Your Connectivity is Freaking Me Out

The recent criticism of Facebook’s lack of transparency in its new privacy settings has restirred the pot on the Web vs privacy debate. While some like danah boyd are concerned, others like Jeff Jarvis seem to think the issue is overblown.

Fair enough. I admit that as an informed consumer I have rechecked my privacy settings (kind of like checking my credit report)…but I still worry about overconnectivity. For instance:

Solitude Can be Sweet

I admit that one of my favorite functions on my iTouch are the little casual games that I can get. Some people like to post scores online, but others just like the game. I can see either working…except when you are FORCED into a social model. In one of my games, I am asked to connect to wireless EVERY time, presumably so I can post scores on the public leader board.

This can’t happen because my iTouch is not usually on wireless, but I still have to dismiss the message. My question is…why can’t I permanently disable this function? Posting to a leaderboard won’t really destroy my privacy, but the fact is I don’t WANT to post the information. Why should I be forced to share it? Who cares? The thousands of anonymous players of the game? I doubt it.

I find this expectation disturbing because the vendor is presuming my buy-in for a service I don’t want. It’s one thing to offer the option of a public leaderboard for those who want it, but to demand it? Eew.

I Have Multiple Identities for YOUR Sake

There’s one school of thought that says that we should accept the merger of our different identities. The founder of Facebook Randi Zuckerberg went so far as to proclaim:

You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”

Well, I doth protest. I admit that part of having a multiple identity is ensuring that your boss can’t easily find you over the week-end, but it’s not the only one. Like many people, I have many interests and functions. I could expose all you blog readers to them, but would you really want to know? Consider that I am interested in the following:

  • Educational Technology
  • Faculty use of educational technology
  • Accessibility
  • Cognitive architecture
  • Unicode!
  • Design and Color Theory
  • Greek Mythology
  • World news
  • Genre Fiction
  • Reality TV
  • Knitting, Embroidery, Beading, Weaving
  • Corgis
  • Techno and Disco on iTunes (with some country & folk)
  • Dialectal variations, particularly phonological
  • Archaeology, especially Mediterrranean
  • Whatever physics special is on the Discovery Channel
  • The effect of Afrocentrism on the Classics field
  • Grammatical gender assignment
  • Post Roman Britain
  • Historiography of the early medieval period
  • The outcomes of laryngeals in Indo-European

Is there any of you interested in ALL of these topics? Should you be? I suspect that all of us have a similar topic list. You’ll noticed that I haven’t touched on friends and family although of course they are very interesting to me…but you probably don’t know all of them.

So if I’m not discussing Indo-European history on this blog, it’s not lack of transparency, but a respect for your lack of interest.

Which brings me back to Facebook. I genuinely appreciate the chance to keep in touch, especially with my State College community, but I get the oddest sensation when I check the profiles of my more distant friends and family. I get to “meet” friends of theirs I have never been introduced to and see photos I wouldn’t see otherwise. I really feel like I’m seeing something they don’t realize I know about.

In most cases, it’s harmless, but it still feels like I’m peeking into their living room window sometimes. I’m sure it will sort itself out, but probably in very unexpected and probably untransparent ways.

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