at all. I sympathize with what rms is saying, and hoped it would provoke discussion about the daily tradeoffs of using Facebook.

Off topic: Why is he signing his mail with "Dr" Richard Stallman? His Wikipedia page only mentions a BA.

He has a bunch of honorary doctorates. I guess those confer the right to sign Dr. (?)

Yes. BTW, he did not finish his PhD, which he began at MIT. Side note: MIT does not award honorary doctorates at all.

As a kid I was bullied for using my computer to talk to people. Now I'm bullied for not using my computer (facebook) to talk to people. The bullies never die.

Facebook isn't a free service based on GNU software. I don't even see why there is any discussion at all about this. I like Stallman despite his quirks. And I respect his views. But he won't influence my decision to use Facebook or other non-GNU software. My approach, which I wish Stallman would support but he never will, is to use whatever is free that is a good service, even if it isn't truly GNU free and open-source. That is because I'm not only cheap, but I respect that often people that do good work are inspired by money. One day, after the end of the human world, the chosen few will be surrounded with those that want to do what is best for each other, not themselves. And that is the day Richard looks forward to, and he is an activist to that effect, and I think that is wonderful. However, I think he thinks he can make this happen on his own by denying capitalism. That is the wrong tact. Free can be embraced by ignoring money altogether instead of fighting it.

I can relate to his feelings. Socializing does come easy to scientists. Yet, even with all its shortcomings, I guess Facebook makes us waist less time in trivial social interactions with distant friends while still keeping in touch.

Stallman is almost always polarizing, but there's something here. Does FB make society less or more efficient? Where's the proof?

255 comments and nobody mentioned Diaspora?

The project is small and mainly full of geeks now, but so was Wikipedia when I started promoting it. Everybody told me it would never succeed then, but they all use it now.

More relevant to this discussion, it provides a Free (as in freedom) alternative to Facebook. As long as no free alternative exists, Facebook has something going for it. Once you have an alternative, you can kick Facebook. (Also relevant, Eben Moglen, who co-wrote the GPL with Stallman, inspired Diaspora).

Yes Diaspora is small. Wikipedia also once had only 10,000 articles.

I recommend joining. The community is smaller than 800 million, but you can connect with me so you'll have at least one awesome person in your network there.

And you own your data.

I created a Diaspora account a while ago because I thought it would be a usable alternative and maybe I could get some friends to follow. Well, it isn't.

It started with my profile picture being public, there is no way to disable that.

Then I did not understand the aspect of "aspects" because at least in my language no-one ever uses that word in any way remotely related to a social network. I still have not fully understand the idea. I think it is way too intellectual and not natural.

You do not get recommendations for "friends of your friends you might know". Of course it would be a privacy issue, I know that. But this is a crucial feature, if not THE crucial feature of a social network.

And one thing I was looking forward to and what I thought would let me find likeminded people in this network, the ability to follow tags, seems to be restricted to my pod. Or maybe there is just no-one using it and thus there is almost zero content.

The name is standing in its way too. Reminds me of the "pirate party".

And I am a technology lover, hacker in mind, etc. Diaspora is not remotely close to being something I would recommend my friends.

I see how it may seem like facebook is parasite project in a scenario of using facebook that is most common (sharing photos, liking, tagging pictures, having friends,..). But users that use facebook platform like that are all doing it by their consent. If user chooses to do so it may leave the platform at any time.

While in parasitic relationship there is one side that is being parasited without consent and other that is parasite. If we must compare facebook and its most common users with realtionship in nature it is more like symbiotic relationship.

The problem is not Facebook per se. It is that the human condition is such that FB appeals to us in vast disproportion from its value. The collective time spent on FB is travesty to our species. It's not the only one to be sure, but to the extent that people can avoid Facebook they and we are better off. Facebook is not benefiting society. It has harming it.

1) There is a whole bunch of messages by Stallman in that thread.

2) That discussion triggered me to install the do-not-track-plus extension in Chrome.

Thanks Stallman!

I'm not so concerned about the privacy issues because I don't put much of my life there. For me FB is just crap UI/UX, everything about it seems non-intuitive and goes against my grain, and I cannot use it as an effective tool for what I want to do with my social network.

Epiphany: maybe these two things are related?

My social networking service: * multiple sets of friends(limited) with whom i frequently interact. * which is peer to peer. * can use from mobile. * broadcasting messages,status,pictures and songs.

Facebook is not.

And everyone reading this will be sharing the link on Facebook :)

I have a love-hate/hypocritical relationship with Facebook, but one that prevents me from not using it. Even if I want to not use it, I have to because:

1) I have a product that users want to use with Facebook, so I need to use FB APIs etc and understand how it works for real users

2) I have a product that can benefit from viral-ness on Facebook

I wonder how many other developers share such ambivalence about being forced to use a tool that you might otherwise abandon.

You don't have to use facebook, you want to. A product doesn't force, humans do.

To understand user scenarios, I _have_ to.

Classic: "having to" vs "wanting to".

I just thought Facebook was a way for millennials to share photos online. It is likely riding on a wave of "easy enough for anyone" that technology provides. Nevertheless, it is a company out to make a profit, so it does provide lessons for people who use this site. Anyway, that's me defending Facebook for the day. Have a good one ;)

According to this (dated) study, Facebook has a fair share of Gen X'ers.


Most of my Baby Boom-era friends are on Facebook. Some of them are on it a LOT.

First time I've ever agreed with Stallman.

Look who's talking. GPL 3 is more of a parasite than even facebook imo.

Care to elaborate?

When I was a kid, my parents sent me to camp, even though all I wanted to do was sit home and write text adventures in BASIC. I hated camp. I hated the kids, and the counselors, and most of all I hated how everyone acted like if you didn't like it, if you weren't having fun, then there was something messed up about you.

Facebook = camp. The most oppressive and authoritarian thing about it is, at root, that most people appear to enjoy it and not see any problems with it, while you view it as this heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space. The worst thing about it is that sinking feeling that no one cares what you think.

Feelings like this have been articulated far more effectively, and by individuals far more likely to have an impact. It's kind of questionable that a one-paragraph throwaway rant like this has hit the front page of HN. But if that indicates that a lot of people around here have burned their facebook accounts, or are planning to, that would be a hopeful sign for civilization.

There is a world of difference between citizens complaining how their governments are corrupt, and husbands complaining how their wives boss them around. The former is a macro problem - if you're unhappy there's very little you can do to make a difference, you really need everyone to get behind your cause but because of weird behavioral science quirks this happens very rarely. The latter is a micro problem - learn to have the courage to set boundaries in your life, and the problem will go away.

Facebook is a problem of the latter form. It's entirely within your control to limit the information you give them, carefully select privacy settings (which are quite extensive), or not create an account at all. In any case, nothing about it is heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space, since the whole thing is voluntary.

To me the problem seems the opposite of the camp problem. There are a few "weird" kids who cannot understand how people could possibly like Facebook, so they make it a personal crusade to make it known all the time. Look, our adult society is pretty good at accepting behavioral outliers. Not ideal, but probably the best the world has ever known. But sometimes it's the outlier that's the problem. Consider that many people don't see Facebook as a privacy issue once they've weighed everything carefully and not because they're idiots. Perhaps they treat "Facebook-haters" strangely not because they're not on Facebook, but because they go out of their way to annoy everyone by trying to make a point out of it all the time?

You tried camping and it was awesome. It was fun getting a group together and having a lot of interaction with them. Working on projects together, sharing gossip at meals and in tents, going on day trips and coming back with pictures and stories. Great stuff. People who spend time camping together share a bond and become potential lifelong friends.

When camping was new, relatively few people went camping. The most exciting, adventurous and challenging way to camp is, of course, to bring your own food and gear and rough it, just you and nature.

Some businesses saw an opportunity to introduce a lot more people to camping and make some money. They'd build some cabins around a lake and do some marketing. It's not the same, but most people weren't going to rough it in the woods anyway, right?

A Harvard kid announced a new camp one day for other Harvard kids. Everyone who was anyone started going to Mark's camp. If you knew people going to this camp, and you wanted to really connect with them, you had to go to Mark's camp to do it. Sure, there were other ways to connect with them, but Mark's camp is where people are spending a lot of their time and Mark's campfire is where they share their stories. In fact, over a tenth the population of planet Earth has made Mark's camp their hangout.

You still love camping as much as you ever did, and you want to connect and share stuff with all your family and friends. But it really grates on you that you have to walk through Mark's gate and live by Mark's rules in order to do that. Isn't there some way you could round up a crew, leave Mark's camp behind, and strike out into the wild somewhere, just you and your friends, to do some real camping?

If camping is a metaphor for social interaction, then wouldn't picking up the phone, or writing a letter, or sending an email, or a text, or driving over to your friends' houses and saying, "Hey, let's go to a coffee shop" be the real camping you're looking for?

You're setting up a zero sum analogy, assuming that everyone is so busy on Facebook that they no longer interact or share photos/jokes/memes in other ways. Not sure that's really the case.

There are events, parties, groups, and meet-ups which are exclusively organized on Facebook.

But we can fight back. Quoting Dave Winer:

> BTW, I get invited to events that say check out the Facebook page for details about where to be and when. If I care about the event, I write back to them telling them I don't use Facebook, and would read about it if they put up a blog post. Otherwise I can't come. If people hear that a few times, it'll start changing behavior. It's not the kind of thing you need a lot of people to do to force change. It's kind of like Apple refusing to put Flash on their iPhone and iPad. I don't imagine too many events would get reconceived just for me, but if a few more people do it, that could be enough to make the change.

Wouldn't all those other interactions equate to all the time you aren't camping?


If the parent comment resonated with you, you might like this presentation:


That resonated like hitting a 40' bong.

I remember ... X person used to say about Y, in my family... "Why the hell would anyone wanna live under his roof, and live by his rules? Even if they had to sleep on the street it'd be better".

I reckon it's about the same for self-respecting men living with Zuckerberg.

By his own words, if you use trust him with your data you are a dumb fuck.

I am willing to take him at his word on that one and not use his service.

(must extricate myself from google, somehow. not feeling that smug, really.)

[edit] and at least he was honest about it. In some ways, that makes me trust him more than google.

I suspect most people, if they left the camp of Facebook, would not be able to round up as many "friends" by the campfire on their own, and that is why they stay. The culture of Facebook is not very exclusive. Many people will add you even if they have never spoken to you, simply because they knew who you were and would like to increase the size of their network. Excellent way to lull people into a false sense of community.

I don't mind going to Mark's camp, but its huge size sometimes frightens me. What if a black swan event happens to it? Say a stupid virus penetrates and wipes it out? A more distributed social network, like the failed Diaspora project, might be less vulnerable to such an attack.

stupid in this sense: http://www.searchlores.org/realicra/basiclawsofhumanstupidit...

> It's entirely within your control to limit the information you give them, carefully select privacy settings

Except Facebook unilaterally changes its guarantees about privacy, year after year, always in its own favor.

This takes you up to 2010: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/04/facebook-timeline

In 2011 and 2012, they further codified how your private information is also subject to what your friends do. Some of this is common sense, some not so much. http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/22/technology/facebook-privacy-...

I'm not saying Facebook is evil, exactly... no more than a parasite is. ;) Their business model doesn't align them with their users' needs for privacy.

Actually, 'information you give them' is always within your control.

Unless it's 'zero becaue i don't have an account,' I disagree. I don't know until I land on a site whether they're using fb connect.

Block it, and use another browser for fb and fb only. For very-light users like me (as in, keep a nearly empty profile for the people that use it as default communication) it's not even inconvenient.

It's still within your control to block/not use FB connect even when you have an account.

I disagree with this actually, for several reasons! You're speaking about the Facebook of yesterday. Within the last year, they have introduced several features which remove the control of your privacy, and distribute the information gathering to your connections.

But first, in regards to the Facebook of yesterday, you will find many resources that describe how few people actually change their privacy settings or even understand them. This has improved over time, but I know plenty of intelligent people who don't understand many of the settings that have been introduced over the years. The product that they signed up for isn't the same as it is today.

In regards to the reduced control over your own privacy, it's important to note that your friends can volunteer information about you indirectly by using "smart lists". You can tell facebook what city someone is in, what university, whether they are in your family, or if they are a close friend. You can add geographic information to other peoples' photos. Also, because of the different levels of update subscriptions, Facebook has made it favorable for people to use the "Life Stories" feature of their profiles/timeslines because they don't know which friends have unsubscribed from seeing "all updates" ("most important" updates most likely implies Life Stories).

Also, certain features still have no privacy. Answers to all Facebook Questions are public on your profile. Even as intimate with the privacy settings that I am, I didn't know this! So you either have to not use the feature (which would require knowing about the privacy setting before using it), or deleting these answers after making them.

Edit: I forgot to mention that so many people make public posts on Facebook, that you can't comment on any of those without your comments also being public. Most people don't care. So the network is becoming more public, with less opportunity to stay private. And remember that when you comment on those public posts, your comment is shown in the ticker and newsfeeds of your friends (which, in my opinion, is a violation of my privacy. Just because I comment on something doesn't mean I want it notified to my friends). These two actions of public posts have no privacy options... the only thing you can do is avoid commenting on public posts.

> your friends can volunteer information about you indirectly by using "smart lists"

I didn't even know about this, but it illustrates that merely signing up exposes you to potential privacy violations. We recently became aware of how much of a liability it is for employers to look at Facebook profiles, because they may learn intimate details about a person's sexual orientation, religion, politics, etc. The only solution is to never look.

Likewise, the only way to adequately protect your privacy is to never sign up on Facebook. BTW, this takes care of the employer problem, too.

Exactly. Even if you try data poisoning (making an account with fake details), people can still attribute details to your account unsuspectingly. And you can't stop them from doing it, either. Very few people realize this lack of control.

Didn't Facebook also keep 'shadow profiles' of people not on the platform? So even if you're not signed up but your friends have tagged photos of you etc, Facebook can still infer things about you.

Not sure if this is still the case.

They also collected the browsing history of non-users. Freaky stuff.

> "Consider that many people don't see Facebook as a privacy issue once they've weighed everything carefully and not because they're idiots."

I'm not so sure about that. I'm reminded of the recent article & hubbub about the "Girls Around Me" app. My takeaway from that was while people are aware they are exposing all their information, they are ignorant of the myriad consequences and implications until they are directly confronted with them.

And in many of the scenarios the Cassandras are warning about, those moments of realisation tend to be past the point of rescue.

"carefully select privacy settings (which are quite extensive)"

That's ridiculous. Maybe you'll try a couple of times to keep up with their changes, but eventually you'll just give up. Besides, they will constantly tempt you to share more (that is how they grow).

Then that's your own fault. I check my privacy settings every couple months, or when I hear about or see large changes to the interface or offering getting rolled out. I've been on Facebook since April 2004, only a few months after they launched, so clearly I haven't eventually given up.

Using the "View As" feature and looking at your profile page while logged out is a good idea too.

If you care about your privacy and still want to be on Facebook, this is (unfortunately) a mandatory activity.

> Then that's your own fault. I check my privacy settings every couple months

It's grandparent's fault for not being enslaved to FB's pain-in-the-ass purposefully exploitative system the way you are? No, it is FB's fault for being a purposefully exploitative pain-in-the-ass.

It's been well-known for several years now that FB's privacy settings (and the arbitrary changes to how they work) is a pain in the ass. If you haven't noticed this by now, that's your fault. If you have noticed this, still want to maintain a FB account despite it, and don't keep close watch over your privacy settings, it's your own fault.

Would it be nice if FB was less of a pain in the ass about this? Sure. But the reality of the situation is quite clear. We're responsible for realities, not for how we'd like things to be.

"Then that's your own fault". I think that is where we disagree.

With any other service when such changes are made you are required to opt-in. I tried to manage privacy via Facebook and just gave up as even the options to make certain areas private went away and I have lost track. I have just given up.

I agree with your point that IF you still want to be on Facebook this is a mandatory activity (& yet quite difficult as options just go away!).

With any other service when such changes are made you are required to opt-in.

I sincerely doubt that's the case. Most services explicitly state in their ToS that the service can change at any time and it's the user's responsibility to stay abreast of those changes.

That just has potentially scarier implications with a service like FB.

This is what pisses me off about most people: an unwillingness to take personal responsibility for your actions. You have a FB account. You know there are privacy issues around FB. You have three choices: 1) get FB to change so those privacy issues aren't a concern (unlikely to happen, but here for completeness), 2) deactivate your FB account, 3) keep your FB account and monitor privacy settings, be careful what you share, etc.

Those are your choices to make. If you pick #3, and you get bitten by a privacy change that you missed, I'm sympathetic, because it really does suck, but it is ultimately your fault.

I can see how it's his own fault from a practical viewpoint, but really? Considering opt-in vs. opt-out, status quo bias and all that? I think he has (people have) a right to criticise at least.

Sure, we can criticize all we want, but it's unlikely FB won't change without some form of government regulation (which I do not welcome, for the record). Given the assumption that FB won't change, it's each user's individual responsibility to track their privacy settings if they want to maintain a FB account.

In the same post you manage to call people who don't like Facebook "weird" and "behavioral outliers" while simultaneously saying it's all their fault because they endlessly go on about how they don't like Facebook.

What about those who say nothing about it, yet still need to tolerate people like you calling them a "behavioral outlier"?

They don't exist, otherwise he'd have heard of them on Facebook!

Look, our adult society is pretty good at accepting behavioral outliers

Boy, do we disagree. Never before has political correctness and "fitting in" been so exalted. In fact Facebook is a direct consequence of this behavior.

Consider that many people don't see Facebook as a privacy issue once they've weighed everything carefully and not because they're idiots.

Not idiots, but completely ignorant as to what they are agreeing with and giving up on.

  > Facebook is a direct consequence of this behavior
The only reason that people join Facebook is to prove how politically correct they are, or to 'fit in?' Really?

Not the only reason. But how often do you see a profile showing something other than successful people having a good time? It's self promotion all over.

Just like anonymity lends itself to trolling, personality cult lead to idealized public images.

You remind me of how the teaser trailer for The Social Network is a sequence of happy Facebook photos set to Radiohead's Creep.

Perhaps "direct consequence" isn't the right wording but I do feel there's a valid point about the homogenization of thought, which things like FB (inadvertently?) steer us toward.

There are a few "weird" kids who cannot understand how people could possibly like Facebook, so they make it a personal crusade to make it known all the time.

"I don't have a Facebook account" is the new "I don't even own a TV".

It’s really not.

Only in the last half-decade or so have we started to fight the datavores.

"In any case, nothing about it is heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space, since the whole thing is voluntary."

If you read the information on http://europe-v-facebook.org/EN/en.html, you should understand that FB uses individuals' data without their permission or even their knowledge - in clear breach of EU privacy laws.

People in History who have been victims of fascism probably didn't see it coming. To say that they were fools or should have known better would be wrong, so it can't be that simple. Whether you agree with Stallman or not, it's a giant elephant in the room. That is, I think, why it made the front page.

I don't have any serious concerns about privacy because of Facebook, but I do want to point out an aspect where Facebook's privacy controls don't apply.

If someone takes a photo of you, they can upload it to Facebook. If they tag you, you can remove the tag. The photo will be there regardless of whether you accept/remove any tagging, and it will be outside the jurisdiction of your privacy controls. The uploader controls the privacy level of a photo, regardless of who the subject of the photo is.

What you say is true, but it would still be true if Facebook didn't exist. It will always be true because Internet.

Facebook brings this to the surface. On an Internet without a Facebook-like service, someone may occasionally find a photo of themselves more widely published than they would like. On an Internet with Facebook it happens far more frequently.

Regardless, if it wasn't for facebook it would be happening on flickr or instagram or any other sharing site.

The problem is a legal one, not something that facebook can simply add as a feature. (Though they do have a way to report a photo in addition to untagging it. And then you explain why that photo violates privacy laws. https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=217091804975136#How-do-I-...)

Still the discussion is - because facebook.

Saying because internet here effectively becomes throwing hands in the air and saying "it makes no difference - so why bother?"

> The most oppressive and authoritarian thing about it is, at root, that most people appear to enjoy it and not see any problems with it, while you view it as this heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space.

While many of my friends enjoy Facebook and I'm still to lazy to upload a profile image and mainly use it to find out where the next birthday party is located, I really can't say that I am feeling oppressed.

Some people just like camp.

I don't think the original comment is saying there's something wrong with liking camp, but there's something wrong with people liking camp because they're supposed to like camp. of course we can't look into people's hearts and see if they actually like something or they're just liking it because they're supposed to like it, but if you pay attention and see how much care people put into doing things, it becomes obvious if it's an actual willed choice or a default reaction.

> there's something wrong with people liking camp because they're supposed to like camp

It is very easy as an outside observer to decide that someone must like something you dislike because they feel they are "supposed" to.

Kind of like sushi. If you're grossed out by it, you've probably watched people eating it and having fun while saying to yourself "well, they only like it because they're supposed to...it's trendy right now, that's all".

> but there's something wrong with people liking camp because they're supposed to like camp.

You can say that about anything, "But there's something wrong with people liking grapes because they're supposed to like grapes.

Re: Stallman's statement - Maybe you don't like grapes, but calling it a mass-conspiracy to manipulate / document genetic information is a far cry.

"but there's something wrong with people liking camp because they're supposed to like camp"

Huh? Don't understand what you are talking about... A quick study of human history and psychology will show that this is a bedrock of human behavior. For good and ill, it is what I would regard a well-accepted facet of human nature. We wouldn't be the species we are without the pressures of 'social norms'

Just because things are (or have been) a certain way, doesn't mean they should be that way. We all get a choice.

I do believe though that most social norms are good, not because they're social norms, but because they actually serve people and as such became social norms. But some social norms (as history has shown: slavery, etc.) are accepted by a lot of people not because they make sense, but simply because they are social norms. It's up to each of us to challenge social norms, the right ones will stand up to the challenge, the wrong one's wont.

There are also plenty of social norms that are harmless but still insipid. For instance, here in Sweden, every other male between 20-30 seems to be some kind of ironic lumberjack judging from their clothes. Which I just find to be utterly ridiculous, albeit harmless to all but my aesthetic sense.

That's right, a sizeable portion of Sweden's population would fit right in on this blog: http://hipsterorlumberjack.tumblr.com/

Actually, a quick study will show you that it's the (by definition) minority of people who rebel against social norms and mass movements, the people who aren't followers, who have been the drivers of civilization, the catalysts for new ideas, the creators and inventors. I think it's safe to say most of those people hated or would hate summer camp.

People who really love camp might be poster children for human herd behavior, and they certainly make excellent prison guards when they grow up. But they suck at thinking for themselves.

[edit. on consideration, the second paragraph was an unnecessarily harsh blanket statement, emotional, and without any logical foundation at whatsoever. The more important question is whether free thinkers who do reject social media, camp, or group activities in general, are being pushed further from their ability to contribute to mainstream society by their choice of self-exclusion from FB than they would by e.g. choosing not to drink coffee at Starbucks, or be a customer of some other individual mega-corp.]

The belief that contrarianism is required as proof of "thinking for themselves" is a common logical fallacy. It is logical and valid to consider that someone may think for themselves and, after due diligence of doing so, make a decision which happens to coincide with that of many others.

I'm not talking about contrarianism, or a compulsive desire to come to the opposite conclusion as others. I'm talking about critical thinking: The ability to maintain an unpopular view, after due diligence, and particularly the ability to do so in the face of social pressure.

I see. I can buy that. It's just that you said that people who love summer camp suck at thinking for themselves and I don't see the connection. "If you like summer camp then you suck at thinking for yourself" just sounds like a logical fallacy, that's all.

I do not know much about your summer camps, but I liked camping (as in: sleeping in a small tent) when I was a child with a group called "Naturfreundejugend Deutschlands" which is still organizing vacations for children (ages 7 to 18) without their parents. And I assure you, it has nothing to do with being a "poster children for human herd behavior" or "excellent prison guards". I am all in for thinking for myself.

> But they suck at thinking for themselves.

Maybe they just enjoy the outdoors. Maybe they really get a kick out of building fires and singing songs and making crafts. What on earth does any of that have to do with herd behavior or independent thinking?

> Some people just like camp

And that, my friend, is the tyranny of the majority. It is the people who just like things the way they are who opt willfully to take the side of the-way-is. You attacked, wrote a comment, preserving the status quo simply because you happen to find yourself with that preference, rather than considering the much more existential plight of the minority.

I don't think there is any existential plight in not signing up for Facebook. You just don't sign up for it. Also, sharing your opinion about whether or not something is a problem is not an "attack".

I don't think I understood what you are saying. But, would you suggest that by using (and enjoying) fb, I am oppressing people who don't want to use it?

I don't want to speak for niels_olson, but in short, yes. Especially if you do any of the following:

-use a smart phone w/ friends' contact info entered and the FB app installed

- talk about those friends on FB

- or upload pictures with them in-frame

Out there, somebody just doesn't like the internet, and you are making him sad by participating.

My point was that your comment illustrates how the tyranny of the majority works. Most people in any majority simply have that position coincidentally, but when faced with the possibility of movement, are willing to attack ferociously out of the underlying instinct to stand your ground. The idea of walking a mile in the minority's shoes never even in makes into their thought process, let alone do they actually walk that mile.

I for one think it's a great analogy (having been in a camp I can definitely say that I didn't enjoy it and I was rejected based on that).

I silently deleted my facebook account about two years ago because I didn't like losing my time looking at stupid stuff. I found out that falling into the Facebook time vortex was too much of an inconvenience and the only way around that was to delete Facebook. Now when I say that I don't have a Facebook people ask me what's wrong with me, if I have things to hide and plain and simple tell me that I'm some kind of social pariah...

What bugs me the most is that people are judging me before even hearing my concerns about time wasting, privacy. Facebook has become a token of having a social life.

I am not saying you all should delete your Facebook, that's a matter of personal choice but people should think about what they add to the "standards" of life. In my books Facebook should really not be in the standards.

To many people, Facebook is the default communication channel. To delete your Facebook account is like to be offered a free iphone + unlimited contract and refuse it; the idea of removing your name from the social phonebook is beyond the comprehension of many people.

And subconsciously, you're removing value from other people's valued medium/experience. By not having account, you must have some opposition to something that they have, use, and like; I think it might be subconsciously insulting and snobby to many people. To most people, the service holds unquestionable value.

(These generalizations may or may not be true... merely speculation/extrapolation from my own experiences)

I think you're correct. I have an elderly relative that has recently turned to using FB on the iPad as her prime means of communicating with her relatives in the Phillipines (while she is in the US).

It's gotten to the point where she just _can't_ understand why people aren't on Facebook. "Why aren't they there? Don't they want to hear from me? What's wrong with them."

Small aside: FB is significantly easier for her to deal with than email as it provides more contextual cues about who she is communicating with (primarily seeing profile pictures next to messages).

To many people, Facebook is the default communication channel

Exactly. Many of us geeks have dreamed of improved e-mail clients, better to-do lists... but frankly for the average person, they want to hear from their kids and relatives, easily see pictures of birthdays. Guess what: Facebook is years ahead of email clients for that purpose. Come up with a better client if you want to, but understand that some people have "simple" needs and your decade-old technology (what has changed since UUCP?) gets in the way.

  > your decade-old technology [...] gets in the way
You're right! Here's some decade-old technologies that we should drop (they're 'decade-old', so they are obviously in the way!): TCP, IP, UDP, HTTP, FTP, SSH, etc...

How is this different from someone saying, I am offended you don't smoke weed, or I am offended, in this country of XYZ religion, you are not ?

If you don't smoke, that doesn't prevent other people from smoking. If you're not on FB, that does prevent other people from messaging/whatever you on FB.

"you're removing value from other people's valued medium/experience" because smoking can be a social exercise.

My God, you're right. I was never able to contact anybody before Facebook. It's a wonder I know other people at all.

Seriously, though, the biggest argument in favor of it that I hear is event invitations. But think about it, if the most effort that somebody can put into inviting you to their event is clicking a button to "send to all", they don't really value your friendship. I don't have a Facebook account, and when people invite me to something, they send a personal message that signals they actually value my friendship and want me to attend. As someone on the Internet said, Facebook maintains friendships in a persistent vegetative state.

Want to know the difference between people who use facebook and the people that don't?

The difference is that the people who don't use Facebook care that you do.

We just don't like being left out because we don't have Facebook.

Religion is vaguely similar... but the entirety of my argument is based on the literal social network and the strong ties and attributes that it carries. The value of individual social ties in a larger network.

I don't think that pot is related to this in any way.

Having a Facebook account doesn't force you to either give up your privacy (you don't need to post anything if you don't want to) or to waste your time (you don't need to read anything if you don't want to).

I've got a Facebook account, and I check it every now and then - it's quite a nice way to keep vaguely up to date with what's happening in the lives of people I've been to school with/worked with over the years. I also post occasionally - 90% of my posts are when I'm away on holiday as sort of cheap, mass-circulation postcards. But I've never found myself spending hours at a time on there - a quick skim every now and then when I'm bored is more than enough.

I agree with you that it's a matter of personal choice - I'm not saying that you should have to have a Facebook account but for me, deleting your account rather than simply using it less seems to be a rather sledgehammer way of dealing with it.

I have a bit of an addictive personality and the easiest way of preventing myself from wasting time is just by getting rid of the thing. Your response is the generic moderation response; some people just don't understand that it would be far more of a waste of energy to try and discipline myself than it would be to prevent the problem from arising.

Fair enough. But that's really a problem with you, not Facebook. Which is fine - like I say, it's your choice to have Facebook or not.

But statements like "In my books Facebook should really not be in the standards" suggest that some people think the issue lives with Facebook.

having been in a camp I can definitely say that I didn't enjoy it and I was rejected based on that

If you didn't like camp, you probably weren't very fun to be around at camp. If kids from camp ostracized you at school six months later saying "Oh, he didn't have fun at camp so he's uncool" then there is something up, but I can't blame kids for not wanting to hang out with someone who is NOT enjoying themselves. Someone who is NOT having fun, is not fun to be with.

Oh -- hey. Just to clarify, I found a girlfriend at camp, led my crew of 11 year old boys on panty raids, and became wildly popular after stealing our counselor's beer. My older brother had gotten thrown out for punching one of the administrators. I wasn't unpopular. I just hated every waking minute of it. I just wanted to go home.

You don't have to suck at facebook, or camp - or be unpopular or "no fun", to hate it. I bet some of the kids you looked up to at camp felt the way I did. What I really hate is the feeling that I have to waste my energy putting a good face on something I don't like, and having to act like I'm friends with a bunch of people I don't want to spend time with. When I was 11 years old, that kind of thing was just unavoidable. Now that I'm older, I don't feel like pretending anymore.

I receive more grief from women I date for not having a facebook account than having a cheap ass cell phone. At work, since I am in IT, some coworkers express mock shock I do not have an account.

Then there is the bombardment of expecting to have a LinkedIn account as well.

People are far to quick to give up their privacy, I guess it comes down to the fact people want to be heard and noticed more listening and noticing others.

I'm in the exact same position as you are. I'm in my 30s, so it took a while, but even my friends in their 40s have given into the temptation (and perceived benefits).

I suspect it has to do with the digital voyeurism that others have subjected themselves to (and participate in), and they wish you to subject yourself to the same. I find it quite disconcerting, and this thread has helped me greatly.

My plan was to win the $600M mega millions lottery last week in order to finance a proper distributed social system. Alas,it did not pan out, so feature phone/ email will have to suffice for now.

If your friends judge you for dropping Facebook, it's probably time for new friends. Just sayin'

No, it's not. My friends do all sorts of stupid and annoying shit, but hanging out with them has many orders of magnitude more value to me than their opinion of my opinion of Facebook.

Because, clearly, your wants indicate what's important for civilization?

Yes, there's a lot wrong with Facebook, but you do realize that you act exactly like those kids in camp - if people don't enjoy what you do, or have the same preferences you do, there's something messed up about them.

Maybe most people don't want private space, I don't know. It's certainly a good idea to point out what the privacy implications of FB are, but you should be prepared to hear that people simply don't care.

(Me? I think privacy will inevitably die, or at least become a radically different concept. I might be wrong, and I'm open to debate. I won't treat the outcome of that debate as a sign for civilization either way ;)

You make a good point. One should not decide what's important for civilization just because of what he likes or not.

Now, about your vision of privacy for the future, let's just say that you may have some people that agree with you at Girls Around Me. It also look like they thought privacy didn't matter to people.

I think you're being hypersensitive. I never said you were messed up for liking facebook, choosing to live in a fishbowl and not attaching any value to your own privacy. You're putting words in my mouth.

This is a really confusing post.

Nobody cares that you don't like Facebook because nobody is forcing you to use Facebook. I'm at a loss as to how you can consider it "oppressive" and "authoritarian." Did some thugs from FB come around signing people up at gunpoint?

I don't even see what you're trying to achieve, really. You just want other people to stop using Facebook because you don't like it?

You're taking it far too literal.

I'm aware of parents who have 6 year olds and 10 year olds using Facebook so that they have access to games and family. The Facebook UI/UX does do nasty tricks to coerce people into providing more information than they prefer.

Did you know that other users can volunteer your information? Someone else can register themselves as your family member, close friend, or classmate at a specific institution, without your consent. They can volunteer your location (city) as well. This was not possible in the past, before the "smart lists" feature. They're literally getting people to fill in the information of friends so that they can be targeted ads even if they chose not to provide that information to facebook. I don't think many people know this.

This is true, I also found that they can still tag pictures of you even if you have disabled/canceled your account.

Forcing people to use their FB profiles as the only means of accessing a service is a downright scary thing considering how much information we know they hold. I wish everyone would have just used openid... I was quite happy with iming/emailing/ and status updates through away messages. We don't need FB. But FB needs us.

Come on. You didn't have much choice going to camp because your parents forced you but the only thing forcing you to use Facebook is peer pressure. If you give in to it, it's because you see more pros than cons.

Not feeling sorry for you.

As for the age old myth that people are migrating away from Facebook, dream on. Facebook is scheduled to have a billion users in the next few months, it's going to be around for a very, very long time.

I think you underestimate the effect of peer pressure. It is likely to be one of the most strongest pressures of all for a social beeing such as humans.

> Not feeling sorry for you.

I agree with your overall point, but no need to be so rude here.

The other oppressive and authoritative thing about it -- completely aside from the whole surveillance and tracking aspect -- is that it obliterates the past. There was a time when, if you just met someone at a bar or some event or while traveling, there was still a bit of mystery to them. You had to interact with them a bit more until you found out about their family, their friends, and where they've been in life.

Now it's all "up there", but at a cost, in that although this information has become more available and transparent, it's also cheapened, somehow. It's like you suddenly "know" these people... but you don't know them, really. All you have are factoids about them... drowning in the sea of all the other factoids you're continually digesting about everyone else you've become "friends" with.

The sad part is, this "other" time -- before the intrusions not just of FB, but of the whole ecosystem of social media tools -- wasn't that long ago. But pretty soon no one is going to be able to remember a time when people had an entirely different sense of intimacy and space. They won't be able to intuitively and viscerally assess the tradeoffs of being "always" in reach, or at the very least, findable to anyone they've every come into contact with -- simply because they won't have any baseline to compare it to.

It is very interesting that very same lack of privacity that is experienced with facebook is very similar to the kind of privacy you "enjoy" on small comunities( you can find recent articles on how is living in the malvines and it is pretty much a facebook live).

Maybe is due to the fact that we are a social species, and group sizes have been mostly small till not so long ago, that you can explain the facebook success( we are in a certain way wired to an unanonymous live). I use facebook and I use it a lot(lots of iddle time that can't be used in a more productive way), but mostly to post "lame" links or videos or pics. There are no personal pics or data in my account. The way the people usually manage their privacy settings and how they share with facebook, is due to the fact that they are not aware of the possible consecuences and how openly that info will be accesed by people who are not friends.

Great point...I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm from LA but I moved to a village in europe with just over 1000 people. I see the same people every day, and everyone talks about each other's business. I've thought a bit about how FB is sort of trying to recreate this, and the ways in which it's failed.

It can be somewhat oppressive to live in a place where everyone knows your business, even if they're all nice people. I think the difference boils down to walls and boundaries. I have a porch in front of my house where only friends will likely drop by, if I'm sitting out there. Unlike with FB, random people I barely know would be uncomfortable suddenly showing up on my porch and standing there without saying anything interesting. I have a yard in back where my girlfriend and I can be alone. If the phone rings at a bad time, or someone knocks while we're out back, we don't feel compelled to get up and answer it, or even to find out who it was; whereas with FB, we would feel bad ignoring someone completely, since they'd know we had a record of the contact. Conversely, if we're out in public and waiting in line at the bakery while the people in front of us are having a super-long 20 minute chat with the baker, we wait patiently because it would be obscenely impolite to interrupt; but we don't eavesdrop or intrude on the conversation, as we could with FB. If I'm cornered by someone in town I don't really want to talk to, I can talk for a few minutes and then leave; comfortably knowing they won't see live status updates of where I'm walking.

Maybe a better way to say it is that small towns, for all their gossip, have a decorum and a sense of human dignity that facebook simply hasn't developed, and maybe never will.

Ooops I ment the Falklands! Yep I know what you mean about respect and I think that facebook lack of "respect" is because it was the first socual network to pick right how people want to know everything from their friends and relatives. But as the first one also is imperfect, maybe google+'s circles are a better aproach. Time will say.. I also think that a kind of circles is the way to fix the email ( in the way PG asks)

You nailed it.

The worst part about that is that the people behind Facebook think this is a great thing.

I find this dark, disturbing, and terrifying. As a never-was, non-social-media user... I'm only 31... 5 years ago, I felt like I couldn't understand kids who were a few years younger than me. Now I feel like there's a total rupture between my mode of being and that of almost everyone else. When I give you my attention, I'm giving it to you. Completely. I don't multitask people. And you know I want to talk to you, because you can plainly see me ignoring people I don't want to talk to.

Not only that, but all my relationships are from the "other" time, and I don't think I could deal with trying to develop them online, in some way that's mediated by a giant corporation. Especially one run by one of the all-time least-sexy nerds on earth, whose apparent sense of inadequacy and misunderstanding of the nature of personal relationships are written large across every aspect of that system. (It was probably inevitable that someone like that would end up mediating "friendship" for the rest of the world, but come on).

What you're talking about reminds me of the groups that got together to share memorized books, in Farenheit 451. I'm already a smoker so I know how to cut 75% of the world out of my potential-new-friends & dating pool... cutting out social media users isn't that hard. I don't want to see the preview if it ruins the movie, and I don't want to meet people on Facebook. If I like them in person, I'll like them.

whose apparent sense of inadequacy and misunderstanding of the nature of personal relationships are written large across every aspect of that system

I believe the contrary is true. Facebook is successful because Zuckerberg et al understand social ties to the point where they have locked people into their system, got them to interact more, provide all their private information, and then profit off them by serving them all intrusive advertising.

I don't think it would be at all possible if they didn't understand social relationships. They know them intimately enough to skew our idea of privacy and social communication to the point of profit.

I say kudos to them for their brilliance. But I also think they are one of the most evil corporations in existence.

Yeah Zuckerberg understood social ties the same way Karl Rove understood politics but that doesn't make it good. Exclusivity, ostracization and social cliques are part of our nature but are definitely on the dark side. I'd like to somehow know how many people made friends on facebook compared to how many have lost friends, husbands, wives, etc.

I think FB was able to quantify and monetize a certain kind of social tie its founders were probably aloof from themselves - bullshit friendship. I'm guessing Zuckerberg approached this with the irony of any self-respecting geek, ensaring phonies in their own "Let's be friends" routine.

Sure, it's brilliant. But it's incredibly misanthropic, because it really thrives on the worst impulses in human nature. Underneath those phony platitudes might be genuinely caring individuals, but now thanks to Zuck, that one lie they told in college - "Let's be friends, call me" - will be etched on their facebook pages long after they're gone.

Absolutely. The site thrives off of a small set of human social weaknesses and tendencies. And when a competitor comes around, they do this even further. Each set of privacy changes is pushed out with a proportionate UI change; people spend their time complaining about the UI change instead of the underlying changes to privacy.

Again, brilliant but evil.

As much as I agree with ALL the criticisms of Facebook, the dependency on the platform isn't due to stupidity or ignorance... the dependency is by design. There isn't much freedom to leave the network, due to the lack of worthwhile alternatives, the useful features that it provides people, functional user lock-in, and the strength of the social ties between people. Some of the features are so useful to people that citizens are protesting the government to reverse privacy laws that are there to protect them.

Google had a huge shot at making an alternative, and although the G+ community is vibrant, the product has failed to reach the potential that it had. And there are many privacy concerns with that platform as well, because every massive social network needs revenue.

"...functional user lock-in, and the strength of the social ties between people"

I read this to mean that everyone uses it because it's rude to be the first to leave a party. I always kind of felt that way on social networks, in the same way as even if you don't want to talk to someone, they're a friend-of-a-friend and you're going to have to explain it to them at some point if you block them.

There's like this whole category of people -- I'd say about 95% of the people I've ever met -- who I don't want to talk to, and will avoid hanging out with if possible, but who I don't totally loathe or anything, and I don't want to intentionally hurt their feelings. There's about 2.5% I really hate and want to confront, and 2.5% who I want to hang out with.

The reason I don't have a FB account is not because of what they do in terms of selling data, as gross as that is; it's actually because of what FB and all other social networking is. It's the 95% of people I don't have time for, the 2.5% I loathe, and the 2.5% I can always talk to in some other way. I mean, I also don't have a cell phone, and I also don't come to my door when people knock on it, even if I know they can hear my music playing. My friends have my private phone number and my skype account, and they can call me anytime. Everyone else can kindly or not-so-kindly f* off, and Facebook is nothing if not the ultimate, total collection of "everone else".

In my own experience, Facebook is a phonebook of people I am acquaintances with, which offers me a mutual/consensual access into their personal life. It's a communication medium, a social contract, and a social square between other acquaintances. Living in different countries especially (but also with nearby friends), it's an incredibly efficient publication tool for life updates, and an efficient way to stay up-to-date with the lives of many people that you care about (at least a little bit!) and don't have the time to ping all those people for.

It's also a second meeting place. I'll meet someone once or a few times IRL, share an interest or a mutual friend, and connect with them on Facebook. Their profile helps me discover more about them (and vice-versa), and having their updates mixed in with the updates of my other friends lets me learn more about them over time and interact with them if something interesting or important comes up.

To many people, the idea of having nearly one thousand "friends" is baffling and stupid. Yes, it breaks the traditional model of what a friendship actually means, but your interaction in the system enforces the idea of who really matters to you. Because it's a communication platform, you tend to interact the most with the people you care most about.

Has Facebook warped my perspective of privacy? Yes. But I have experienced a lot of value from it, in terms of experiences and interactions that I wouldn't have had if I didn't put out that information about me or provided a medium to interact with 'my life story'.

The default privacy settings are horrifying. But as an individual, there is enough customization so that I can target my content at specific groups of people.

None of my colleagues have Facebook. They have fine lives. They don't give a shit about Facebook, it doesn't have to be part of your life at all.

Every social group is different.

Facebook is a "heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space". Would you care to elaborate?

Which of your freedom(s) is being violated? What of your private space is being imposed upon?

I'm not on FB, so it's not. But if I were... I'd say the first thing to be violated would be my freedom to be left alone. To not know what other people were doing, or have them know what I'm doing. To be able to quietly tune the world out and focus on things. Then, of course, my right to own images of myself, to keep my location private, to register genuine surprise, in person, when I find out one of my friends is engaged or pregnant or won the lottery. Most of all, the freedom to enjoy these freedoms without having to waste my time navigating a shit-ton of privacy settings and menus and ever-changing user agreements.

In short, the freedom to be a private adult and not spend the rest of my life in a high school locker room.

> I'm not on FB, so it's not. But if I were... I'd say the first thing to be violated would be my freedom to be left alone

Thats not a freedom, that is a choice. You can have a facebook account and never log in to it.

There may be other privacy concerns, but "freedom to be left alone" is not one of them.

When I'm on FB, and Joe X sends me a friend request, it goes in my email. Since I'm on FB, the implicit assumption is that I got the request. If I think Joe is nice enough, but not really my friend, I'm suddenly forced to (a) accept a friend who's not my friend, and imply I like him more than I do, (b) reject the request and make him think I don't like him, or (c) lie and say I don't get facebook emails.

In reality, I would have far more options; there's a long gradient of subtle ways to let him know to what extent he's my friend or not. Most of all, I would have the option to defer making any kind of statement, assuming he's not a nutcase who asked me "so are we really friends?" And that deferral -- plausible deniability -- is the first thing FB takes away. That's what I call the freedom to be left alone.

You are waaaaay overthinking this. Nobody thinks that a Facebook "friend" is the same as what you or I would call a friend in real life. For me, it means, "I know and like this person well enough". So I just accept most requests, as long as I have met the person and like them well enough.

Also, there is no "reject", there is only "ignore" (i.e., the person does not receive a "rejected" message, they'll just never get an "approved" message). And if someone doesn't respond to my friend request: who cares? It's just Facebook. It's not the be-all end-all social network manager; it's just a communication medium.

I am on Facebook and I don't get Facebook emails. You make a lot of assumptions about the platform you are not using.

That's strange. I created a fake account some years ago, to contact some old friends whose email I had lost. I used the account for almost one week. To this day I still get a facebook email every 4-5 days. If nobody invites me to a group (!?) or posts new photos in their gallery, then it's facebook itself who wants to remind me that it's been a long time since the last time I logged in, and my friends are waiting to hear from me!

weirdly, I get weekly updates from them even though I'm not on it, because someone signed me onto a corporate account. I get the constant linkedin "you might know Joe" emails too, so I though that was a reasonable assumption.

BTW @ the guy who called me a sociopath: Not all relationships are black and white. There's such a thing as being polite to someone at parties and still not wanting to know every detail of their life.

If the freedom you are most concerned about losing is the freedom to lead other people into believing they are your friends when you really don't care about them, you might be a sociopath.

Maybe he wants to be nice? Facebook fails at nice, that's mostly why I quit. Seems the guy who made it is probably a bit of a sociopath, your only two options are "Friend!" or "Fuck off!" and I think that contributes a lot to the general loathing of the site.

But isn't that how every site ever works? How would it even work otherwise?

I'm starting to think people here are just overanalyzing.

It is not being imposed up on. If you are on FB, it is a system you are willing to participate in. You are not obligated to communicate either way.

An analogy that I can think of in the real world similar to what you are saying is, when I go to the mall, I like a hassle free shopping. Which means, I don't like to be bothered by sales/stores clerk. When I am at Macy's it is just a matter of time when a store clerk walks up to me to find out if I am finding everything allright. Now I can go ahead and be rude to that person considering he/she is intruding, or fake to be nice to quickly move on.

The point is going to the mall was my decision and I chose to go, very aware of what the system has. You can't be bothered about what someone else thinks when you really don't care much about them. Ignoring a friend request is a valid option.

Signing up for facebook and telling people what you are doing prevents you from keeping this info private.

But writing letters does the same thing, and I don't see people complaining about pen and paper.

It's a shame that FB privacy settings are confusing (and ever changing), but aside from that, why blame the communication medium for what you choose to say (or not say) with it.

That's nice.

What's Buenos Aires like, Josh Strike?

hehehe, there ya go. Nice that you found me.

Of course I have a public web presence. The point is, I control it. I run a few sites including a bitcoin casino. I have clients, friends, and people who use my code. I probably write 15-20 emails a day. Yet none of it through facebook. It's not mediated. There's no extraneous information, either for me or the other party. And what you know about me by googling me is, for the most part, what I want you to know.

Including my last name and where I live. "Strike" is a pseudonym, and I haven't lived in Buenos Aires for about five years. But that level of privacy isn't available on facebook.

Calling Facebook an oppressive and authoritarian camp violating freedom seems extremely hyperbolic. Doesn't this disservice the experience of those who have actually died in oppressive and authoritarian camps?

Is the mental pain individuals experience when using freely provided and voluntary services equivalent to the physical pain individuals experience when coerced to perform actions against their will via threats of violence?

While implicit threats of violence may exist in the majority of parent-child relationships (mandatory schooling, etc), I have not seen any evidence of such a relationship between companies like Facebook or Google and their customers.

He wasn't talking about those camps though. He was talking about American summer camp.

Which an authority figure sent him to against his will. Authoritarian power is universally derived the ability to assert the right to legitimate force over others. This is in sharp contrast to voluntary institutions and businesses such as Facebook or Google, which assert no right to legitimate force, and are therefore limited to the power which individuals choose to grant them for catering to their preferences.

Comparing parents to genocidal dictators is quite a bit more hyperbolic than the OP.

I suspect the point of contention is lack of clarification of definitions and terms, particularly regarding 'freedom', the OP's phrase 'heinous violations of freedom', and the concept of violations of freedom in general.

I would define 'freedom' in a very narrow and non-metaphysical sense, as 'the ability to make choices free of threats of violence by others'. I derive this definition by asking the following questions: Do slaves choose where to work? Do prisoners choose what to eat? Do victims of murder choose to die? Or has someone else made the decision for them by threatening violence?

This is more or less the definition of 'freedom' by philosophers of Liberalism and more precisely http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_liberty . Under such a definition, the concept of 'violation of freedom' is semantically linked to authority, force, and violence.

Examining Stallman's logic, one finds a variety of alternate definitions of 'freedom'. Whether these are more universally consistent definitions of 'freedom' is up for others to decide. The ongoing debate over whether it is fair to characterize the actions of Facebook and similar corporations as 'heinous violations of freedom' will remain unresolved until a definition of 'freedom' is agreed upon.

I see. So you were going for some sort of indirect reductio ad absurdum argument. Not without merit, but it will go over people's heads 99.99% of the time and not because they are all idiots.

How incredibly academic. Let's leave the ongoing debate about how to "characterize [their] actions" until a universal definition of 'freedom' is agreed upon. That should satisfy the monsters.

I think Sartre settled this one. We're either wholly determined, or else wholly free. And since consciousness means that fate isn't preordained - we're free. Anyway, in case he was off the mark, the alternative is a boot on a human face and the (real, nazi, concentration) camp that you pretended I was alluding to.

As to whether there are degrees of freedom, there's room for them in that philosophy. Take away movement, that's one. Take away speech, that's another. Hey, just go down the bill of rights - you don't have any at summer camp. Is it nazi germany? Did I say that? It was freakin Jewish camp. No fun for an atheist, but at least you survive. Unlike my grandparents. Now stop your trolling and own up to a position for once in your life.

To resummarize my position above:

A 'violation of freedom' requires the use of force by an authority. A parent forcing a child to go somewhere in spite of their preferences is a 'violation of freedom'. A government forcing a citizen to go somewhere in spite of their preferences is a 'violation of freedom'. Neither the first case nor the second case are necessarily the same proportionality or equally 'heinous'. 'heinous violations of freedom' implies massive and egregious use of force by authority. The institutionalized system of heinous violations of freedom is known as Authoritarianism.

A company voluntarily offering a free service that users have the option of using if it fulfills their preferences has not committed a 'violation of freedom'. It is not capable of committing a 'violation of freedom' unless it first asserts the right to use force and becomes an authority. Accusing it of violations of freedom that are heinous is to accuse it of Authoritarianism.

Have I "owned up" to my position by repeating it with sufficient clarity? Could you be kind enough to point out the logical fallacies in my position, which I have offered for public critique solely so that others may help me clarify it, before accusing me of trolling?

I do not believe this matter has been previously settled by Sartre without the use of metaphysics, I generally side with Wittgenstein that clarity of definition is needed to resolve philosophical conflict.

That people voluntarily gave facebook a temporary claim to certain inalienable rights is undeniable. What happened was that the userbase shifted and became larger, the power of the individual became weaker, and the rights and obligations vested in the company in the initial user agreement were eroded to the point of meaninglessness, without ongoing consent from the user. So at this point, your data is theirs. Moreover, there is no other alternative. Facebook is 'Brave New World' in miniature. It's easy enough to stand outside it and scoff, but the truth is that no one who's signed up for it can ever free themselves from its grasp, nor their personal information from its database.

I'm not sure what clearer example of Authoritarian behavior I could give. The only thing that makes it like summer camp is that a lot of people still seem to like it for the sense of group camaraderie its membership instills, despite its ever-encroaching and heavy-handed tactics. In that sense, its appeals to group happiness aren't too different from that of any communist party.

I watched you over several threads act as if I were talking about concentration camps, or making some absolutist moral judgment on the site or its users. I did none of those things. My point was that group thinking leads to moral equivocation, tolerance for authoritarianism and overall civic rot, and that we're better off if more off-beat, free thinking, smart people decline their invitation to this behemoth, or burn it in effigy. There's no need for a universal agreement on the nature of positive v. negative freedom for this rejection to go forward... and the fact that you chose to misinterpret the most basic of my references, "camp", to mean a nazi death camp, most likely means you either didn't read what I wrote or you were trolling.

I don't think he was trolling, but simply gut-reacted to the negative sentiment surrounding FB. People that use, and are solidly invested in, the FB platform might perceive your commentary as a kind of personal attack.

I do not, and I really appreciate your thoughts here, as they echo my own (though I think you've articulated the issues better than I've ever seen). In my view, no centralized entity could ever occupy the role FB is attempting to claim; certainly not a commercial entity.

> no one who's signed up for it can ever free themselves from its grasp, nor their personal information from its database.

I've personally deleted all my personal information from my first Facebook account a few years ago. There were zero consequences for doing so. I didn't even loose any friends, so I put it back up after a year offline to make it easier for people to find my email address and phone number.

> My point was that group thinking leads to moral equivocation, tolerance for authoritarianism and overall civic rot, and that we're better off if more off-beat, free thinking, smart people decline their invitation to this behemoth, or burn it in effigy

Why does Facebook promote authoritarian group think and civic rot more than email, text message, instant message, twitter, voice mail, phone calls, television, and newspapers? Is social media in general or Facebook in particular more likely to promote "groupthink" and "civic rot" than older forms of media? How can we confirm or disprove this hypothesis? Do protest organizers using Facebook to orchestrate the Egyptian revolution provide evidence supporting or negating your hypothesis?

> chose to misinterpret the most basic of my references, "camp", to mean a nazi death camp, most likely means you either didn't read what I wrote or you were trolling.

My position regarding 'violation of freedom' is hopefully clear: even comparing Facebook to summer camp is hyperbolic. As innocent as summer camps are, they violate far more freedoms than Facebook. Attendance is compulsory, and as you pointed out, your freedom of speech and ability to dissent as an atheist was denied.

I believe we share the same concerns regarding groupthink and authoritarianism. I also enjoyed your prior allusion to Orwell. But like Orwell, I believe the most harm comes from imprecision in the meaning of language. I do not believe your definition of 'freedom' and 'heinous violation of freedom' allows one to differentiate between the acts of Facebook and the acts of full blown authoritarian governments with camps. That is, I believe your method of reasoning will actually make it harder for people to identify institutions that fall into the later category, which is why I posed the question as to whether this disservices those who have suffered under such institutions.

The alternate definition of freedom I proposed was that of John Locke. He used it to derive a principle in Two Treatises on Government for detecting when governance is illegitimate and may be overthrown. I believe adopting such a position regarding freedom will help further your goal of opposing authoritarian groupthink more so than your current method and organizational target.

I think you are vastly discounting social pressures of peer groups that prefer convenience, have very limited technical understanding, and avoid contemplating issues that may arise later. I don't use FB, but I now often feel left out of conversations with people whom I've known for 15 years.

I agree to the existence of economies of scale and social preference for standardization but not to your ad hominems.

Questions: Does Facebook constitute a monopoly? Is there a difference between natural monopoly and coercive monopoly? Does Facebook compete in the narrow market of personal webpages, or in one of the broad markets of information, media, or time? If Facebook is bad, is television better? If I choose not to watch the same TV series as someone, and cannot hold a conversation regarding the characters, would I be right in blaming the television manufacturer, the television channel, or the show's screenwriter? Is it possible for me to forcibly obtain social fraternity from others without also denying them their liberty?

What? He/she wasn't relating it to oppressive camps at all. Perhaps re-read the comment.

I think that Facebook is relatively oppressive and authoritarian in the context of online services and social software in general. Extending the analogy to another context (death camps?) is... well, I don't know how to describe the irrelevance.

You missed his or her assertion of logical equivalence between Facebook and camp:

>Facebook = camp.

If Facebook is oppressive and authoritarian, and Facebook is camp, is camp oppressive and authoritarian?

The absurdity of internment camps is relevant because his or her logic does not allow one to differentiate between the actions of Facebook and the actions of authoritarian government.

I actually started using Facebook primarily to keep in touch with people from summer camp.

I don't think you understand Stallman's criticisms of Facebook, though, which I'm assuming are the same as his good buddy Eben Moglen. The worst thing about Facebook is not that most people appear to enjoy it.

When I was a kid, my parents sent me to camp, even though all I wanted to do was sit home and write text adventures in BASIC. I hated camp.

When I was a kid, my parents sent me to a computer camp. We sat around and wrote text adventures in BASIC, while we weren't sneaking bit copies of games. (Someone wrote a bit copier that let you play Pong in the foreground so the camp counselors couldn't catch you by looking over your shoulder.)

And you would have been one of my three best friends, and I would've begged my mom to let me stay at your house so we could stay up all night talking hypercard and c++ and compiling perl scripts for mac os 6, and figuring out what a regex is. My best friend from back then doesn't talk to me anymore, he went & joined the circus at burning man ;) Everything I ever learned was against my parents' wishes. They bought me a Mac II and then banned me from using it for more than an hour a day. Spent my childhood coding on pencil and paper with a flashlight.

You are the luckiest dude in the world.

... would've begged my mom to let me stay at your house so we could stay up all night talking hypercard and c++ and compiling perl scripts for mac os 6, and figuring out what a regex is.

Well, actually this was like in 1979 or 1980 and the Macintosh wasn't out yet. I don't think C++ even existed, but my dad did get his hands on UCSD Pascal.

You are the luckiest dude in the world.

A few years later, they sent me to a military academy in Indiana. No, seriously. I wasn't a bad kid. It's complicated, and maybe everything balances out.

> a one-paragraph throwaway rant

personal nitpick, but the linked post didn't read like a rant to me. seemed fairly polite, (unless you're facebook) in contrast to the sneering jab he was replying to.

I loved summer camp...but hate Facebook. Use another analogy Camp didn't make me sign a privacy policy to go there, or keep all of my information after I left. It was nice, and simple and there were no gimmicks. Pay for camp have a great time! That is if you were interested in it.

I think your metaphor is apt for my experience. I have burned my FB account, in part for ideological reasons and in part for a rather mundane reason. Posting something online just doesn't seem to "count" in my mind; knowing a friend had read a post on there didn't diminish the tremendous urge to tell them whatever news I had. I didn't like that most of my social interactions were being replaced with flaccid "did you see what I posted?/yeah, I did" exchanges.

I tried Google Plus for about two days, until I realized I would wind up wasting a lot of my life curating these "circles." I just don't find "digital friendship management" to be a killer app in my life.

I think as intelligent men (I'm assuming most people on this forum are intelligent men) we struggle with the issue of participating in society and thus being exposed some opportunity to meet women, and avoiding society and pursuing our academic interests.

I know on a deep level, Facebook is a part of this dilemma in my experience. I would personally rather avoid it, but I know it connects me to society and society connects me to women... so I tolerate it.

I don't know whether i should be happy that there is a camp for people who like facebook so they don't roam free everywhere else.

> It's kind of questionable that a one-paragraph throwaway rant like this has hit the front page of HN.

I was hoping that it would provide a good starting point for a discussion about using Facebook. I think it did.

"I hated camp. I hated the kids, and the counselors, and most of all I hated how everyone acted like if you didn't like it, if you weren't having fun, then there was something messed up about you."

It sounds like you are anti-social. I didn't like everything about camp, but to say there are no redeeming qualities just sounds a bit suspicious to me. Anti-social people don't like Facebook because everything about it is social.

"The most oppressive and authoritarian thing about it is, at root, that most people appear to enjoy it and not see any problems with it, while you view it as this heinous violation of your freedom and imposition on your private space. The worst thing about it is that sinking feeling that no one cares what you think."

It's not that bad. The government isn't forcing you to use Facebook at the threat of death. You do have a choice. You can choose not to use Facebook. Many people do this.

Think about it this way:

Apple is the same way. They control all app distribution and can crush your app if they see fit. Apple has always controlled the hardware and software. This is more controlling than Microsoft. But there are tons of people that develop for the platform.

Google is the same way. If you lose major standing on the search engine, your sales will suffer as a result.

Thanks for this. It concisely and exactly sums up my feelings in a nutshell.

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