On Monday evening, my dinner cooking was disturbed by someone who claimed to represent the California League of Conservation Voters.
She boasted that this league pressured politicians into supporting pro-environment policies. She was self-righteous. She assumed I was on her side. And, within 30 seconds, she asked for money. ("You see," she said, "your neighbors have already contributed.")
I asked her whether she could give me something to read, so that I could better understand her slightly fascist overtones. "Well, we prefer to just take a check donation," she replied. Preferring that she leave my surroundings, I immediately thought of Facebook. Just as this woman had made assumptions about her righteousness, so has Facebook.
Are we really living in an era of quite thrilling gall, one in which everyone stands by while a few who claim to hold the keys to the future march along like a rather fun May Day Parade in Moscow? You see, for days I have been wondering about Facebook's sleight of mind in introducing Like buttons, sharing your personal information, and complicating its opt-outs to the degree that even Craig Newmark blogged that he didn't quite understand it all.
I have an extremely minor presence on the site. Facebook still hasn't worked out if I'm male or female. Yet I wondered whether the site's simultaneously aggressive and passive behavior might have stimulated a reaction amongst real people, as opposed to the tech community.
Strangely, this thought coincided with a very interesting analysis by Search Engine Land. Without any malice, Search Engine Land happened upon the Google search "how do I..." And there, seventh on this list of Google's suggestions, was "how do I delete my Facebook account."
The analysis went further, delving into whether this was, indeed, a trending topic on Google. It seems that "delete Facebook account" is, in fact, a significant trending topic over the last few months and more. Just by typing "dele," Search Engine Land discovered that the first offered suggestion was "delete Facebook account."
So I thought I'd just try it myself. Just by typing "dele," I did get "delete Facebook account" as the first option. And, in a fit of what is surely quite splendid fairness (at least in the mind of some cynics out there), the second suggested search result was "delete Google search history."
Search Engine Land failed to replicate the result with Bing and Yahoo search. With Bing, I had to type "delete f" before it immediately led me to "delete Facebook account." Yahoo, on seeing the search "del" immediately offered the result of "delete yahoo account." Even "delete f" only gave me "delete facebook account" as the third result.
However, Google's algorithm has a reputation of being the most accurate and objective representation of what might be happening in the mind of the collective wide world. Interestingly, Google trends data is only current up to mid-April. The latest Facebook privacy appropriation has occurred since then, so who knows what kind of gradient the upward curve might now have reached?
Of course, so many more people are now on Facebook (some 500 million, allegedly) that perhaps a proportional increase in account deletion queries might have been expected. However, a rather moving piece at ReadWriteWeb showed that even when people decide to deactivate their accounts, Facebook attempts some quite Hallmarkian emotional blackmail in order to get you to stay. It shows you profile pictures of friends who, the site claims, are going to miss you.
I didn't quite believe this level of gall, so I tried it for myself. The site chose random friends (see picture) who, it claimed, "will no longer be able to keep in touch with you." As if they don't know my phone number or e-mail address.
In the coming weeks, will we see an increase in Facebook account deactivations? Or will Facebook's idea of counting on most people's apathy (couched as "privacy is no longer the social norm") prove to hold an accurate view of current humanity?