I use FaceBook. I don’t use it to the extent that some people do, but for keeping in casual touch with friends, relatives, and acquaintances, it’s pretty alright.
I get to see pictures of my far-away people and am reminded to miss them more. I get to read that they’re off to the grocery store, or back from the grocery store, or what they bought at the grocery store. Sometimes I get to read cooler stuff than that. FaceBook helped me locate my former schoolmates for a never-ending class reunion (which is more fun than it might sound) and it led me to my long-lost Aunt and cousins, my only living relatives from my father’s side of the family. It even keeps me reminded of all their birthdays.
And it’s free.
Did you catch that? FaceBook gives storage space, bandwidth, multi-device access, and an array of entertainment applications to anyone with an email address – at no charge.
Recently (and a little less recently, and slightly before that, and at other times too) FaceBook has come under fire for policy changes, most especially over adjustments to their Terms of Service that would have an impact on the privacy of its members’ personal information. I can easily understand the concern over this type of thing and I very much appreciate the people who explain to me the ramifications of these carefully worded press releases.
But there is a recurring gripe that I find symptomatic of a rotten spot in our collective greedy little soul. The rumor gets kicked off, at fairly reliable intervals, that FaceBook is planning to implement a charge for its services. So far, it’s never been true, but the indignant reactions and the pissy status-updates, usually proclaiming variations on “I will *NOT* pay for FaceBook!!!!!”, seem just a bit out of bounds, if you ask me.
Now I’ll not suggest that FaceBook is a money pit and that all the programmers and big-idea personnel who keep it up and running are doing so in a vacuum of charity, but the Internet has created an entitlement monster and fed it super-sized portions of free content and access.
I realize that tracking cookies and web-surfing data provide valuable mines for marketing outfits. There’s always at least the potential for gain and enough of that potential to keep the ad men coming back for more and more. Beyond that, though, there’s a creeping expectation in cyberspace that information, entertainment, and electronic communication are inherent rights. I don’t recall the guarantee to Gmail, MySpace, and The Pursuit of WordPressiness.
In the spirit of civility, I suggest we keep an eye to our best interests, but still give thanks for this span of time before the current model of free and reasonably reliable news, amusement, and connectivity is shown up for being unsustainable. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks, but don’t forget that their are troops of programmers, writers, idea guys, customer service representatives, and maintenance monkeys who make it all happen.
After all, if you get what you pay for, are you entitled to complain overmuch about what you get for free?