Most of us have been on Facebook for the better part of a decade now, so you'd think we'd have learned something. Anything. But no. Instead, every few months, our friends cut and paste some ridiculous hoax babble, and we in turn look at their status updates and shout at the computer, "NO! You're WRONG!" Did you ever get the feeling you've been here before?
The latest variation sprung up this week, when users starting posting that "In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!"
A variation reads, "Now it's official! It has been published in the media. Facebook has just released the entry price: $5.99 to keep the subscription of your status to be set to 'private.' If you paste this message on your page, it will be offered free (paste not share) if not tomorrow, all your posts can become public."
It's a remarkably similar message to one that made the rounds three years ago, also citing the terms of the nonexistent "Berner Convention" (do you mean the Berne Convention, guys?), and again, just earlier this year.
But if you feel like looking at what Facebook itself actually says, it's there in its terms of service: "You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings."
It's not that Facebook — and social media in general — doesn't have its distinctly creepy side. Remember just last year, when Facebook announced it would offer users who opt in the chance to have their mobile devices "listen" and share what "music, TV and movies" they're enjoying? The move set off a flurry of "Facebook is eavesdropping on us now!" panicky responses. And just last week, the New York Times noted the trend of brands like Crocs swooping in and repurposing Instagram users' images for their own promotional campaigns, citing "The intersection between brands trying to capitalize on social media activity and people’s expectations of some privacy (even as they post personal photos on public platforms like Instagram) has grown far more murky."
But to my dear and ever-shrinking list of Facebook friends, can I ask you to get it together and check if what you're posting is real before you post it? Can I also suggest that while we have a right to corporate transparency and ethical business practices, we also all get to post our vacation pictures and brag about our latest career accomplishments and reassure ourselves that our ex-boyfriends have really gone to seed? For free. And that stuff is priceless.
Yet every day, there are still people shocked and appalled to discover that what they post in the public sphere can be accessed by, oh noes, the public. Hint: If you are going to be a sexist, racist troll or a money-chewing bank robber, you may need to lay off Facebook. If you're just a regular person who doesn't want to share information, you have to not share it. These are the cruel tradeoffs of modern life. You have to be a grown-up and filter yourself.
My social media circle is small and mostly made up of people I feel a genuine admiration for and/or have a sincere connection with. But I still often come upon political ideologies or — more frequently — woo-woo junk science stuff that makes me shake my head and wonder how I wound up with these people in my life. That, however, I can handle. We are entitled to our different opinions and viewpoints. What sets my finger hovering over the unfriend button is all the cut and paste nonsense, whether it's some icky "Let's see who shares this" loyalty test or the baseless cry-babying that Facebook is taking away our precious freeeeeeedom.
You know, it's called Google. It's called Snopes. Rather than disseminating false information, why not spend the 15 seconds it takes to see if what you're talking about checks out? Why not read the terms of service, or ask questions? Because this kind of privacy paranoia isn't just dumb, it's unforgivably lazy. And if you can't figure out a hoax from the truth, I don't want to see your pictures of what you ate for lunch.