Today I followed my time-honored morning routine. I got my cup of coffee, pulled out my cell phone, and checked my work email messages. My Facebook app was showing there were messages there, too, so I clicked on it.
“Good morning, Bob!” the Facebook page read, a little too cheerily. “Skies are clearing in Columbus today, so enjoy the sunshine!” It also gave the temperature in Columbus at a spring-like 25 degrees.
I recognize that, as a 60-something male, I’m not in Facebook’s target audience. Perhaps 20-somethings feel warm appreciation for the fact that Facebook is so tuned in to their lives that it gives them personalized weather forecasts and wishes them a heartfelt good morning.
Me? This increasingly cranky old guy gets a case of the creeps that Facebook thinks it knows where I am and presumes to provide weather forecasts for my assumed location and addresses me by my first name. It also bugs me that Facebook does things like prepare slide shows of Facebook posts that happened in March, or videos celebrating the “anniversary” of the start of a Facebook friendship. I feel like Facebook needs to back off and butt out.
The fact that Facebook has been implicated in the Cambridge Analytica story heightens the risk arising from the mass of data that Facebook is compiling about the people who use it. Rather than making me feel warm and fuzzy that Facebook cares about me, Facebook’s little devices, like the weather forecasts and the slide shows, just remind me that Facebook holds all of that data and can use it however it wants. It’s not an appealing prospect.
Perhaps George Orwell’s 1984 should have been written about huge, data-compiling social media companies like Facebook, rather than the government. Instead of Big Brother, maybe we should all be worrying about Big Zucker.