BY Matthew Hays

November 24 2009 3:30 PM ET

Many have used
Facebook very successfully as a networking tool and a way of getting
more business contacts. What are the alternatives to Facebook?

Get
your own Internet domain. Keep your website, e-mail, and mailing list(s)
at the domain you own. Some things you have to do yourself. To have
freedom and integrity online and off, one must own one's bank account,
one's vote, one's Internet domain, and have a room of one's
own. Identities and social networks established on Facebook and the
like are caged. They promise "convenience" and "friends," but the
apparent free lunch is served with a dehumanizing hook: You forfeit
ownership. Facebook cheapens you.  
Facebook and the like are the “Web
2.0” straw house alternative. The brick house is the established Domain
Name System (DNS) that properly confers domains of responsibility and
control to individuals and organizations on the internet. My identity
belongs to me at Harmsen.net, whereas at Facebook.com it belonged to
Facebook. Everyone should understand why they will do well never to
establish themselves anywhere online other than at their own domain.
Inasmuch as Facebook is irrelevant fluff, it is merely a time-waster.
Inasmuch as it is a "useful tool," you become beholden, so when push
comes to shove, you will discover too late that you never really owned
anything and are powerless. LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like are as
unprofessional as sending letters in transparent envelopes or
conducting business under another's name. Subscribing to Facebook or
encouraging others to subscribe indicates that you do not understand
ownership enough to behave professionally online.   
 
Gay men and
lesbians seem particularly drawn to Facebook, given its obvious debt to
sex networking sites. Do you think queers should be especially
concerned about their involvement with Facebook?

Proprietary social
networking is novel and so thrives on widespread naïveté. Proprietary
dating websites come with the same caution, although they do not come
with near the ability to establish an identity in the first place, so
your exit strategy is relatively straightforward. You are vulnerable on
Facebook in the same way that you are in any jurisdiction where you may
not own your sexual identity. You are disenfranchised wherever your
person is dependent on someone else's domain, much like my
great-grandmother was disenfranchised in Canada until 1919, when women
got their own fair vote. Minorities like queers are particularly
vulnerable, especially those of us who need to speak on issues that
contradict majority privilege. We are vulnerable when the status quo
can render us “obscene” through censorship in order to shut down any
discussion on our issues and with them our agency for progress. We do
not want to devolve into a culture where social networking proprietors
have undue influence over what we consider acceptable or with whom we
can connect. At risk of prematurely declaring Facebook indispensable,
this is the predicament in which we increasingly find ourselves.
Facebook will not go away, but you can better our society and your
social position if you leave it and instead establish an adult voice
that you own.  





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