Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (Romeo & Juliet, in case you’re interested.) But not for me. I made the decision to part ways with Facebook.
I’ve never really cared for Facebook – their vague privacy settings, their data mining, their sale of my information to anyone they chose. But a few things lately have finally ‘gotten my goat,’ so to speak, and I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. (I say ‘deactivate’ because I’ve yet to find a way to actually ‘delete’ my information on Facebook.)
Now, everyone knows that it is against Facebook’s TOS to set up a profile using an ‘avatar’ name or some other pseudonym. But millions of people have done it, and Facebook seems to be very lackadaisical about policing that particular aspect of their TOS.
About a month ago, many of my friends on Facebook starting changing the names on their SL/avatar profiles to match their ‘real life’ names because there was another ongoing round of account deletions and they were afraid that their account would be targeted next. Which is fine, that’s their choice. However, I don’t know some of these people outside of SL. So if I know you as Meegan Foxhound and suddenly you show up as Jane Foster, I’m confused as hell. 😛
And then Facebook had the gall to delete the accounts of some drag queens. *Cue dramatic music* The drag queens have taken Facebook on, demanding that they be allowed to use their ‘chosen’ name. Facebook has stood firm, telling the divas that they can either use their ‘legal’ name or they can change their profile to a ‘page.’ What’s the difference between a page and a profile?
If you are a ‘profile,’ people you know see your posts. (Only about 16% of them see your post, but that’s a different story.) If you are a ‘page,’ you can pay Facebook to ‘promote’ whatever you are posting, thereby guaranteeing that more than 16% of your friends see what you’ve posted.
The divas have threatened to keep on fighting. Me, I don’t see the point. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is walk away.
Facebook is NOT the only player in the social media game. Google+ allows avatar/character names. Move over there – that’s what many SLers have already done. As more people move to Google+, the more robust and useful it will be. And as more and more people abandon Facebook, it will be forced to change its TOS, or go the way of MySpace. Or, you can sign up for ASN (Avatar Social Network) – a social network specifically designed for those who have a virtual/online identity and want to keep it separate (or not) from their ‘real life.’
The proverbial ‘last straw’ for me was reading a story about how Facebook was experimenting on its users without their knowledge. You can read about it here. The article quotes Kate Crawford, visiting professor at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and her response sums up my feelings: “It’s completely unacceptable for the terms of service to force everybody on Facebook to participate in experiments.” Ms. Crawford said it points to broader problem in the data science industry. Ethics are not “a major part of the education of data scientists and it clearly needs to be,” she said.
After reading through the article, I’m not so sure I want VR to be more real. I mean, there’s only one of me. I have different facets of my personality, and I like to express those different facets in multiple ways. But adding all those together is what makes me ME.
Humans are fascinated by the thought of making more and more realistic robots (avatars?) – Asimov’s I, Robot (which was a tad different from the Will Smith movie version), Bicentennial Man (which I loved), AI, even Blade Runner. And who could forget Melanie Griffith in Cherry 2000? (Because what man doesn’t dream of a robot wife, right?)
But there’s always something just a little bit creepy about how ‘human’ robots could become. So when the article mentioned that High Fidelity will use your webcam to mimic facial expressions, I had to pause. First, I don’t want to have to run my webcam to play in SL or High Fidelity. Second, it’s kind of creepy. Yes, there is a real person behind the avatar, but VR is never going to be as ‘real’ as face-to-face, in my opinion. Third, I can’t see how using a webcam and wearing a headset and glove is going to make me feel like ‘I’m really there!’
It seems that everyone thinks that VR is headed for the mainstream. I’m not so sure.
People want maximum gain for minimum effort. Putting on tons of gear to sit down in front of a computer, log in to a virtual world, and then have a meeting seems like a lot of extra work when you could just Skype. There’s a lot of talk about how much more we could accomplish using VR. I’m not sure that’s true, either.
A lot of people like the internet and VR games because of the anonymity they afford and the ability to be something or someone completely different than who they are in real life. It’s why so many people don’t like to use voice, but instead would rather type chat. Typing also makes it possible to multi-task, something that many people are required to do on a daily basis. Right now, if I’m in SL and one of my kids needs something, the phone rings, whatever – I get up, take care of it, and come back. Using the Oculus, wearing a glove, etc. etc. makes it that much harder to move seamlessly from one thing to the next.
Right now, while I certainly see possibilities for VR, I’m not convinced it will live up to the hype.
I’m still waiting for my flying car that folds into a briefcase (a la The Jetsons) or for a food replicator so that I can stop living at the grocery store. (You wouldn’t believe how much teenagers eat!) Or for a teleporter – how cool would it be to be able to teleport to Paris for lunch? Or the UK for tea? Or Down Under for an afternoon swim? Those are the kinds of things the ‘real’ me wants!
I think the author makes a great point. Most people are all about getting the maximum gain from minimum effort. We’ve gone from books to articles to blogs to status updates to tweets – the text getting ever shorter – always requiring less effort and attention.
I personally have never understood the appeal of smartphones. I mean, I have one, but I use it mostly for email and games. I don’t even play games on it that much, because I hate the small screen. I’ve seen people watching movies or TV, but I don’t understand that either. Why have a 50-inch TV at home and then spend all your time watching movies/TV on a 5-inch smartphone or 10-inch tablet?
I have an expensive digital camera, but it is heavy and awkward to carry, so unless it’s a really important event (like graduation or something), I usually just use my phone to take pics. Sadly, my camera is old enough that my phone pics are of about the same or better quality. But it’s a lot cheaper (usually free) to upgrade my phone than it is to upgrade my digital camera.
And I’ve watched (both as a teacher and a parent) attention spans get shorter and shorter. Kids text each other rather than speaking when they sit right next to each other. My own child has actually texted me from the basement, rather than walk up the stairs!!
That said, these days everyone seems to be on the lookout for the next new thing. People want the newest gadget – ‘new’ seems to always trump ‘better.’ With all the talk and hype about Facebook and their acquisition of Oculus Rift, it does seem as if the VR is headed for some explosive growth.
Maybe, maybe not. Lots of things don’t live up to the hype. I spend quite a bit of time in SL, but I don’t see myself spending the $ for an Oculus. Immersion would be nice, but probably not something I would want on an every day basis. I spend time building and creating – I can see how the Oculus might be a hindrance rather than a help in those situations. If all I did in SL was spend my time exploring, then the expense might be worth it.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.
Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been a lot more active in reading and researching information about Second Life and technology that is now (or may be shortly) associated with it. There has, of course, been a lot of talk and discussion over Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift. As in any case like this, there are people who are happy about the purchase and those who most assuredly are not.
I personally don’t like Facebook, for many reasons. One of those has to do with demanding that people only use their ‘real’ names on their Facebook profiles. Why? Because that makes the information they gather and sell valuable to other companies, who have things they want to sell to you. Facebook is a free service, so you get what you pay for.
There was a big fuss a while back about Facebook deleting profiles for people who were not using their ‘real’ information. The profiles were set up under other names – stage names, character names, avatar names, etc. Facebook’s stance was that since the information was not ‘real’ it violated their TOS. And it did. So they had every legal right to do as they did – delete the profiles. But in the process, they pissed off a lot of people. And it clearly didn’t stop people from creating profiles under ‘character’ or ‘avatar’ names. So what was the point?
I think the real issue is that people want to control their identity and who has access to that information, as they absolutely should. I came across an interesting post by Philip Rosedale of Hi-Fidelity titled ‘Identity in the Metaverse.’ He talks about the fact that people want to have control over who and what has access to their private information. When you add in virtual identities, the issue becomes even more confusing. Maybe Jack is a straight-laced accountant at work, a broadsword-swinging troll slayer in World of Warcraft, and head of a lycan clan in Second Life. And maybe Jack would like to keep all of those things separate. He should be able to, right?
It’s a matter of trust. People don’t generally share private information in real life until they feel they can trust whomever/whatever they are sharing it with. Rosedale touches on this idea in his post, stating, “This is similar to visiting a new website and being unwilling to give credit card information, or unwilling to login using Twitter or Facebook, until you understand and trust the site.” His idea is to have a service where you can store your information and you decide if/when you agree to hand that information over. A great idea – then you just have to decide if you trust his company with that information. It’s similar to what companies like Life-Lock do in real life – you give them your information and they use it to protect you from identity theft. But how do you know your information is safe with them?
You can’t, really. We see stories all the time of banks and stores and online business being hacked and customer’s personal data being stolen. It’s a scary world out there.