Without wishing to sound harsh, two words: Don’t bother. 🙂
There are a few reasons why I’m not on FaceBook…
First and foremost, is a matter of need.
The primary reasons why someone would set up something on FaceBook is to enable their friends to be able to locate them on the Internet. In my case, just about any search engine using either my real name, nickname, or callsign, will lead you in the right direction. Even then, it isn’t hard for people to trade email addresses by out-of-band means, then pass a URL to a blog site that way.
Next is the keeping track of friends. Again, plain old email is good for this… so is the telephone. RSS is a pretty good broadcast mechanism for this purpose too, and guess what, most modern web browsers are able to subscribe to such feeds as Live Bookmarks. This effectively means your web browser becomes the central switchboard by which you can keep track of what your friends are doing.
As for sharing photos… most blog hosting sites provide a means for uploading photos… a perfect way to share photos.
There’s actually bugger all that I consider worthwhile that can only be done via FaceBook.
These days I’m very busy in my daily life… too busy to sit in front of a computer checking up on online friends. When I’m at work, I’m at work… I’m not browsing the web for personal pleasure. Looking up things like FaceBook would be wrong and immoral usage of my employer’s Internet bandwidth. So I don’t do it.
I can’t very well check FaceBook whilst in transit for two reasons: (1) I ride a bicycle, and need to watch where I am going, and (2) I don’t have any mobile Internet service. I am usually on the amateur radio bands somewhere whilst mobile, but (ignoring IRLP/EchoLink/Allstar Link/APRS/etc…) you won’t find me via the Internet. I answer my mobile phone too, but only after pulling over (I need a moment to switch headset cables over).
At home, yes I could be on FaceBook… but I find plenty of other things to occupy my time. That, and sometimes it’s good to not have anything to do occasionally.
FaceBook is controlled by one company, and is a closed system. Aside from a “we promise not to look”, there is nothing to stop them doing anything they like with the information you provide to the service. Even if they don’t, who’s to say their system is completely secure? Lots of people entrusted their credit card details to Sony… Ooopsie!
So what kind of information does one share on FaceBook? Aside from your name, age… okay, not deeply personal… you set yourself up with that information. Then what?
You start “friend”-ing people. You start “like”-ing people and adding them to your list of friends. You build up a social graph. Graphs are a mathematical tool for representing relationships between objects. In this case, the graph’s edges represent some connection (i.e. acquaintance, friend, lover, … etc.) between two people (represented as nodes). And using all kinds of graph theory, it’s possible to deduce all kinds of personal information about you.
How dangerous is this? You’re probably thinking… “So what?” Mark Pesce gave a talk on this at linux.conf.au this year. If you’ve got a bit of time to spare, you can watch the video of the presentation, or have a read of the full transcript. In short, a big part of what we do can be explained by what people are doing around us… we have a tendency to mimic those around us. Knowing the group one participates in, is a pretty good way for someone with ulterior motives to figure out ways in which to manipulate you.
Your social graph is probably one of the most personal things you can reveal.
Keeping in touch
In order to keep in touch, you actually don’t need FaceBook. Good ol’e email does a pretty good job. So do blogs. In my case, I post a lot of what I’ve been up to on this site. This site broadcasts a stream using a format called RSS. Guess what, most web browsers today (Firefox 3.5+, Internet Explorer 7+, Chrome, recent Opera…etc) support this in the form of “Live Bookmarks”. Or you can use an external news agregator… there are plenty to choose from.
Then in your web browser, subscribe to the feed. In Firefox 4.0, under Bookmarks, choose “Subscribe to this page”. Earlier releases have a button that appears in the address bar you can click. Likewise for other web browsers… in fact, often you’re looking for an icon like this:
RSS feed icon (Source: Wikipedia)
Look for an icon like that on your web browser, click it, and follow the prompts. Voila, you can now track that person through your web browser. No one else needs to know about it, no need to log in to an extra site, it’s quick and easy. Need something web-based for when you’re not at home? There are plenty of web-based agregators.
Ohh, and you can track more than just friends this way. News websites, companies… all sorts of things can be monitored this way.
But I want to be your friend!!!
Are you going to tell me this wasn’t possible before FaceBook? Friends didn’t exist before Mr Zuckerberg invented this web-based forum? Have people forgotten the art of face-to-face contact? You don’t need FaceBook to have friends. Give the old-school method a try some day. 🙂