Opinion

Facebook equals reverse voyeurism

This summer I worked with a guy named Seth. He graduated from Cornell a year or two ago. Shockingly, he is not on Facebook. And interestingly, it is not just because he’s lazy or doesn’t know anyone he could be e-friends with. He finds the whole online community slightly repellent, and thinks the only reason sites like LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook are successful is because of what he calls “reverse voyeurism.”

Until recently, I thought he was just a slightly eccentric and paranoid Ivy League film school grad. Now I’m inclined to agree with him, with a small tweak.

Seth’s theory goes like this: people create profiles or blogs not to join a community where all the authors learn about each other, but simply to get a thrill out of being watched. He claimed that no one actually reads other people’s profiles, but they all have a subconscious desire to have friends, kind-of friends, and complete strangers know intimate details about their lives. Now, I do sometimes read other people’s profiles, especially my friends’ when I see they’ve been updated, but for the most part, they go unread. This phenomenon seems to be fairly consistent among users I know. Everyone on Facebook seems content with having a profile no one would read in the hopes that someone would care about their online semi-celebrity.

But then here comes the controversial “News Feed” feature. Suddenly, people are up in arms about their “privacy” online. People are shocked – shocked, I tell you – to learn that Facebook has the capacity to document every single one of their actions. Suddenly Facebook is Big Brother for taking all the information about users and their friends that people willingly post on their walls, profiles, and picture comments, and organizing it, and we have people “threatening” to cancel their accounts. At the time of this writing, a group called “Students Against Facebook News Feed” has over 740,000 members. Forget that all this information was already readily available to anyone willing to look. No, this is nothing short of a Bush-wiretap-like invasion of privacy. Give me a break.

Guys, chill out. Right now, my News Feed tells me that one of my friends ended a fictional relationship, another one made a couple groups about rain, one more befriended some people I don’t know, and approximately seven billion people joined various anti-News Feed groups. I also don’t particularly care if people know that I wrote on a friend’s wall about his picture, or that I changed the new religious views section (an altogether weirder addition) to say that I worship my dog. His name is not Sam.

It seems that people do like being watched – or at least until their reverse voyeuristic tool calls them out on it. Relax, friends. The design will change. It always does. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg (“The Man”) will make News Feed optional. Until then, though, I will enjoy knowing when friends from high school went from “In an Open Relationship” to “It’s Complicated.”

Patrick Gibbons is a senior majoring in Political Science and Communications. He can be reached at p.gibbons@umiami.edu, or you could just friend him. He will enjoy watching your News Feed. His middle name is Wes Mantooth.

September 15, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. ...

Research bioclimatologists with the UM Synoptic Climatology Lab counsel cities on how to manage risi ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.