“The Social Network” and the Nature of Privacy in the Facebook Age
The Social Network, David Fincher’s new film about the founding of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s journey from Harvard undergrad to billionaire, has won the hearts of critics across the country. After only a week in the theaters, the movie has been named by many as the best film of 2010, thanks in no small part to its razor sharp dialogue, excellent acting, and, above all else, it’s fascinating subject matter.
Facebook has more than 500 million members worldwide. If it were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. Whether or not you know the details of Facebook’s founding, the odds are good that, if you don’t actively use Facebook, you at least know someone who does.
Although websites like MySpace and Friendster came before it, no company has defined the social media era like Facebook. In this article, we will examine some of the thematic elements of The Social Network in the context of how Facebook has changed the concept of privacy in the 21st century. Bottom line, what is the nature of privacy in the Facebook age?
What does Facebook say about ego?
Much of the crackling dialogue in The Social Network comes from Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the film, Zuckerberg sports a tremendous ego, and rightfully so. As a teenager, he created one of the most influential companies in the world. Throughout the movie, he snidely condescends to others around him, partly because of his intelligence and also partly because he is uncomfortable in social situations.
Friends of Zuckerberg have argued that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s depiction of the Facebook CEO is far from reality, which is probably the truth. However, even if it isn’t based in truth, Sorkin’s interpretation of the character is a much more apt reflection of Facebook in general.
For the most part, people use websites like Facebook because they want to connect with one another online. However, social media users also sign up for these websites because of their desire to broadcast themselves online, which is a fundamentally egotistical activity.
Look at your circle of Facebook friends. The odds are good that at least a few of them have several hundred friends. How many of these Facebook friends do they know in real life? Is it always appropriate to share the details of your life with people who are only tangential connections?
When signing up for Facebook, many users get caught up in the excitement of finding friends. It is only after the fact, when they realize they have shared something inappropriate or that they are connected to someone they don’t really know, that they look at their social networking identity pragmatically.
Who’s in control of your content?
The primary conflict in the movie revolves around the rightful ownership of Facebook and the question of whether Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for the website from other Harvard University students. Just as the issue of ownership is important in The Social Network, the issue of ownership (at least data ownership) is important to Facebook users in real life.
When you post something on Facebook, you assume that you have a level of control over that content. In reality, even if you use stringent privacy controls and keep your account secure from spammers and scammers, you still don’t have complete control over the information you share online. The reality that your online data can be misappropriated and used against you in some way is a risk that you and all Facebook users tacitly accept when they sign up for the website.
Another issue related to data control involves behavioral advertising and the way that Facebook, as well as other social media companies, use user data to serve up highly personalized ads. Facebook doesn’t sell personal information to third-party companies. Moreover, Facebook offers controls to help users limit the amount of personal data they share with advertisers.
However, the reality that your digital life is being used for marketing purposes is still a new issue that you and other Web users are reluctantly grappling with today. Keep this in mind when learning about the nature of privacy in the Facebook age.
Social media moves fast, but can you keep up?
In The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg goes from being a brilliant, albeit socially awkward college undergrad to becoming one of the most wanted tech entrepreneurs in the world. After only a few months, Zuckerberg’s early success with Facebook thrusts him into a new and unfamiliar world of decadence, glamour, and money.
In the same way that Zuckerberg is exposed to a new world of excess in the film, Facebook users have been exposed to a new world of social sharing and Internet privacy. Unlike Zuckerberg, however, who has ridden his initial tsunami of success to even greater heights, social media users are still trying to catch up with what it means to live and work in this new society of social sharing.
Since Facebook’s inception, there have been countless stories of users who have accidentally revealed details of their lives to an unintended audience. Whether it’s the teacher who was fired for her Facebook profile, or the police officer who was fired for his Facebook photos, many Facebook users are still struggling with how they should and shouldn’t behave online.
The nature of social media technology is that it moves fast. Facebook constantly undergoes updates and enhancements to make the website even more efficient and easy-to-use. As these updates occur, Facebook users need to understand how the information that they share on the website can play a critical role in shaping their online reputations. The nature of privacy in the Facebook age very much intertwines with online reputatoin management.
Facebook has fundamentally changed the way millions of people use the Internet. It has also dramatically changed the way people perceive their privacy, as well as their image, online. In order to ensure that you don’t make any mistakes on Facebook that could hurt your good name on the Web, you should check out ReputationDefender’s diverse array of online reputation management and personal privacy products.