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Business, Op-ed - Written by on Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:34 - 7 Comments

Jeff DeChambeau
Where’s my ‘dislike’ facebook button already?

This morning I opened up facebook, skimmed my feed, and saw that a friend from high school had posted a video that made an argument that was (in my estimate) intellectually dishonest — and a bit offensive to boot. So I did what any argumentative liberal arts major would do: I challenged the argument. I made sure that the post was polite, but at its core it was deep disagreement. Was I out of line?

I’m not sure, but I think the answer is contigent on whether facebook profiles are public or private spaces — the problem is that there seem to be a lot of ways to define if it is. Facebook is public if you don’t know how to set your privacy settings (or if you don’t care to). It’s also public in that everything said is part of a record over which you don’t have much control (people can easily screenshot, quote, save or remember anything said or done).

At the same time, privacy settings do exist for a reason, so maybe calling a profile “public” is too strong in some regards — these settings exist so that only friends (or at least people you never talked to in highschool) can see what you’re up to and interact with you. At best, facebook is a semi-public (does that equate with semi-private?) space, so how do we decide how we behave in this new space?

In real life (or meatspace, as the kids today call it), the division between public and private space is pretty well defined, something is public if you’re broadcasting it outwardly in a public space. Canadian free speech/hate speech laws are a good example, you can say any number of distateful and hateful things to your friends sitting around a table in a bar, but if you stand up on the table and say those same things a little more loudly, you’re no longer in your own private world, and there very well could be some consequences for ”sharing your views.”

How does this situation play out on facebook (or other social networks)? Where’s the line between public and private with regards to what constitutes a public statement? It seems that just to be safe, you have to regard everything as public. But how does this apply to etiquette?

If someone posts something, is it considered fair game for debate or disagreement? Or are the rules the same as at a nice dinner party, where you bite your tongue in favor of social graces? If the space is shared, have you got an obligation to make your dissenting opinion known when someone says something objectionable? What are some possible best practices if you decide to do so?

What do you think?


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Web Media Daily – July 16, 2009
Jul 16, 2009 11:51

[...] Where’s my ‘dislike’ facebook button already?… Wikinomics [...]

Trevor Yannayon
Jul 17, 2009 14:01

It is a lot harder to write a response that does not sound aggressive than when you are face to face and that person can hear your tone of voice and see your expressions.

I will respond if it is very objectionable but I am very careful which battles I choose to fight. I also know my friends well enough to know how they will respond.

If it is someone I have not seen in years and am not sure I sometimes leave it alone rather than start a public battle that will be on the permanent record.

Russian Expert
Jul 20, 2009 2:39

Jeff, facebook was originally created to show yourself to the public. You have to admit to be public there. If disliked, delete your account. What is the problem?
Privacy tools? It is not for facebook!
:) :):)

Micah Nyatsambo
Jul 20, 2009 12:49

Call me old fashioned but I long for the return of conversational politeness. Just because you are an anonymous person online does not give you the right to say ridiculous things without consequence. Yelp has had their share of lawsuits because of this matter. There should be parity between individuals and corporations.

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Jul 22, 2009 7:26

[...] Already a couple of Wikinomics readers have used this new feature to leave some feedback (on an earlier post of mine, no [...]

Aug 20, 2009 15:16

I consider anything posted to a facebook profile that is visible to everyone on your friends list to be essentially public. Just because it’s not accessible to everyone on earth, doesn’t mean it’s not in the public realm. It’s sort of the same as if someone were in a social club, and made a loud proclamation that hundreds of other club members could hear. Sure, people on the street outside may be oblivious or unable to access the comments, but i don’t think anyone would claim the comments were “private” in a room with hundreds of people, unless it was made explicitly so, and everyone agreed to that.

As far as arguing with someone goes, i had a situation where someone on my FB friends list posted what i felt was a fairly offensive ultra-left-wing comment about Canada on CANADA DAY (comparing canada to fascist countries) and I called her out on it. I wasn’t particularly offensive, i just told her that she had it pretty damned good here as a middle-class uni student who doesn’t pay much tuition, that canada is a human rights leader, etc. Her response was that her status updates were private and i shouldn’t go on her facebook if i didn’t like her politics. Given that her status update showed up (unwanted and unasked for) in hundreds of people’s newsfeeds, including my own, I responded that it wasn’t private. I stand by that. We are no longer FB friends.

Aug 20, 2009 15:19

I think the best practices are just the usual general rules for a debate. Be courteous, try to give your opponent’s comments the most charitable interpretation you reasonably can, and use logic and reasons, rather than rhetoric and invective.

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