While the rest of the civilized world seems to be on Facebook, I, along with the Tasadays and certain members of the Trobriand Islanders, have thus far resisted its siren call. It's not just because I'm antisocial; it's more because I'm not really interested to know that the dicks I hated in high school are still alive. Fat, ugly, and pathetic - but still alive, damn them.
Also, because "Discretion is the quintessence of propriety" is one of my favorite quotations of all time. Personally, if I wanted all my professional contacts, living family members, and remaining potential future-ex-wives to know I occasionally smoke the pole, I'd have recorded it on HD and sold it in Quiapo.
This is a non-issue, of course, for those of us who are out. But it does present a bit of a dilemma for those of us who are not. Belaboring the obvious, I might genuinely like someone who is brave enough not to hide his sexual preference from the world, but having him - and by extension his friends - on my list would be ticklish at best, damning at worst. Which is why, of course, the gay gods created Friendster, PlanetRomeo, and the late, lamented g4m.
Anyhow, those closeted/confused/unsure among us on FB should find this development... interesting :
"Are you quietly stalking someone and too dense to figure out their sexual orientation from Google searches, Flickr party photos and real-life gossip? Well, a couple of MIT geniuses invented just the tool for you.
The best part of Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree's software, created for a research project, is that you don't even need to "friend" your target to figure out if he's gay. You simply need access to his friends list, which is made public by default on Facebook. In the students' test, which examined 947 profiles, the program identified all 10 of 10 men the students knew to be gay, but who had not declared so on Facebook, according to a summary in the Boston Globe."
If you're too lazy to click links, the Boston Globe summary says:
"Discussions of privacy often focus on how to best keep things secret, whether it is making sure online financial transactions are secure from intruders, or telling people to think twice before opening their lives too widely on blogs or online profiles. But this work shows that people may reveal information about themselves in another way, and without knowing they are making it public. Who we are can be revealed by, and even defined by, who our friends are: *if all your friends are over 45, you’re probably not a teenager; if they all belong to a particular religion, it’s a decent bet that you do, too. The ability to connect with other people who have something in common is part of the power of social networks, but also a possible pitfall. If our friends reveal who we are, that challenges a conception of privacy built on the notion that there are things we tell, and things we don’t.
The idea behind the MIT work, done in 2007, is as old as the adage that birds of a feather flock together. For years, sociologists have known of the “homophily principle” - the tendency for similar people to group together. People of one race tend to have spouses, confidants, and friends of the same race, for example. Jernigan and Mistree downloaded data from the Facebook network, choosing as their sample people who had joined the MIT network and were in the classes 2007-2011 or graduate students. They were interested in three things people frequently fill in on their social network profile: their gender, a category called “interested in” that they took to denote sexuality, and their friend links.
Using that information, they “trained” their computer program, analyzing the friend links of 1,544 men who said they were straight, 21 who said they were bisexual, and 33 who said they were gay. Gay men had proportionally more gay friends than straight men, giving the computer program a way to infer a person’s sexuality based on their friends."
Or as Friendster might say : "Show me your friends, and I'll show you how fruity you are."
Further down, the article states:
"Privacy has become a growing and evolving concern as social networks learn how to deal with the fact that they provide a resource that brings people together, but also may endanger privacy in ways they did not anticipate. Social networks like Facebook already give people power over that information, with privacy features that allow people to hide their profiles, and even make their list of friends invisible to outsiders, as well as from select friends.
But there are limits to online privacy, and ultimately, say some experts, people will simply have to weigh the costs and benefits of living online.
'You can do damage to your reputation with social networking data, and other people can do damage to you. I do think that there’s been a very fast learning curve - people are quickly learning the dos and don’ts of Internet behavior,' said Jason Kaufman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who is studying a set of Facebook data. 'Potentially everything you ever do on the Internet will live forever. I like to think we’ll all learn to give each other a little more slack for our indiscretions and idiosyncrasies.' "
See you on Facebook.