Facebook is like a Credit Card


(…all analogies break down eventually…)

On receiving a new credit card, there are two kinds of people in this world:

  1. OMG! FREE MONEY! SPEND IT ALL!!!!!
  2. This is a tool which can be used appropriately to make my life better.

The first set of people quickly hit the limit of the card and are often reduced to making minimum repayments. This can then trap them in a lifetime of debt. Seriously, borrow £3,000 on a credit card and minimum repayments will only clear it after 30 years. Often the only solution seems to be getting another credit product.

The second set of people are different; they make the card work for them. They pay off the balance, they accumulate "credit worthiness", they get reward points, and take advantage of the consumer protection that Section 75 gives them.

Let's be quite clear - both are being taken advantage of by the credit card companies. Prices in shops go up for everyone to pay for card transaction fees. Card issuers can profile both sets of people based on what they buy and then sell that marketing data.

But it is quite clear that one set of people have made a calculated choice to exchange some nebulous cost for tangible rewards. The other set have got caught in a seemingly inescapable web, and are being slowly devoured.

And isn't that very much like Facebook?

On receiving a new Facebook account, there are two kinds of people in this world:

  1. OMG! A FREE WEBSITE WITH ALL MY FRIENDS! IF I GIVE IT MORE DATA IT WILL ONLY GET BETTER!!!
  2. This is a tool which can be used appropriately to make my life better.

I use Facebook for a very specific set of purposes. I chat with friends who are hard to reach by other means. As a convenient social calendar for inviting groups of people to events. To chat in various user-groups which once-upon-a-time would have been on USENET. To share photos - not store them.

I don't feed-the-beast. I take exactly what I want, and give it the minimum in return. The same is true with LinkedIn, Twitter, and the cool SNS you've not heard of yet.

I'm aware that I'm being taken advantage of and take steps to limit its damage to me. But, by merely taking part in this system, am I causing harm to those around me?

We know that high personal debt has a negative impact on the economy. What is the impact on society of giving too much information to a few big web giants?

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