I'm beginning to get a little worried about Facebook. Specifically, I'm wondering if the people who figure out what ads to send me have been drinking.
I've been on Facebook for over a year now, and I have to say I'm enjoying it. It took a while for Kim to convince me to join, but now I find it a useful way to keep up with friends - some of whom I don't hear from any other way - and engage in all sorts of pointless but entertaining reminiscing. I am now a member of a group that defines itself by having grown up in my old neighborhood in the 1960s and 70s, for example - a neighborhood that to this day does not have its own zip code. My old college dorm also has a group for alumni. And the school district in Our Little Town has its own fan page, whereby I get occasional dollops of information that I actually need.
So - Facebook. Win.
But some iterations back in their design they added a column on the right hand side for advertisements, suggestions and other things they want to push on me.
Now, I don't mind this. They need to make money in order to survive, so ads are just one more thing I put up with. And sometimes they suggest things I actually want to follow - people or groups that mean something to me.
But recently I've noticed a couple of things.
First and most amusing, Facebook has been trying to make me be friends with a guy whose blog I read. He lives in Alaska, and while I am a faithful reader of his blog and have exchanged an email or two with the guy, I'm not going stalk the poor man on Facebook. I've checked out his page and he's not one of those people with a million friends - he clearly thinks about who he accepts and doesn't, and some occasional e-acquaintance in the lower 48 probably won't cut it, nor should it.
More to the point, I have no idea why Facebook insists I befriend him. How would they know that I read his blog? Do they read my bookmarks on Firefox? I've never used Facebook to contact him, so I am a bit puzzled as to how Facebook knows to recommend him.
Does the CIA know about this algorithm? And if not, why not?
Second and rather more disturbing to me personally, over the last month or so almost all of the ads Facebook has seen fit to run on my page have been for the Republican Party.
Do these people not read my status updates? Do they pay no attention to my links? They certainly can't have found this blog. And yet the ads keep coming.
I get ads telling me to call my Congressbots and tell them to vote no on health care reform. Now, I have my problems with Obama's bill - namely that it doesn't go far enough - but I'm happy to take my half a loaf and run with it, secure in the knowledge that once the principle of the thing gets established tweaking the details will be easier. It's like Social Security that way.
I get campaign announcements from one of the conservative candidates running for Wisconsin governor - a candidate well known in Our Little Town, where the last time he ran for public office several dozen of his personal acquaintances here took out a full-page ad detailing the many reasons why he should never be entrusted with public responsibility. Even the local Catholic archbishop criticized him for being too conservative, and the dioceses here (even the Protestant ones) are notorious for their resistance to modern thought - modern being defined here as anything that can refer to Rutherford B. Hayes in the past tense.
I get campaign announcements for all kinds of right-wing candidates, actually, some of whom are living and some of whom, well, are not. You would not believe how many ads I've gotten from people trying to sell me "Reagan for President" t-shirts. I didn't vote for the guy when he was alive and I'm not sure I want a zombie president now, though it would be interesting to see what such a leader's perspective on health care reform would be. But seriously, folks - I know conservativism is supposed to worship the past, but isn't trying to elect dead people taking it a bit far?
At least liberals only ask the dead to vote.
Whatever the people at Facebook are drinking, I'd like some.