A little over two weeks ago I decided I’d had enough of Facebook playing me for a punk. I deleted my small Facebook account and Ditchwalk page, and as noted earlier I felt (and still feel) no loss in doing so.
This was a personal decision. It was not a business decision. Then again one of my failings as a businessman is that I don’t have one set of morals for my customers and clients*, and another set for the people I have emotional relationships with. For that reason, if I think you’re a liar or a cheat, I’m not doing business with you even if that (potentially) hurts me more than it hurts you.
What’s been interesting to me in the aftermath of that decision is that Facebook has clearly lost control of its image. In previous instances where Facebook reneged on promises or otherwise sold out its own users, everyone (included the abused users) was eager to help Facebook recover its cachet. Now, however, I don’t see anyone coming to Facebook’s defense. In fact, there seems to be a growing trend toward stating the obvious:
Over the past month, Mark Zuckerberg, the hottest new card player in town, has overplayed his hand. Facebook is officially “out,” as in uncool, amongst partners, parents and pundits all coming to the realization that Zuckerberg and his company are – simply put – not trustworthy.
That’s a fairly calm paragraph from a rant by Jason Calcanis, which may be part of a growing pop-culture reassessment of Facebook as a company and as a phenomenon. When you’re at the top, there’s often nowhere to go but down — and plenty of people who would like to see you head that way.
I don’t know anything about Calcanis or the veracity of his views, but the very fact that he A) wrote such an evisceration and B) had so much Facebook-supplied ammunition to do it with is not a good sign for Facebook. I have serious questions about everything from Facebook’s ethical stance to its code base, but Calcanis pulls back the curtain and points directly at Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg:
Last year, when I realized that Zuckerberg was an amoral, Asperger’s-like entrepreneur, I told Zynga CEO Mark Pincus that Zuckerberg would try and slit his throat. I knew this because I watched Zuckerberg screw over his users again and again in terms of privacy, and I heard about the stories of him screwing over his former employers at ConnectU and his early partners at Facebook.
It is, of course, quote possible for famous people to have more than one extant persona. Michael Jackson was, at one and the same time, both the King of Pop and a crazy person who liked sleeping with other people’s children. The trick is in not trying to resolve the disparity.
Mark Zuckerberg may be a visionary. Part of his vision may include (or even derive from) an immoral and abusive attitude about other people’s ideas, content, privacy and money. The fact that this second persona now seems to be taking hold is neither surprising to me nor overdue: it’s simply a function of the choices that Zuckerberg has made.
My concern still rests with Facebook’s users, and particularly their underage users. It seems to me that only good can come from a Facebook backlash in which users — and particularly young users — decide that Facebook presents too many risks, or that Facebook is simply no longer cool.
In any case, I think it’s now clear that trusting Facebook is a mistake.
Update: I chose to delete — as opposed to deactivate — my Facebook account. Even as I did so, I didn’t believe that Facebook would erase my data, because that’s pretty much all that Facebook has to leverage. Apparently my deeply cynical view of Facebook was not so far from the truth.
This is, again, why I remain particularly concerned for young people who commit their early (and insane) lives to a social media platform that exists to profit from such content. Unfortunately, I think most parents see these issues as benign as well.
— Mark Barrett