I feel like I am becoming PR Nonsense’s resident Facebook defender. A few weeks’ back I defended the social network against those that call it a nascent tyranny. I also objected to my colleague Doug Flora’s assertion, though well-argued, that their developers should be more receptive to customer feedback. Today I’m taking on a new batch of incendiary alarmists over at Gawker.
You may have noticed a couple articles making rounds on social media platforms this weekend from Gawker and Complex. Essential they both relay the fear that the recent update to Facebook Groups, allowing group members to see who has viewed what post, will lead to Facebook ending stalking as we know it when they inevitably implement the same feature elsewhere.
“So, to avoid leaving a potentially humiliating trail, just avoid e-stalking on group pages, right? Sure. Until Facebook unfurls the technology in other areas of the site,” exclaimed Gawker’s Erin Gloria Ryan. “I’m not being alarmist! Look at that s— they did with timeline! The rule of awesomeness entropy states that everything that was once fun is doomed to become crappier and crappier until you can’t stand it!”
I was actually quite surprised to see that a large portion of those who shared this article also shared Erin’s sentiments… the most common feeling being “Get your stalking in now, because before you know it everything you do on Facebook will be transparent to everyone else.”
Everybody, cool your jets. Facebook would never release that kind of information to the public. To do so, as I have noted in an earlier blog, would be suicide. Facebook’s business is predicated upon stalking. The “stickiness” of a website- how often you return to it and how long you stay on it for, is probably the most relevant measurement of website success outside pure page views. If you knew that someone could see when you looked at their profile, would you visit their profile as often? No. Would you spend time perusing from profile to profile when you’re bored? No. Would you check Facebook for the fourth time today to see if your recent ex has any new “friends” of the opposite sex? For sure not. Is Facebook aware of this fundamental aspect of human behavior, which has also been the direct catalyst of their success? Yes.
Facebook has known whose profiles you look at, and how many times, since basically the launch of the platform. They choose, smartly, to guard that information like the CDC controls the next world-ending disease. Don’t believe me? Check out LinkedIn. They provide this exact information right there in the right-hand column. LinkedIn knows that professional stalking is acceptable. It’s called “networking.” If LinkedIn has that information and capability, then certainly Facebook does as well.
I think the main mistake people are making is that they are seeing the general trend Facebook has taken as of late in trying to get more data out of their users in order to make the platform more valuable, and aligning anti-stalking proposals with it. However, making what profiles you visit public would actually run contrary to that goal. Users would visit profiles less, thus visiting Facebook less, thus resulting in less user data.
Often times it’s easy to forget that Facebook is a business. A creepy business perhaps. A business based on a new financial model definitely, but a business nonetheless. It makes no business sense for Facebook to try and mitigate stalking (if anything I wouldn’t be surprised if they are working on ways to more easily facilitate it).
So there you have it folks. Stalk away! What are you doing still reading this blog? Go check out pictures of your neighbor’s cute dog for the 16th time today. That’s why you friended him anyway! If he only knew…