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Expand Your Mind: The Facebook Impact

by Miki Saxon

All the world is Facebook—or so Facebook would have you believe—especially with its upcoming IPO.

I don’t have a Facebook account (we maintain on for Option Sanity™, although it’s not particularly active at present). The more I hear the surer I am that I don’t want one.

Mark Zukerberg would have you believe that Facebook’s only interest is making your life better, but a comment from RickyGunns reveals a more and more frequent and unflattering view of his colossus.

…he plans to make it a mandatory agenda to broadcast everyone’s life in real time invading all privacy for his own legacy and profit trying to be another Bill Gates with the exception that he will do it at anyones expense.

Long defamed for frequent, unannounced changes to its (so-called) privacy policy, problems are now arising that are likely to play out in Congress and at Supreme Court level as the demand by private employers, government and colleges for access to candidates’ Facebook pages (either by asking for logins or to be friended) escalates.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

In 2007 I wrote about an executive’s dilemma when he found out that the wife of a senior manager cited abuse when she sued for divorce. Although his work performance was fine, the executive was uncomfortable having him on staff. Liz Ryan, a well know HR guru, said, “Ron should be evaluating Terry’s performance on the job, and nothing else.” Most of the other commenters agreed with this. That’s only five years ago, but the personal/professional boundaries have changed drastically.

Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard says, “The core of the problem is the blending of personal and professional lives. We are still in the infancy of trying to understand how to deal with all this.”

Interestingly enough it is younger people who are changing their behavior to meet the challenge.

But today’s spring breakers — at least some of them — say they have been tamed, in part, not by parents or colleges or the fed-up cities they invade, but by the hand-held gizmos they hold dearest and the fear of being betrayed by an unsavory, unsanctioned photo or video popping up on Facebook or YouTube.

Or opting out completely.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try.

And there are a number of startups rushing to meet the needs of those who want to socialize only with those they really know.

Dave Morin, who worked at Facebook for four years before leaving to help found Path in 2010, explains the rationale for his company this way: “Facebook has made socializing on the Internet normal. But now there is an opportunity to return to intimate socializing.”

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

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