The world is changing. Just in 2010: a man was cured from HIV, the CERN Large Hadron Collider was used without destroying the world, the United States made a step toward universal health coverage, and my mom joined Facebook.
I know, it is hard to believe. My mom joined Facebook.
My mom was one of the last of her friends to join the social networking site. When I joined in 2004, less than 500,000 users with .edu e-mail addresses at a select list of universities around the United States were registered on the site. Now, six short years later, more people are on Facebook than live in the United States. About 250,000,000 people log in every day.
The website is changing the world and how we live. Facebook can be used for good and evil. I can be used for coordinate parties, share photos, find jobs, stay in touch with old friends, instant messaging, or stalking a crush.
When I joined Facebook, you could only join groups within your school’s network. There was no way to upload a photo other than your profile image. Each user had a wall and small space to fill in information like your birthday and hometown. The bottom of each page made you aware that the site was a “Mark Zuckerberg Production” and a little exploration would inform you that he “does not even know what a quail looks like.”
Facebook was a fun site, but I had no idea that it would change the world. Waves of updates gave us the news feed, applications, games, and new tools to stay in touch. Tens of thousands of people around the world rely on the Facebook developer platform as their primary income source. Companies like Zynga may go public in the near future. Facebook has a valuation of about $30 billion. This is serious business.
And my Mom joined.
I have tagged my sister in photos. I have poked that cute girl I met last week. I used Facebook events to invite friends over for dinner. I planned a trip to visit a friend using FB Chat and messages. Facebook has jumped from something that was only used online to the physical world. I often joke that people can’t be my friend in real life unless they are on Facebook.
And my Mom posted on my wall.
What are the implications of our Mom’s joining Facebook? My Mom is far from tech savvy. I had to teach her how to use e-mail about a dozen times before she could send a short message on her own. I made it so easy to import pictures from her digital camera that all she needs to do is plug it in. She still asks me to come over and move the pictures for her.
But she has figured out how to send me a message on Facebook.
If our parents, and even some grandparents, are on the site, it is truly becoming a place for people from all walks of life to connect. It also means we have to be very thoughtful of what we do on the site. Even if your profile is on security lock down, I could probably get to your information if I really wanted to.
Every object on Facebook has a unique identifier. People, pages, groups, and events have a long numeric code that is used for identification in the massive Facebook database. Mark Zuckerberg’s ID is 2, if you were wondering. ID 1 was a test account.
With that ID, a developer can use the Facebook API to grab your information and re-process it. This is just one of many stories that prove how public your information is.
But does that even matter if your Mom is on Facebook?
If your Mom is going to check in on your profile on Sunday morning, are you going to mobile upload a picture of yourself demonstrating your beer bong or ice luge skills? Are you going to tag yourself doing a keg stand or owning your friend in beer pong? How about that outfit you wore to the club? The video of you doing shots? Probably not.
Our Mom being on Facebook is a mixed blessing. It makes us behave. It keeps us from posting things we wouldn’t want our mothers to see. Chances are, if you don’t want your Mom to see it you don’t want your boss to see it. You don’t want a potential employer’s HR department to find it. We surely don’t want it to hit the nine o’clock news.
Facebook was never really that private to begin with. Maybe it is about time we grew up and started using Facebook responsibly. It is a tool to connect us to the world around us. It is a way to stay in touch and share our lives with each other. Like your favorite drink, it is great when used responsibly. I urge you to think twice the next time you post something. Your Mom could see it.
And, if you really need to post skankalicoius pictures to the internet, there are other options. What do you think MySpace is for?