How I rekindled my Facebook love affair

(by Emily McDaid)

Having used FB heavily for upwards of three years, I started to notice a change in my attitude towards my friend Facebook. I'll refer to Facebook as a 'he'.

He was starting to bother me. Not just when I was logged in, physically using him to look at my newsfeed or to get in touch with friends. I was thinking about him when I wasn't logged in, but not in a good way. He was starting to interfere with my thought processes. I was becoming paranoid that my activities with him were putting my innermost thoughts and information out there for everyone to see, while keeping me from updating people I actually liked. I was worried that my 'friend' was actually a gaping security and privacy hole in my life -- and could potentially affect my life in a profound way. He was connecting me to people who I didn't really know, and didn't really want to know. And more importantly I didn't really want them to know me.

So, I closed my Facebook account. Immediately, I felt much better. However, I have a lot of friends who live across the pond. They put a lot of pictures and fun information on Facebook. I missed being in synch with their lives. Email just wasn't the same.

So I set up a new Facebook account with a different name and birthdate, starting a new gmail account to receive the endless (and completely, utterly redundant) FB notifications. It was an alias account. Some of my friends laughed at me, others said it was really smart and they wanted to follow suit (and some actually followed suit). My husband thinks it's weird. (But he's not really that technically savvy, so I don't think he really understands why I did it. And because he has a job where he deals with the general public everyday, I think he should do it too.)

Anyway, the point of this blog is that my new alias account rocks. I love Facebook again. I have 35 friends who I actually like. I can see their updates in my newsfeed because it's not overtaken by random people I don't really know. In one fell swoop I deleted old pictures I didn't really want people rifling through anymore, I deleted personal info that on retrospect I didn't really want online and I deleted false friendships that weren't adding anything to my life. It was worth being laughed at by the odd few.

There are much better articles available by people who understand security and privacy issues much better than I do. But here is why I chose to surf Facebook with an alias:

It has become nearly impossible to delete old stuff off Facebook, meaning that, for heavy users, FB is essentially an online diary of everything you've done in the past X years. That really bothered me, but I couldn't delete things easily.

Facebook's nonchalent association with Face.com's picture recognition software freaks me out. A lot.

I don't want to be anywhere near that "People you may know" tool, because I didn't want to grow my friend base with random schoolmates anymore, but you can't opt out of it.

I absolutely despise that sidebar application that draws up old photo albums. I had people who I just met in 2010 commenting on stuff that I had uploaded in 2007. Weird.

It was connecting me to people I really didn't want to be connected with.

My newsfeed was out of control with said people's random updates I didn't really care about.

I was paranoid that with the correct spelling of my name, my real email address, and my birth date, people who really weren't that skilled at hacking could steal my identity far too easily.

It really, really annoys me that you can't opt out of tagging - so anyone can tag anything of you they want. Even that picture of you holding a gigantic bottle of gin.

In a nutshell, Facebook's privacy and security settings are a complete farce. They are dumb, they don't give you any real privacy or security and I would go so far as to say FB has become irresponsible with the data it holds on 250 million people. Having watched The Social Network, it appears other people believe Facebook to be a largely irresponsible organisation too.

I dare say I'm on the cusp of a trend - if FB doesn't start tightening its privacy controls, more and more people will start using alias accounts.

What do you think?