Reaction to the reaction to the Zuckerberg picture

I was too busy eating last week to notice the Zuckerberg Christmas picture, but catching up with the story this week, I find the media responses and comments quite telling of how society is adapting to the Zuckerverse, i.e. how utterly confused everyone is — and that’s just the experts.


The ridiculous shitstorm erupted when journalist Callie Schweitzer [inadvertently?] made a point about the impossible nature of Facebook privacy settings. She did this by redistributing a private personal photo of a Zuckerberg family moment that came her way via some convoluted and unintended friend-connection. Perhaps Schweitzer wasn’t deliberately making a point, but one was certainly made on her behalf.

The reaction 

Some coverage of this story treats the topic of Facebook privacy as a total novelty – a mysterious skill to be mastered or be victim to. Other coverage takes some quite contrasting positions on who’s to blame. Some commentators support the Zuckerbergs, pointing out the difference between private and personal. Others support Schweitzer’s actions as fair game, or worse, a taste of Facebook’s own medicine. ReadWrite sent a particularly spiteful tough luck message.

My reaction to the reaction 

It’s not the event itself which I find interesting. (I actually find that utterly trivial). It’s the reaction, the coverage and the divided support for the victim complainant that shows we’re totally confused about the role technology plays in our privacy and vice versa. It also shows we don’t really understand where Facebook’s responsibilities end and where ours begin.

Amongst the discourse I see a lot of real world analogies being used to illustrate people’s points. I find this quite telling in itself. If you need to analogise that this incident was like ‘grabbing a photo from a scrapbook and running around the block showing everyone‘ (paraphrasing Randi Zuckerberg’s own comment) then ask yourself why such imperfect parallels are required. If people can’t see the human issues behind the technical ones then it’s because we haven’t absorbed the technology into normal life. People see the technology first, because it’s still opaque.

We need more time

Living with Facebook is a relatively new thing, but the next disruption to privacy etiquette will probably come before we’ve all fully got the hang of the current one. We’re not adapting fast enough for my liking.

I consider myself a fairly punctual adopter and joined Facebook in 2007. My Dad joined in 2010, and his partner last month. So while it’s extremely new for the late adopters, the early adopters are ready for the next push.
Progress won’t wait for the stragglers.