In Gehl’s Why I Left Facebook: Stubbornly Refusing to Not Exist Even After Opting Out of Mark Zukerberg’s Social Graph, his central argument revolves around the notion that Facebook has drastically influenced the day-to-day lives of many of its current users. He argues that there is an infringement on our privacy, as agreeing to the terms and service of Facebook, any information, photos, videos or content posted is considered Facebook’s ‘property’, even after an account has been deleted. Upon issuing an IPO, many of those who bought into the company (also known as shareholders) believed this positioning would allow them to influence the actions and decisions of the company. But these stocks distributed during the IPO were not ‘worth’ as much as those held by the upper-level executives in the company (Class A stocks distributed during the IPO are worth 1 vote during shareholder meetings; Class B stocks held by executives are worth 10 votes during shareholder meetings). With that being said, as much as Facebook claims to be working with its users to better improve its platform, this just goes to show that the nature of the site is highly influenced by those at head office.
Following the idea of what happens to our information after we’ve left Facebook, or if our profile has become inactive, I thought Gehl presented some valid arguments. I have gone through my friend list on Facebook to find that it is possible to search some of these individuals even though they have ‘deleted’ their profiles – their basic information is still there, but there is no ‘content’ on their profile. I also found his argument on ‘memorial accounts’ to be interesting. I’ve experienced a few friends passing away, and all of who still have ‘active’ profiles. Their profiles have become places for friends and family to reminisce, but its still a strange feeling knowing this specific individual has no control over what’s being posted on their profile or what’s being sent to them. Although these individuals are not partaking in any of the activity on their account, it is without a doubt that Facebook is still somehow collecting information.
I think Gehl does fail to acknowledge that many of these other social media sites (Google+, Twitter) are most likely accumulating user’s information as well. Because many of these sites require personal information upon signing up, I highly doubt this information is just stashed away, where it won’t be used.
Overall, Gehl’s arguments are fairly persuasive – I found myself agreeing with and relating to many of the points he highlighted throughout the paper. By the time I had finished reading, I was ready to head on over to Facebook and make the jump to delete my account. But… there are obviously consequences that follow this action that I’m not quite ready to give up yet (like how are people supposed to get a hold of me? Will anyone ACTUALLY remember my birthday? What about all those pictures I’ve accumulated through the years?). The technical name for this is the ‘network effect’, as pointed out by Gehl. It is just assumed that given the enormous influence of Facebook, that everyone MUST have an account. And under the circumstance that an individual doesn’t, they’re seen as being on the outside, and essentially not existing.