As a journalist, should I be particularly worried about Facebook?
So far, I’ve been pretty relaxed about Facebook. I still stand by what I wrote in May 2007 (Facebook does not change our relationships or social networks; it just makes them visible to others and to ourselves) and what I wrote in September 2007 (if you don’t want the world to know about all the stupid stuff you do, just don’t do stupid stuff). I still say that Twitter and blogging have changed my lifestyle much more than Facebook.
Even so, I’ve been following at least some of the seemingly endless Facebook debates for the past few years, and lately, I’ve been less relaxed.
Facebook has been constantly changing their rules for who sees what on your profile since they started. Today, you can still maintain some degree of control, but given Facebook’s track record, we can’t really assume that will last.
This is probably not good for people in general, but for me personally, it’s not a problem. Again, I’m not worried about people discovering that (gasp!) I drink alcohol or (shock!) attend costume parties or (eek!) have bad hair days. Basically my rule is that no matter how many layers of password protection and "friends only" I can supposedly hide behind, I’m never going to publish anything online that my parents and my boss shouldn’t see. And if I ever reach that uncomfortable level of celebrity status where strangers really do care about my bad hair days, I’ll have much bigger problems than Facebook.
Copyright is a whole other story. I would like to make a living out of writing. And while I’m nowhere near being a great photographer, selling pictures is often part of selling journalism. Am I crazy to be uploading my own photographs to a site that clearly tells me that anything I give them becomes their property?
I feel horribly pretentious writing this, so let me just clearify: I don’t truly believe that snapshots of my friends making Moose antlers with their hands behind their heads will someday be worth any amount of money. I highly doubt that any of the photos I currently have up on Facebook can be considered works of art or good photojournalism.
No wait, actually, some of them are decent. Not fantastic, but definitely publishable. So when I read this week that in Norway, journalists can publish other peoples’ Facebook photos to illustrate news stories without asking, I was not happy.
Am I crazy to worry that this could be a slippery slope? Am I going against all my information-wants-to-be-free ideals? If so, is that just part of graduating college and turning into a conservative grown-up?