Cathartic. That’s the word I’d use to describe how it felt deleting my Facebook account last month. People keep asking if I miss it. The answer is always no.
No more sifting through pointless photos of the food that people are about to eat. No more relentless invitations to play juvenile games likes Farmville. No more dull mothers moaning about which child has the sniffles today. No more narcissists creating the illusion they’re living the perfect life. No more sufferers of relevance deprivation syndrome checking in wherever they go, especially at gyms and airline lounges.
But perhaps what I’ll miss the least is the way that businesses and employers have infiltrated Facebook – hijacked it, even – turning it into a marketplace where it once was simply an online forum at which mates could hang out. They’ve done this via three methods: snooping, friending, and spamming.
First, snooping. Research released late last year by Telstra revealed that a quarter of Australian employers troll job candidates’ social media profiles. Half of them have rejected applicants based upon what they found online.
It has reached the point where recruiters are asking prospective employees for their log-in details, leading to Facebook’s chief privacy officer declaring in March that such requests were “inappropriate”. As the University of New South Wales confirmed shortly afterwards, these requests may be inappropriate, but they’re certainly not illegal.
Let it be known to all employers: if you resort to spying on candidates’ Facebook profiles before hiring them, you really need to brush up on your interviewing skills. (Great recruiters aren’t that desperate.)
Second, friending. Did you know that ‘friend’ is now a verb as well as a noun, listed in the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries? The latter’s definition is “to act as the friend of”. It’s a curious choice of words. To 'act as the friend of' is very different than 'to be the friend of', which highlights the superficiality of amassing friends on Facebook, otherwise known as “friend whoring”.
A common conundrum that occurs on Facebook is when employees receive a friend request from their boss. What should they do? To decline the request may lead to offence, the consequence of which could be a limited career. But to approve the request gives the boss access to personal information that might prejudice their opinion of the employee.
Recruitment firm Robert Half conducted a survey last year, which found that a third of employees are comfortable being friends with their boss on Facebook, and conversely, the same proportion of managers are happy friending the people they manage.
Among the survey’s conclusions were several warnings for employees. Untag yourself from embarrassing photos. Adjust your privacy settings so that your boss can’t see everything. Be mindful of the impression your boss will develop based upon the pages you’re a fan of and the groups you join.
Third, spamming. I’m not referring here to the businesses that have Facebook pages from which you could easily unsubscribe. Nor am I referring to the display advertising that cunningly captures the words you use and the things you like to determine the ads you’ll see.
What I’m referring to are the people who start a new business and decide their friends on Facebook will be their target market. And so they incessantly spam them with links to their website; they implore them to join their fan page; and they inundate them with special offers – all while forgetting the timeless mantra of less is sometimes more.
Maybe they do it because it works. On a much larger (and more pernicious) scale a couple of months ago, Adscend Media, an American firm, was fined $100,000 for spamming on Facebook. It’s peanuts, really, considering they were raking in $1.2 million a month from Facebook spam. Or, rather, scam…
Ah, it feels good to be free.
What are your experiences with Facebook? Do you love it? Or hate it?
Follow James Adonis on Twitter @jamesadonis