growing new neck and forehead veins

Another fear-based Facebook meme hit today, showing up in several of my friend’s facebook status messages. There seem to be some variations, but they generally go something like:

EVERYONES PHONE NUMBER IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!! NO JOKE… Go to the top right of your screen, click Account then Edit Friends. Go to the left side of your screen and click Phonebook. Everyone’s phone numbers are now being published. Please repost to let your friends know this is happening so they can remove their numbers ……by changing their privacy settings. (Privacy Settings-Phone-Customize-Only me)

Good grief. I mean, seriously. Get over it, already; there’s only one sure-fire way to keep your personal information off of Facebook, and that is NOT PUTTING IT ON FACEBOOK. Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your “free” Facebook account? The entire point of Facebook is enticing people to share their private information for corporate gain. Facebook didn’t just suddenly start publishing all these otherwise private numbers; they just added a button that aggregates published public data that was already there, entered and shared by other users just like you.

Now listen: I like Facebook. It allows me to keep in touch with my far-flung friends around the world. Still, like everything else “free” on the internet, you have to be realistic and  govern yourself. Facebook doesn’t make it super-easy to tighten your privacy settings, but neither does it make it impossible. I’ve tightened my own sharing settings down to “Friends Only” for everything. If I did set anything to “Only Me”, wouldn’t that be defeating the entire point of having an account? Yes, my own phone number is on Facebook; so my friends can see it and call me.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the people most alarmed by these “new threats” to their “privacy” are almost always the same people who so often most publicly share nearly every aspect of their public and private selves on Facebook. This does make sense, I suppose; the people with the fullest profile pages have the most to be concerned about. Again I ask: Did you actually read the fine print?

Here’s an idea: I’m going to change my status to reflect my own privacy concerns (such as they are, ie., not much). How about something like:

EVERYONES PUBLIC PROFILE IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!! NO JOKE… Go to the search bar at the top of the screen and type in your own name, or the name of anyone else you know on Facebook. Everyone’s public profiles are now being published. Please repost this to let your friends know what is happening so they can remove their profiles…..by waking up, people! Seriously? Good grief. Get over it: Read the fine print.

I can just see it… the start of another fine Facebook meme.

There’s the things you know, and then there’s the things you know. You can take something for granted, assuming you know the processes at play, but then there comes that eureka! moment when some knowledge really sticks itself inside your mind. This is a little tale about one of those moments.

Credit: good, bad, or none at all; somewhere along the line a big collective dupe has been played, and many folks have just started accepting the inevitability of having a credit score. And even those, such as myself, who have been generally apathetic or dismissive of such a thing, have been led to the broad assumption. that a credit score is a measure of how much risk a lender would expose themselves to by lending you money.

This last assumption is incorrect. In fact, it’s almost dangerously misleading. Here’s how I came to properly know this:

I recently applied for a credit card. To be clear, this is so that I can rent a car during an upcoming trip; I have never had or wanted a credit card. To be completely honest, my past experiences with other forms of credit have been, um… dismaying. Still, I have a need, so I filled out the forms. Minuted later, here in this lifetime, in this country, at my local bank, I discovered that I have absolutely no credit score at all. The ensuing conversation with my banker provided me with my first big clue.

I have now applied for a “secured card”. This device will enable me to borrow against my own money at 30%. What? Yes, it’s like you give me your own piggy-bank, and I lend you money out of it, while paying myself 30 cents for every dollar you “borrow”. Of course, I have zero desire to use this card, except to slap it on the counter at the rental agency. But just for educational purposes, I asked my friendly banker, “If I use the card, and promptly pay it off, will this create a positive credit score?”

She quickly and decisively answered, “No.” This was my second big clue. Apparently, credit agencies do not award positive scores for safe, prompt, reliable re-payment. While they do penalize for long-term delinquency, what they really “reward” you for is carrying a balance and making the maximum interest payment possible.

This is when it really hit me: a credit score is not a rating of my “safety” as a borrower, or my ability to repay/service a debt. A credit score is a rating of the potential profitability I present to a creditor. Those who are able to borrow and reliably repay large sums may well score lower than those who rack -up their cards to the maximum, never repay the balance, and yet continue to pay the interest.

Another way to look at it: Think of your money as a company, and the credit-card company as an investor. When you carry a balance, it is as if the creditor now owns shares in your company. The interest you pay is like a dividend the company is paying out to an investor. When you pay off your balance, it’s just like an investor selling out their shares in a potentially profitable company. When you carry a large balance and make the required interest payments, it’s like the investor owns a large stake of an excellent dividend-yielding stock. No investor would want to be arbitrarily sold-out of a lucrative dividend-yielding position. So it follows that no credit-card company would actually want to be re-paid any outstanding balance so long as the interest payments keep rolling in. It is the creation and maintenance of precisely this situation that is most highly-“rewarded” with the best credit score.

I used to think that a credit score was a pretty benign thing. If I needed credit, fine, and if I didn’t, it could be ignored. Now I see that a credit score is really less an indicator of my financial fitness, and actually a dehumanizing measure of my value as a commodity.

After several Facebook “friend requests”, and subsequent denials, this recent exchange:

Subject: “Denied for a third time and I’m out!”

Wow. you are something. I’m not really sure why you don’t want to even remotely talk to me anymore, but I guess you have your reasons. Hope all is going well with you.

I thought about this for about as much time as it had taken me to ponder the different aspects of having hit that “ignore” button those three times, and replied:


I’m not “not talking to you”; I’ve simply made it my policy to limit my Facebook friend list to people whom I have actually met, know, and have a real human connection with. I have other internet “pen-pals” who are likewise not on my Facebook feed.
Please recall the entire month I spent in [the city], making myself available to you at every possible opportunity, and how you remained too busy to meet with me in person.
My real human friendships are extremely important to me; please respect that I choose not to dilute them with casual, flippant, or temporary acquaintances. I am not a “friend of convenience” who exists to increase some Facebook statistic or provide idle entertainment.
I am a real, vibrant, living, breathing human being, who puts vital effort into friendship, and expects the same in return.
Can you really honestly say that you’re offering me the same?



Does that sum it up accurately? Was I too harsh? It’s not a good feeling to shut someone down like that, especially someone with whom I’d once enjoyed a lively correspondence, but neither does it feel fair and reasonable to perpetuate an otherwise shallow and baseless relationship for the sake of simply being able to.

Over the last year on Facebook, I’ve been seeing increasingly frequent ads for, and invitations to join, online browser games such as Mobsters, Mafia Wars, Vendetta, S.W.A.T., etc.

In addition to being able to join and play these games, Facebook also gives you the option to either “like” or “report” these ads/invites. These ads come emblazoned with taglines such as “crime pays big!”, “steal a car!”, “get your guns!”, etc. All are an obvious and extreme glorification of casual violence.

For several months now, whenever I see one of these ads/invites, I’ve taken a moment to report them to facebook. From facebook’s dropdown menu, I usually choose “offensive” as my reason for doing so, although when I’m feeling wordy, I choose “other” and then enter “disgusting glorification of violence” as my reason.

Yes, I’ve played violent video games before, and spent many many hours of my life playing at traditional fantasy RPG’s. However, I’ve never gone down to the local mall, stood on my soap-box, and encouraged passers-by to “Kill or be killed”, etc. I’m blindly hoping that Facebook somehow limits these ads to age-appropriate viewers. Even if so, I am offended, and will continue to resist this blatant glorification of violence, just as I vehemently support a nursing mother’s right to publish a photo of her feeding her baby. I hope you will too.

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