November 28, 2008

Facebook: Killing Privacy and the English Language

By Julian Dunraven, J.D., M.P.A.

Honorable Friends,

This Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of running into quite a few old friends I had not heard from in many years. Several complained to me that my email is too difficult to obtain because I was not on Facebook. It seems they did not even think to run a Google search of my name to find this blog and, apparently, it is now an incredible bother to have to ask a single other person for my contact information. Whatever. In response, I set up a very spartan Facebook entry, complete with an acerbic warning that I will only respond to emails, and will not tolerate any wretched page postings. In only a few days, though, it has been a horrifying experience.

Facebook is ghastly. I cannot believe how invasive it becomes. Did anyone else read the privacy policy? Horrid. It has taken far too long for me to slice off most of the more grasping tentacles, but I think I am content for a while now that my wall is forever fortified and my friend list is blinded. Good gods, though, I am being contacted by people I don't even know in person yet. Do they think this nonsense builds anything resembling a true relationship? They should not have access to all this information people put out there so blithely. It is dangerous! With almost no difficulty, I can chart a person's entire week just from the postings of their friends alone. It is a wretched business I say. Simply wretched.

One of my friends, laughing at my discomfort, reminded me that small towns often know everyone else’s business as well. Having come from a small town, though, I can say that small towns guard their privacy jealously. They also look out for one another, and censure the bad behavior of others through ostracism. None of that is present in Facebook. It is a gold mine of information that requires nothing in exchange. It worries me that our people, and especially the younger generations, have become so trusting that they are willing to give open access to their entire lives. Who needs domestic spying warrants when one has only to search through Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, or another such social networking sites? Perhaps more than its obliterating effect on privacy, though, I simply cannot tolerate how insipid it is.

"Oh it's so cool!" they tell me, "Look, I can throw a polar bear at you!" A polar bear, yet I was still in outraged shock over the foul idea of emoticons. Now I have to contend with flying polar bears. Perhaps they figure that if they create enough ridiculous gadgets, they will eliminate the need for any tone or meaning in writing altogether. May the gods save the English language. It is the greatest, most adaptable language in the world, yet our people and our incompetent educators are doing their utmost to mutilate it into the inarticulate grunting of savages.

Do you disagree? Just look at it. There are supposed 'friends' out there who post such scintillating updates as, "I am eating a bag of chips." When you find yourself unable to articulate a reply to these riveting observations, they toss a bloody polar bear at you. I tell you, this is nothing more than a technologically advanced version of an inanely screeching monkey chucking its own poo at its fellows.

No my honorable friends, I'll have none of it. Personal letters are dangerous enough, but at least they have substance. Phone calls are uncertain, but the connection is undeniable. Still, though, I prefer the now all but lost art of social calling: a visit in the parlor or garden over tea and scones while offering genteel conversation which does not simply make noise, but challenges and enlightens. Though the modern world has offered many improvements over my former life in the Victorian Era, Facebook is most assuredly not one of them. It provides a point of contact which can be easily found. That is all the credit I will give it.

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