The Walled Garden of Facebook

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I remember when I first joined Facebook. Okay, to be honest, I had to go look it up. I joined in October, 2005, back when Facebook was restricted to just college students. Without an active college email there was no way you could get on the site.

The interface was simple, and what at that point seemed like a novelty has gone on to become this technological juggernaut of today. I do wonder if I had known what Facebook would morph into, would I have joined back then. It’s okay to look at such in retrospect and concoct hypothetical questions and solutions, but at the end of the day, what’s known is that I joined back then, and after numerous stints of trying to get off the site, I am unfortunately still a member.

Facebook went from simply being a site that allowed you to connect with friends from school, to becoming essentially a one stop shop on the internet that caters to pretty much every need of yours. What has made Facebook become so dominant despite competition from the likes of Myspace, Friendster and numerous other social networking sites? Well it could be the fact that the hybrid social media site operates under the principle of the walled garden.

A walled garden in technological speak, is an ecosystem that prevents or restricts users from getting content from external sources. In other words, it is set up in a way that everything you need is provided in that ecosystem and going outside of that ecosystem is highly discouraged.

Think of how many times you have tried to click on a link on Facebook, only to be told that you are about to venture out of the site and to take necessary precautions. Basically, Facebook does not want you leaving their site to get information they know they can provide for you. You might have noticed that the site comes with its own search engine, set up in a way to rival the likes of Google and Bing. Not surprising considering your data is what makes Facebook thrive, and for it to get such data, you must spend tons of hours in their garden.

Sites like Yahoo also operate to a certain extent under this format. This page shows every service Yahoo owns, and it’s quite an extensive list. Yahoo just like most of its rivals has designed its site and services to cater to whatever needs the user might have as soon as they open up their page. Its how they make their money, user information is extremely valuable to them.

According to this article, the average user spends 17 minutes a day on Facebook. I calculated mine from when I joined, and it turns out that I have spent a total of 37 days, 15 hours and 16 minutes on the social networking behemoth. I am not entirely sure how that was garnered, as far as I am concerned, I have spent way too much time on the site.

Granted, my activity on there has decreased drastically, but I can’t help but notice that every time I log into the site, someone is sending me a Farmville or candy crush invite. These are further examples, of time wasting applications that can be accessed directly through Facebook, ensuring that the users will devote time and energy to stay constricted within the confines of the social networking site.

The Walled garden is definitely more than just fun and games, and has a side of it that might be considered authoritarian depending on who you ask.

Take for instance the recent scandal involving Facebook, where it was discovered that user data was used for an experiment without their consent.

This is definitely something that gives me concern. Facebook has devised a TOS that basically gives it all the power to do as it pleases with the user. Whenever you sign up to be on the site, you are pretty much ceding your rights to them.

This article, ponders on the power Facebook wields in a walled garden, and what are the limits for such power?

Whilst the guardian pretty much confirms that your online profile is owned by Facebook. All rights reserved!

I suppose that’s why, knowing all this, I have begun to limit my activities on the site. Mind you, not many people feel the same way about it as do I, and I am by no means advocating that you do the same. But I do wonder, do people realize what they are giving up when they sign up for accounts on Facebook?

I cannot entirely fault it for operating the way it does. Its goal is to make money, and it can only do so by keeping users locked into its ecosystem. That’s why it offers everything from games, to music, to polls and even shows to keep you engaged on the network. But in doing so, they also have control of pretty much everything you input into their systems. Equal trade off? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

References

Arthur, C. (2012, April 18). Walled gardens look rosy for Facebook, Apple – and would-be censors. The Guardian. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/17/walled-gardens-facebook-apple-censors

Facebook. (n.d.). Facebook. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

Federal hot water for Facebook over emotional manipulation experiment | ZDNet. (n.d.). ZDNet. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://www.zdnet.com/federal-hot-water-for-facebook-over-emotional-manipulation-experiment-7000031513/

How Much Time Have You Wasted on Facebook?. (n.d.). Time. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://time.com/6107/how-much-time-have-you-wasted-on-facebook/

Yahoo. (n.d.). Yahoo. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from https://everything.yahoo.com/

walled garden Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia. (n.d.). walled garden Definition from PC Magazine Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/54187/walled-garden

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One thought on “The Walled Garden of Facebook

  1. I did not know about the initial restrictions among Facebook accounts and I am not passionate about this social network itself. I have to admit that I opened my account only in 2012 and only because I wanted a free way to easily communicate with the majority of my friends overseas. At that time I hadn’t a smartphone so I was living without any instant messenger app. However, I have always considered FB as a place where you are to give up with your privacy rights and this is why I limit my post to topics related to weather and maybe beautiful landscapes or places I visit. Nothing personal, nothing public about my private life…it’s my kind of motto over there.

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