None of this would be important if Facebook weren’t such a widely used product, but it has become nearly obligatory to have an account these days. Here at Princeton, most of the student events that I hear about — performances, parties, study breaks — all appear as invites to Facebook events before I see a poster on a lamp post or a bulletin board, certainly before I hear about them by word of mouth. Facebook has so many users that it would be the world’s third or fourth most populous country. Yes, nobody is being forced to join Facebook, but the social pressure to join Facebook is unavoidable and overwhelming for most college students, to the point that letting other people know you don’t have a Facebook account is a faux pas of sorts. One of my friends here has never owned a cell phone, yet he has a Facebook account that he regularly uses.
Facebook is now basically a requirement to have a social life of any kind, especially in college or high school, and it has a user base in the hundreds of millions. The company can start making drastic, fundamental changes to its business model, knowing that not enough people will probably even notice, let alone be able to do something about it. A few weeks ago, that ridiculous paragraph declaring privacy rights began to appear in my Facebook news feed in many of my friends’ statuses. It worries me that people actually think this will have an effect — using Facebook is still a personal choice, and the check box next to “I agree to the terms of service” means you’ve signed away some of your rights to privacy. I am not saying Facebook is evil or that nobody should use Facebook, but I do think we need to be more informed about what goes on behind closed doors. Facebook is still a business, and it exists to sell a product. When that product is our personal information, we should be even more wary of how that business is conducted.