The use of social networking site Facebook is growing exponentially so there are, of course, growing pains. Despite founder Mark Zuckerberg's attempt to explain the site's update to its Terms of Service — now insisting on a right to own the material you post even if you quit — the reaction against this change has been swift and pointed (and, if you're Perez Hilton, hysterical).
Now me, I love Facebook — it's incredibly handy for keeping in touch with people I don't get to see that often — but I have never posted any of my writing, artwork or important photos to the site. The stuff I value stays on my hard drive, owned by no one but me. As for the rest, well, as an out gay activist who proudly, happily "flaunts" my personal life, the concept of privacy is a touch more…flexible with me (ha!) but it's still something everyone should consider when using a social networking site — or the internet at all.
The book "The End of Privacy" was released in 1999 — it generated surprisingly little public discussion back then and now, frankly, it's too late. Whether it's Facebook or Flickr or (eek) Manhunt, there is no privacy on the internet. It seems weird for people to get upset at Facebook for having the same legal approach as Google. Whether or not you remember Googling "hot twink amputee porn" (oh, like I'm the only one), Google does and they keep it all on file.
Why suddenly freak out over Facebook's invasion of privacy when we're the ones posting photos of us drunk and in our underwear? A culture obsessing over Britney Spears' current mental state can hardly whine about privacy but nevertheless, it's a debate we all need to be having. Facebook wants (needs!) to make money with its huge pool of users somehow and if it scares away the smart, vigilant people concerned about being co-opted or controlled, well that only leaves them a massive group of people who aren't. Perfect. I say stick around, use Facebook in a way that helps you and stay watchful.
This, in a slightly clumsy segue, is another reason why I've always loved the Pet Shop Boys. They explored all of these issues in a three-minute pop song — who else can do that? And, tomorrow night, they'll be honoured for two decades of genius at the Brit Awards, with Lady Gaga joining them on stage. Facebook succeeded by tapping into our very real, very powerful need for connection, validation and even fame and the Boys know all about that too: