November 22, 2012

Entropy update: the hazards of not having a Facebook page

Kashmir Hill, Forbes - Slashdot flagged a German news story in which an expert noted that mass murderers Anders Breivik and James Holmes both lacked much of a social media presence, leading to the conclusion, in Slashdot’s phrasing, that “not having a Facebook account could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer.”

That’s a tad extreme, but I’m seeing the suggestion more and more often that a missing Facebook account raises red flags. After a woman found out via Facebook that a man who’d ‘poked’ her in real life had a long term girlfriend, she turned to digital manners advice givers Farhad Manjoo and Emily Yoffe of Slate to ask whether she should tell the girlfriend. They said she should and then went on a digression about transparent romances in the age of Facebook:

    Farhad: I think we’ve mentioned it before that if you are going out with someone and they don’t have a Facebook profile, you should be suspicious.

    Emily: Wait a minute. You may have mentioned that.

    Farhad: I think I’ve recommended that. You know why, though? Imagine if this guy didn’t have a Facebook profile. That’s why. You should be suspicious of someone who is not making your relationship known publicly on a site like Facebook. I’m going to go on record with that.

    Emily: I’m fine with people not having a Facebook page if they don’t want one. However, I think you’re right. If you’re of a certain age and you meet someone who you are about to go to bed with, and that person doesn’t have a Facebook page, you may be getting a false name. It could be some kind of red flag.
It’s not just love seekers who worry about what the lack of a Facebook account means. Anecdotally, I’ve heard both job seekers and employers wonder aloud about what it means if a job candidate doesn’t have a Facebook account. Does it mean they deactivated it because it was full of red flags? Are they hiding something?

The idea that a Facebook resister is a potential mass murderer, flaky employee, and/or person who struggles with fidelity is obviously flawed. There are people who choose not to be Facebookers for myriad non-psychopathic reasons: because they find it too addictive, or because they hold their privacy dear, or because they don’t actually want to know what their old high school buddies are up to. My own boyfriend isn’t on Facebook and I don’t hold it against him (too much).

But it does seem that increasingly, it’s expected that everyone is on Facebook in some capacity, and that a negative assumption is starting to arise about those who reject the Big Blue Giant’s siren call. Continuing to navigate life without having this digital form of identification may be like trying to get into a bar without a driver’s license.


Jan said...

I see the point and don't exactly buy it but I have found myself suspicious or at least mystified at those who have no Internet presence and how that could happen.

Tom Puckett said...

I won't hold Facebook stock (FB), either . . . Happy Thanksgiving, Tom

Uncle Goat said...

Here I thought the reason I wasn't on Facebook was because I'm not a 16 year old girl. Now it turns out it's because I'm a killer at heart.
Oh shit, I'm a Senator? This is the worst news ever!

Anonymous said...

I'd construe a fb page as a warning sign, myself. Something like a subscription to People magazine.

Anonymous said...

Since FB doesn't require photo ID to get a page, there is no reason to expect that anyone's FB page is accurate, unless you know the person in real life and have a wider context of that person to support the FB identity.

Strelnikov said...

"...I have found myself suspicious or at least mystified at those who have no Internet presence..."

- Jan

As an Internet veteran (online since `96) I can tell you that a lot of people avoid Facebook because the site used to screw with it's own security settings, it can become a time drain, and keeping your page updated can be annoying. Those points are why I myself avoided FB.

As for the people with no Internet presence the truth is that there are scads of people whose lives keep them away from computers or the Internet for a number of reasons: poverty, itinerant lifestyle, too rural for high speed Internet, technophobia, etc. I think the problem here is we are beginning to see the Internet as normal (as TV, radio or phone ownership was 50 years ago) and judging people without it as "outsiders."

Mark Robinowitz said...

I have had an email account since 1987 and I have zero interest in Fakebook.
Boycott Facebook

Anonymous said...

I go back to ARPAnet days (1970s) and have never had any interest in FB or its precursors.

Such sites remind me of a cross between a rolling high-school yearbook and whatever you'd get if you mated People with a supermarket tabloid.