My birthday has come and gone. One thing that was very different this year over previous years is that my wall on Facebook wasn’t filled with well wishes. This was a little sad… and yet, entirely expected. More than a few people have made mention about not being able to write on my wall there, so I decided that I’d blog about it.
At first, the wall seems like a good idea. Given the origins of Facebook, the wall is pretty much the chalkboard/whiteboard/corkboard on your dorm door. People can drop by and, if you aren’t there, leave you a note. As with many things, this also fits with Facebook’s “everything is public” mentality that those of us who don’t feel that way fight and force them to keep their privacy settings useful. (If Facebook and Zuckerberg had their way, nothing would be private.) Most of the things that used to appear on my wall were fine. Birthday well wishes, holiday cheer, the occasional photo or video. But every once in a while, something I would prefer to be a private message would show up there. Thankfully in my case it was never anything bad, but we’ll come back to this.
Another problem (in my opinion) with the wall is that they opened it up for applications. At the beginning, games would spam your news feed. “Jason has a new cow in Farmville! Click here to get a free cow too!” All in an attempt to get your friends to all play. But now you also get “Jason has given you a roofing nail in Farmville! Click here to collect it!” written on your wall. Seeing as how I don’t like very many of those games, disabling the wall stopped a bunch of those without me having to block the applications.
Anyway… back to the inappropriate comments. The main issue with the wall is that it is (mostly) public. If you allow people to post on your wall, your visibility options are: Everyone, Friends of Friends, Friends Only, and Custom. Now, under Custom it allows you to block certain people or only allow trusted people, but it is a pain to do and doesn’t really solve the issue. (Choosing “Only Me” is effectively the same as turning off the Wall.) The majority of people never look at their security settings (and Facebook is counting on that). Instead, most people think the wall is like sending a personal message. The result is that over the years I’ve seen a number of things posted on walls that should be in private messages, or at least restricted to Friends Only. Phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, test results (yes, those kinds of tests), family secrets, and so on. Sometimes I think about when people have bluetooth headsets for their cell phones. They seem to forget that now that they aren’t hunched over their phone and talking into it, they are now projecting and everyone within twenty feet can hear that they are frustrated about not getting laid in the last eight months, and that since they haven’t been laid they don’t know why they have itching and burning in their crotch. The wall on Facebook is like that.
So, back when I was running through all my security settings a few months ago, I decided to just go ahead and turn the wall off. Don’t need it. If you have something to say to me you can either send me a private message, or you can post it in your news feed and dedicate it to me. I’d recommend the private message. Sure, I’m ruining the social network aspects, the viral nature, of Facebook. I don’t care.