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You won't find privacy on Facebook

May 24, 2010

o If you like reading Tim Rowland, you'll love watching him. See what else Tim has to say

This coming Monday is a national holiday obviously, but it is an important date for another reason: It is being billed as Quit Facebook Day.

A number of people, who apparently live lives so free of conflict that they have nothing better to fret over, are concerned about what they see as Facebook's slack privacy measures. So they are hoping to encourage waves of people to quit the social networking site, extracting some measure of revenge over the Internet monolith.

It's a noble idea, I suppose, but I also know that some people will not be able to quit Facebook because they have never used it in the first place. For these uninformed souls, I offer this Facebook primer:

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Q. What is Facebook?

A. Facebook is a "social networking" site that allows you to accurately keep track of how many times over the past week that your friend's cat has thrown up. It also allows you to "reconnect" with people you haven't seen for a long, long time -- and then go on ignoring them, just as you have for the past 30 years. And you can join "groups" of like-minded individuals, who believe, for example, that "Peanut Butter Goes Good On Pork Fat."

Q. Who would care how many times your cat has thrown up?

A. No one. In fact, no one cares about anything you post except you. Yet no one has figured this out.

Q. Was Facebook ever cool?

A. Briefly. Until businesses started using it to try to make money and politicians started using it to try to win votes. Before then, however, it drew mild acclaim as "the thinking man's Twitter."

Q. So if it's no longer cool, why do people still use it?

A. So they can use Facebook posts to complain about how uncool Facebook has become.

Q. This sounds like the old Listerine ads: "You mean you hate it but you keep on using it?" Why all the anger?

A. Because people are mad that Facebook does not respect their privacy.

Q. But this is an Internet site available to people around the globe. Shouldn't you just assume that everything you post will find its way into the public domain?

A. You would think so, but no. There are actual people out there who will post a photograph of them French kissing a donkey and then be flabbergasted because it's been seen by a prospective employer who then turned them down for a job as a social worker.

Q. So the video clip of her dancing topless on a tombstone might not have been a good career move. That's understandable. But why is this Facebook's fault?

A. Elementary. If there was no such thing as Facebook, she could hardly have posted the topless video on Facebook now, could she?

Q. Are you on drugs?

A. Not as many as you would think.

Q. So if people are this upset with Facebook, why don't they just take down their Facebook site?

A. It's not that simple. Deleting your account takes an estimated 87 steps and requires you to "answer me these questions three," including, "What is the capital of Assyria?" Then if you persist, Facebook will launch grenades at your house and send someone out to poison your dog.

Q. Will you be happier once you have decoupled yourself from Facebook once and for all?

A. Only if you can live without knowing how many times your friend's cat threw up.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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