It -- like that overly sharp but really useful potato peeler -- has a dark side. All this interconnected and faux intimacy comes at price, and a hefty price at that.
The internet, for all it's touted New Economy doublespeak and lauds of it's Transformative Power on Society, is, to a multi-billion dollar industry, just a simplier way to collect marketing information. Now, through some magical programming hackery, corporations can send targeted advertising email, and be reasonably sure that you will in fact enjoy the latest invention from StarFrit, or the latest breakthrough in late '70's Chevy Nova wheelwell cleaning solutions. The information is floating out there, just to be grabbed and utilized for nefarious commerce purposes.
The marketers hit a bit of a bottleneck in, say, the mid-90's. Folks got wise to the whole idea of privacy. Information, identity, the Truth About You. They realized it was a commodity to be protected. Not just from greasy haired ne'er do wells who have an ardent affection for particular OSes, but from massive corporations, who have an insatiable appetite for it. What do you like? How old are you? What's your education level? Your income level? How do you feel about small yet shockingly rabid chinchillas?
Information is money.
And yet the poor multinationals were befuddled by the lack of truthiness in the information they were getting. Surely there weren't 200 million Joe Smith's in the world? Why are so many people live on 123 Mainstreet? Clearly the gig was up.
But, ah, then came along the Social Networks. Friendster, LinkdIn et al. They came and saw, and they held your attention for all of a few months. But still, there was no way to know if :)CoolManJojo99(: was his real name or if RealSecksehKitty was in fact, a feline in heat. And then came Facebook.
Initially available for students from schools (they had a nifty verification system where you had to have a valid email address from said schools), Facebook slowly opened up their network. And now everyone from Aunt Fanny to Grandpa Ernst can join and see that you belong to a group called BeerForWorldPeace!!!LOL!
What's more insidious is how Facebook hooks into your real email (your non-spam one, you know the one) and then uses your address book to find other users real emails. It's slick, and yet terribly effective. And now Facebook has a network a zillions of connections and relationships. Real data on real people. And they can now sell that. Marketers have undprecedented amount of information not just on you, but who you are connected to and why.
If that's not enough piss in your cornflakes, consider how Facebook not only treats you personal information, but everything you post to it (i.e. pictures)
"By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant ... to the Company, an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof." (via 24 Hours)
You've basically given Facebook your really cute picture of yourself as a baby playing rocketship with your mom's 'massage device', which Facebook can then turn around sell to some photo site, or even sell the rights to sell those pictures. You can end up finding that really fetching picture of you at graduation acting as a placeholder to a slightly garish frame at Sears.
But these are all doomsday predictions. Who wants to hear about all this when you can reonnect with that one guy from that wicked kegger 7 years ago who totally got your jokes.