A few weeks ago, my (much younger) cousin sent me an invite to join Facebook and become a "friend" of hers. Not wanting her to think I wasn't her friend (she's really quite a lovely person) I signed up.
Recently, another friend of mine sent me a similar invite and so she was added as a Facebook "friend".
Today, I got a message in my email inbox from a guy I haven't heard from in 14 years. You guessed it - Facebook.
So what's the deal with this thing? When I was first introduced to the website as part of a show and tell during a new media class at Ryerson, I laughed it off. It seemed like a rather silly way for people to compare the number of friends they had, like some kind of social contest. I couldn't figure out what it was that this site offered that email (or, heaven forbid - actual contact) didn't cover. (or MySpace for that matter)
But I poked around a little and managed to come across a couple of old friends. So here's where it gets interesting: do you make contact? I mean, if you needed Facebook to find them, odds are you aren't that close anymore and, well, maybe there's good reason for that. They may not want to hear from you. You're not that cool, you know.
But even if you wanted to find a long lost pal, I discovered the browse/search option is inconsistent at best (some methods are intuitive, others are clearly not). Sure if you and your friend happen to sign up for the same group, then you're off to the races (kind of - even that can be a pain for big groups). But as it turns out I had a hard time finding friends I know have profiles - we just didn't go to the same school or anything (or maybe they aren't aware of the group). So how do you find these "free agents"?
There is one way: give Facebook your personal email address and password and they'll search your contact list.
Are you f**king kidding me?!
Who in their right mind would do this? Sure, not only am I going to give god-knows-who access to my password protected email, but I'll expose everyone in my contact list to a potential virus/phishing scheme. I often question the motives behind these social websites, and, gee, trying to access as many email addresses as possible seems like a good motive. That's why I use a secondary, crappy address for this sort of thing. But giving you access to my primary hotmail account? Fuggetaboutit!
There are lots of privacy/security issues involved in these sorts of sites. Too many to go into here.
Look, people, be smart about this sort of thing. There's so much junk mail, spamming, phishing, malware, virus spreading out there already. Do NOT expose the people in your contact list to these things by providing their addresses to god-knows-who. And do NOT forward those f**king chain emails to 10 of your closest friends - I don't care if it's supposed to grant me my wish or help some supposed cause.
Facebook and the like may have their charms, but let's keep our heads, ok?
p.s. Gmail sucks - I hardly use it and get way more junk mail there than at my other accounts (yes, I squatted several of them). I suspect this is because I provided my Gmail address to the administration at Ryerson - which also sucks. By contrast, I get no junk mail at my beer.com account. Sure, the splash page is somewhat racy, but it might be worth investing in a secondary account there - for contests, Facebook and the like.