'If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you are the product being sold.' -- Andrew Lewis, under the alias Blue_beetle, on the site MetaFilter
In the era of social media, we all enjoy using social networks for personal or professional reasons. Facebook seems like the ideal network. Everyone is using it. Communication gets easier than ever, borders have disappeared and the world feels closer to you. You're even more excited by the fact that everything is in your own hands for free, without paying for its use. Is it so? Is it really free?
Nothing is free. Nothing comes without a price and this occurs to Facebook, too. We're all fascinated by the new shiny social media toys that we don't (always) realize what comes with their use. What better describes this case is the quote above:
'If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you are the product being sold.'
Unfortunately, in the use of Facebook, we are the pigs. We tend to get narrow-sighted, we are impressed by anything new and promising and we tend to forget the consequences of this free usage. When this Facebook world was introduced to us we didn't understand (or didn't want to understand) that it's not as innocent as it seems.
Why is Facebook for free and why doesn't it charge you for its services? How does it keep on going when you use it for free? Isn't it too good to be true?
Hence, you are not the customer for Facebook, but you end up being the product. You might have started as a customer, but now that advertisers are involved, you are the product that Facebook sells. Its impressive number of users makes it appealing to advertisers that want to attract a bigger audience, with relevance of ads making it even better. And while you are busy updating your likes, the movies you watch and the books you read, you are giving away more details about you, allowing to 'sell' yourself, always with your own consent. And what is even more interesting, is that even when you are aware of how things work, you are not planning to get away from this continuous data-gathering process, because you are already hooked to this new way of communicating, networking, and eventually living. And of course, I belong to this category.
Should I freak out?
The post's intention was not to scare you and make you deactivate all your online accounts (ha, did you know that you cannot completely erase your online presence?!). On the contrary, I still believe in the power of social media, the endless positive ways that can be used and the opportunities that they bring up to you. However, I wanted to bring a different perspective to their use, after noticing that many users are too willing to share every tiny detail about their lives. Nothing comes without a price, even when you don't see it at first. Make sure you are really conscious on how Facebook works and makes money, in order to be aware of how both sides use it. And even if you take care of your privacy settings, Facebook already knows a lot about you, so always keep that in mind. Be responsible for the details you are adding about you, and only share what makes you feel comfortable (and not scared if by chance they are found by others).
Your profile belongs to Facebook, not you
Next time Facebook changes its privacy settings without asking you, don't post furious status updates addressing Mark Zuckerberg. Just because you're using Facebook and have your own profile, doesn't mean that you own it, or any details that you're sharing about you. It's like Facebook is giving you a space to express yourself, communicate, network and share content. You're free to use it the way you want, but at the end of the day, your profile belongs to Facebook, not you. You're the tenant and Mark is the owner. He can 'take' it whenever he wants and use it on his own will. And this also occurs for your data. They are using what they find interesting (actually, everything), in order to convert it into the ads you see on the right sidebar of your newsfeed.
To sum up, Facebook is not innocent, but it's not evil, either. Keep 'Facebook-ing', but be more conscious from now on. After all, it's not only black and white, so don't panic!