Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to ruin your life with Facebook

The key difference between fools and sages is restraint not intellect.

Do you have a Facebook account? Well congratulations. You're one step closer to being a public asset. Facebook is the single most popular social networking online portal in the world. Now with over 500 million subscribers, it has probably enumerated the large majority of the world's computer literate population and that is precisely why it is so incredibly dangerous.


Between the cam whores photographing themselves in their bathroom mirrors and posting it online and the idiot employee who added their coworkers to their friends list, Facebook is enabling this 21st century generation of fools to bring George Orwell's 1984 to a crushing reality and the US Government doesn't even need to get involved to make it really happen.

Facebook probably has more detailed personal data on individuals than the census data that governments keep on its over 500 million subscribers. It is the ultimate privacy obliterating trap. Why would anyone even worry about what information the Government is keeping on them, when they have already put all of it on Facebook themselves? Has everyone gone mad?

Here are 20 VERY good ways how you may be actively ruining your life with Facebook:

1. By just having an account it cannot be deleted

Once you create a Facebook account, it's there for life. You can deactivate an account, but you can't delete it. You can request deletion all you want but the people behind the scenes don't actually permanently remove your records. They just make the account inactive. Besides, all of Facebook's administrators are bound by US law to reveal information to anyone with a badge.

...and I do mean anyone.

2. You can't hide once you're online

Facebook is not merely the latest in a long string of internet fads. It does social networking so exceptionally well, that similar sites have taken a hike (remember Hi5?). More importantly, Facebook's data mining algorithms make it exceptionally easy to be searched by the mother of all search engines: Google. Now even if you aren't quite famous, a Google search will find you.

You think that's frightening? Well take this on for size: Google caches its searches. So even if you should deactivate your Facebook account, everything you ever wrote, every picture you ever posted of yourself, every status update, every friend you've ever added, is permanently stored in Google's databases. Clicking on the cached link will bring up all your "deleted" data.

3. Facebook is not secure

You've heard Zuckerberg say that he doesn't believe in privacy. Whether that was just him being young and stupid or just him being dangerously eccentric, is probably irrelevant. The point is, it is very easy to traverse the personal details of someone's profile that is not on your friend's list. It has to do with a particular Facebook security setting that has a tiny design flaw.

Whether that design flaw is genuinely a flaw or a deliberate feature in Facebook is irrelevant. The point is that I can track anyone on Facebook, even if that person has locked down their profile and even if they are not on my list of friends. What's worse is that I don't need to hack the site to do it. If you're female and reading this, you likely have every reason to be terrified.

4. Your login name and password are not encrypted

When you go to where there is a login page, there is no "HTTPS://" in front of the domain name. What this means is that your login and password are not being encrypted by secure socket layer technology. That means that someone with a packet sniffer tool can simply examine the data traveling between your computer and, thus eventually stealing your authentication credentials. It is remarkably easy to do and does not require skill.

5. Facebook Humanity's Online Directory

Looking for an old friend, college classmate or high school buddy? Facebook them. Looking for long lost family members? Facebook them. Doing a background check on someone you're about to employ or admit to your university? Facebook them. Doing a criminal investigation? Facebook them. Want to see who it is your lover is cheating on you with? Just Facebook them.

Where as Google has become the internet's bona fide oracle and YouTube its De Facto media outlet, Facebook is quickly becoming the single most comprehensive online database on all of humanity. The best part is that it's being serviced not by Government workers pulling teeth, but by willing volunteers. It is the single most brilliant ploy to eliminate our desire for privacy.

6. Adding your family members

Failbook: Adding Family Members
I don't understand people who add members of their family to their Facebook profile if they have plans to misbehave online. It's even worse when they're in the middle of courtship, as they comment on an potential lover's status update, only to have their family members weigh in on all their efforts, ultimately embarrassing them in front of all 600 of their so called friends.

I mean, really? You didn't see that one coming?

Facebook: Mom questions her son romantic ability
Why bother locking your room door if your mother is watching you fail at wooing a girl? Why demand that he stay out of your business if your father can weigh in on your every activity online? Why would you have a fight with your wife on Facebook while you're both sitting on computers in the same house, when both of your children can see your entire conversation?

7. Adding your Co-workers

Fired on Facebook

Everybody likes to bitch about their co-worker's flaws. It's one thing to accidentally Reply-To-All in an e-mail and sound off about the whore in the cubicle next to you. It's another order of magnitude of stupid however, to add your boss as a friend on your Facebook profile and then rag on him to your friends when he is still paying you despite your botching assignment.

Enjoy your unemployment, retard.

8. Uploading compromising photos of yourself

A Cam Whore

This Cam Whore courtesy of Facebook™ - Face cropped to preserve privacy, even if she doesn't want it.
While it is understandable that women love attention (and I dare any one of you to prove otherwise), most of the time, this constant need for attention borders on morbid stupidity. In any given woman's Facebook profile, you are likely to find 5 times more photos featured there than in any given man's profile. Now men do not need to imagine what you look like half nude.

They don't even need to be your friend (as outlined in point #14 below).

Almost every woman in my list of friends has dozens (some hundreds!) of photos of them posing this way and that, some half naked in front of a bathroom mirror with their tiny camera in hand taking an over exposed, poorly lit, flash drenched image of themselves to appease their adoring male fans. Then these cam whores perch in front of their phones eagerly waiting for the first hormone intoxicated male specimen to post a 4 lettered comment of appreciation.

...complete with extra exclamation marks.

I don't mind all the semi nude flesh greeting me in the morning. I actually enjoy it - since most of these women would never get naked for me in real life anyway. Thanks to Facebook, I no longer need to fantasize about what a woman that has caught my eye would look like when her physical form is not obscured by a business suit or something palatable for public wear.

Someone once told me that inside every young woman is a whore trying to get out. Facebook seems to have proven that. What all of these women fail to understand is that it is pointless to shy away from exposing yourself in public if you're going to publish a semi nude photo of yourself online anyway. You are doing exactly the same thing minus the personal showing.

If you plan to upload a photo of you smoking a bong, doing drugs, getting wild at a party, or in some other compromising situation, then try first recall the people you have added as friends to your profile. Even when you add these photos to a private album, once you tag one or more of your friends to the photo, they can retrieve a copy, add it back to their profile and tag you again usually without your permission. That's how you set yourself up to be blackmailed.

The best part about all this is that you can search Facebook for where a person is tagged, and not necessarily just for their profile. So even if you don't upload embarrassing photos of yourself online, once such a photo exists somewhere on someone's camera, they can hold you at ransom online, so long as you still have a Facebook account to which the tag can be linked.

If you're now thinking about deleting your account, recall point #1.

9. Adding your ex-lover to your list of friends

Why would you add an ex-lover to your profile, especially now that you're already seeing someone or are now married? There's no such thing as being "just friends" after sex. So even if you've both moved on, adding any of your ex-lovers to your profile without proper security management is only enabling a means by which your current lover can fuel their insecurities.

10. Adding indiscriminate lovers to your list of friends

A young woman embarrasses her boyfriend online
The obvious counter point to the one above is that having your girlfriend / boyfriend added as one of your friends vastly increases the probability of character assassination. Women who have been emotionally compromised can get particularly stupid and some men with a passive aggressive streak know how to ruin a reputation. Offline, you would never mix your romantic relationships with your other relationships without proper management. So why do it online?

11. Failing to discriminate between friends and jerks

Facebook: Friends or Jerks?
Popular people usually fail to discriminate between fans and friends. Nobody has more than 5 really close friends. Everyone else is an acquaintance, some of which are not really worth keeping that close to you. The number of friends you have in your Facebook profile is directly proportional to the probability of being the subject of a very humiliating, highly public betrayal.

So keep expanding your collection. You'll get bit soon enough.

12. Adding details of your whereabouts online

Foursquare is now on Facebook
Everyday, people are introducing new social networking technology under the guise of fun and entertainment, that strips away a little bit more of your privacy. While I can imagine the usefulness of Foursquare, you're basically giving everyone in your profile a detailed account of your whereabouts. It is identical to giving them a free GPS tracking system on your entire life.

Think about all the crazy ex-lovers on your profile. Think about the 600+ fans you have added as friends. Think about your boss who now knows you go to bars in the middle of the day and your wife who knows you visit a certain address before you come home. You're basically feeding their manic zest to stalk you, only that you are doing the all the heavy lifting for them.

Nicely done, stupid.

13. Forgetting that Facebook is public first

Facebook is Public by default
The design of Facebook is such that you must spend at least 15 minutes or more configuring your security permissions, creating exception lists, and categorizing your friends. In other words, depending on how much you use it, your Facebook configuration must resemble your real life situation exactly. Most people don't do this — they forget that Facebook is public first.

What does this mean? It means that Facebook exposes any information you put into your profile to everyone on the internet by default. This design flaw means that even if I haven't added some hot chick I know to my list of friends, I can still see all of her photos, despite the fact that Facebook's default profile is available to "friends only". This doesn't apply to pictures.

...or anything else in your profile for that matter.

14. Facebook doesn't use recursive security restrictions

In fact, if one of my friends was tagged for a photo of a hot girl that I want to drool over who is added as a friend of his, but is not a friend of mine, even if her profile is configured to only avail her photos to friends only, I can still browse everything in her profile, plus the entirety of her private collection of provocative photos by virtue of the fact that my friend who knows her has not made the same restrictive configuration on his profile for the pictures he has collected.

In other words;

This means that I can simply change the session values in the URL of the address bar and see everything in her profile without adding her as a friend. In fact, if you're clever enough and you know how to manipulate session variables (I'm a software engineer by profession), you can simply copy and paste the values and post to the wall of someone who is not your friend.

...and you can do it anonymously. Now you know how you are being spammed.

15. Facebook's design courts social disaster

Facebook: Silent Feud
Most of your friends don't actually know each other outside of Facebook. Chances are, this is the same situation with you and virtually anyone else using Facebook. Most of the people who you have added as friends haven't bothered to address the Public First default configuration of Facebook either, thereby exponentially exacerbating the complexity of your social status.

This is a very serious problem.

The more people you add as friends, the exponentially more difficult it will become to manage how people manage you. If you have well over 150 friends on Facebook, you are courting a potentially very embarrassing, possibly dangerous real life scenario. People have been caught up in crimes of passion because they didn't realise two or more of their friends knew each other and were actively feuding outside of the immediate social circle of that mutual friendship.

That is easy to manage in real life because your friends may live in different places. However, once they are online, rediscovering each other is now an automated process, thanks to some of Facebook's data mining algorithms that calculate the probability that you may just know someone by the number mutual friends that you all share. This can bring uninvited attention.

...especially from people you would like to forget.

16. Forgetting Friend invitations you sent

I currently have a friend request list that is a mile long. It's filled with people from points 6, 7 and 9 above. I will never add them, so they will never be able to view my profile. However, because of a design flaw in Facebook, I can continue to view whatever details are in their profile (including pictures too!) so long as their friend request invitation remains unanswered.

Once you send a friend request to someone, they don't need to accept it to be able to view the contents of your profile. This way, I can keep my friends close, and my enemies closer. My enemies however, don't have a clue. I don't know if this is a flaw or if it's by design. Either way, it is pretty dumb. Consequently, you should rescind your unanswered friend invitations., now.

17. Using the relationship status feature at all

Facebook: Divorced
If you were stupid enough to have violated the principle in point #10 above, then you use this feature at your own peril. There are people in the world who have broken up with their lover, retained them as a Facebook friend, gotten involved with someone else who is also a mutual Facebook friend, and then updated their status to reflect their newly spawned relationship.

It is no small wonder then the crimes of passion that have been committed in real life, when some idiot uses Facebook to make their ex-lovers jealous. At least in real life, no one will know what your new status is unless they run into you at the Supermarket. Even if your ex lover is no longer a Facebook pal, your status update means one of your friends who know them, may just exploit the six degrees of separation between the three of you and thereby pass it on.

18. Placing too much info into your personal profile

Would you slit your wrist and jump into shark infested waters? Back in the early to mid 1990's, there were dens of thieves hiding out online called black hackers. They used to have a saying: "Reach out and touch the world, before the world reaches back". Curious expression, isn't it? It seemed to have been a harbinger for the future as Facebook has now brought that to reality.

Depending on how complete your Facebook profile is, Facebook's data mining algorithms will draw more and more attention to you. It's usually fairly benign to begin with, but it almost always never stays that way. The more about you there is in your profile, the easier it is for you to be targeted by unwanted attention. Furthermore, once whatever you put in your Facebook profile becomes indexed by Google, it's out there forever. You can never take it back.

19. Failing to use restraint

Facebook: Having no restraint
The same thing goes for the idiots who having suffered some misfortune, would rather update their Facebook status, instead of using the phone for which it was intended and actually calling for help. The kind of mentality that does something that dumb is well beyond my capacity to process. It's obvious the thinking is that Facebook is a replacement for an actual phone call that could have been easily made since the phone was able to go online. That is just bizarre.

I've seen similar omissions in judgment with respect to restraint with people who insist on documenting every minuscule detail about their lives via Facebook status update. They tell you ever single detail from when they're going to use the bathroom to when they're doing their home work. What useful purpose could it possibly serve? Who needs this kind of information?

Oh that's right: Stalkers.

20. Updating Facebook while engaged in a high cognition activity

At the risk of stating the obvious, you should never try to use Facebook while operating heavy machinery or while driving. While that would be pretty obvious to most of us, now automobile manufacturers are developing a voice activated dashboard to which you can dictate your status update while driving. This idea is just as dumb as inventing hands free jacks for cars.

The problem with using your cellphone and driving is not that your hands aren't free. The problem is that using your phone creates a cognitive distraction. It simply means that your mind isn't as engaged in the activity of driving as much as it should be. If using a cell phone while driving is that bad, how is updating your Facebook status while driving any less stupid?

Of the 20 reasons I've presented here, this is one sure way in which you can literally ruin your life. People have been seriously injured (and some killed outright) because of this distraction. Are we really that addicted that changing your status simply can't wait until you've gotten to your destination and fully parked or until that circular saw has been switched off completely?

I hope Pinky has a license.


Now that Facebook has attained a certain level of infamous ubiquity worldwide, we are seeing a daily expression of how stupid people really are, as they slowly crawl out of the woodwork. The optimal Facebook account is one that stresses minimalist detailing. So before you update your Facebook profile, try to imagine if what you post there could embarrass you if it were to appear in the front page news or if you were to decide to run for public office later in your life.

The key difference between fools and sages is restraint not intellect. Zuckerberg is no doubt a very bright kid but he is the key enabler of modern day stupidity. There is no need to over expose yourself. It is actually worse to post that which is detrimental to your image online via Facebook versus in a newspaper. People have to pay for printed media. Besides, Facebook is free! Could you retrieve ashes poured into a river? So why would you do that on Facebook?

Think about it.

E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com

1 comment:

  1. Having a conscience about how we behave can lead to processing guilt as an instruction for better choices.
    Looking on the bright side is also a way to view things.
    There will always be thugs, bullies, criminals. If they are better exposed, we can help each other "police" them better?