New Facebook Groups Cause Privacy Concerns…and Are YOU a Narcissist?

Friday, 22 October 2010

facebook-groupsOnce again Facebook has been at the height of social media news in October.  The new “Groups” feature has been critiscised for privacy issues after a loophole in the settings allowed what was designed to be a private group to have “friends of friends” added by anyone in the group. The media has also drawn upon a recent study and claims that heavy Facebook users are narcissists.  My personal reaction was as follows …

Facebook Groups

So Facebook introduced a new “Groups” facility on 6th October.  What has been the response?  Very mixed.  Whilst some people love it, others hate it, which seems to be the typical “Marmite” response to Facebook and what it can offer.

Speaking for myself, I thought that the concept was a good one.  Having whinged about not being able to define different levels of “friends” ever since I first joined the social network, I thought it was going to resolve this issue.  My point of contention was that we all have different circles of friends in our lives, and we should be able to limit what we are posting to those with whom we wish to share it.  After all, your work colleagues may enjoy a witty comment with slightly dubious connotations, but you wouldn’t necessarily want your family members to know exactly what you’ve discussed in the office that day! Similarly, your close friends and family will enjoy seeing photos of your child’s latest homework efforts, but your boss will most likely find these sort of posts quite tiresome and hide your future offerings from view all together.  It has, of course, been possible to create “friend lists” for some time and use this as an extension of the privacy settings, but most users, in my experience, start with good intentions and then give up.

It was, therefore, with enthusiasm that I immediately set about creating my new groups.  I set up three and posted a comment on each to let the group members know that they were now part of a privileged community.  The initial feedback was, “What’s this?” or “Thank you, but how do I use it?” from those who bothered to respond.  But what disappointed me most was the fact that any group member can add any one of their friends to the group!  My group, no less!  How does that enable me to administer control of who sees what on my wall?  Surely only I should have control over who is invited into my little circle?  Curses!  And whilst any member has the ability to leave the group at their discretion, I have no power to remove any of them myself.  Well, it did seem like a good idea, but after an initial flurry of interest, the new facility slipped into dormancy, where it has remained for the past two weeks.  And the privacy problem, as far as I can tell, has still not been rectified.

“Forever on Facebook?  Then you’re a narcissist!”

There are, however, times when I must drag myself away from the computer and go about my daily chores at home.  It was on one such occasion that I stumbled across a newspaper article from September for which the headline was “Forever on Facebook?  Then you’re a narcissist!”

“What?!!” was my outraged and defiant reaction, and I continued using the newspaper to aptly assist in the clearing of my cat’s litter tray.  A suitable place for such nonsense was my judgement, except that I cannot deny that I am one of those people who logs onto Facebook at least once a day.  But sad as it may be, it is hardly a basis for being branded narcissistic, is it?  I like to see what my friends are up to, particularly those whom I don’t see from day to day.  And there’s nothing like a little humorous e-banter at the end of a long, tiring day.  But why does it make me a narcissist?  This in itself forced me to look inwards and question my psychological profile in greater depth.  Now that I was completely self-absorbed and paranoid about my state of mental health, I was relieved to learn that the survey was carried out in Canada, amongst a group of just 100 university students aged between 18 and 25.  It was found that those who visited their Facebook pages with greater frequency had more narcissistic character profiles than those who did not.  Facebook claims that of their currently active 500 million+ users, at least 150 million access their pages through mobile devices.  And it seems to be the nomadic proportion that is twice as active as those of us who sit down and log on using a big screen.

With more than 30 billion content items, such as web links, blog posts, news stories and personal pictorial updates, all buzzing around the ether like a swarm of flies, I sometimes wonder if the earth will one day no longer be visible from space and instead appear as a spinning mass of electro-magnetic signals and pulses rather like a rotting apple infested with maggots!

The survey carried out by Miss Mehdizadeh, of Canada’s York University, was therefore hardly conclusive; 100 students represent a mere 0.0002% of the active Facebook users.  What a relief!  I think that deems me exempt from any such psychological profiling, but it would be interesting to see if the same trend was true of a much more diverse group of users.

If it is, I’ll have to take a very long, hard look at myself – in the mirror!