Why in the world would anyone believe that Facebook is shutting down?

Security & Privacy

No. Facebook isn’t going to shut down on March 15, 2011.

No! Facebook isn’t going to charge. Ever.

NO! There’s no way to see who has visited your profile!

Some Facebook rumors take fire and spread. Often the rumors make no sense. Take the insane idea that Facebook would turn off the billion dollar cash hose it has connected to your lives. How about the delusion that Facebook would ever commit suicide by suddenly charging you for the right to turn your life into an ultra-compelling way to sell ad space?

At least the idea that Facebook would let you see who clicked on your profile makes some sense. And it appeals to our most profound voyeuristic/narcissistic instincts. Yet it has been debunked so many times that it has become a zombie lie that will not die.

It’s shocking when you see some of the lame crap that goes viral on the world’s largest social network.

You probably have the same thought I do every time I see a new Facebook spam run: Who is clicking on this crap? And the answer is: enough people to make it worthwhile for the spammers. With Facebook’s 550 million plus active users, spammers just need to glance a fraction of a percent to score big.

Facebook is all about connecting, all about other people’s business, all about finding the most sensational things fast. In some ways, Facebook is a machine built to spread rumors. The question then is: why isn’t also built to crush silly rumors.

Part of it may be brain science. Some scientists say that if we’re told not to think of an elephant, we immediately think of an elephant. So negating rumors sometimes has the opposite effect it seeks. However, we can all be antibodies used to fight the infections of nonsense that we come across daily.

Here are four reasons why I believe rumors spread so quickly on Facebook.

1. The MySpace mentality
MySpace taught most of Facebook’s first users how to use a social network. And at times, MySpace seemed like a game to gather as many “friends” as possible. Heck, people got famous on MySpace for having a lot of friends. (Many people believe this despite the fact that almost all the MySpace break out stars—Dane Cook, My Chemical Romance, Tilla Tequilla—made fantastic use of TV and radio to supplement their Internet fame.) Not everyone was trying to get famous, yet MySpace taught users to make friends with anyone. And these loose binds still exist for many Facebook users. And when you’re trying to think of something to talk about with a stranger, rumors are perfect. However, MySpace may have taught us that communities with these kinds of loose binds do not last.

2. Facebook is a superstar
Facebook is the superstar everyone knows. It’s beyond a phenomenon. Its growth requires epidemiologists to understand and the way it’s ingratiated its way into our lives so quickly and drastically is unprecedented. It’s like Justin Bieber multiplied by Google squared by the iPhone. They even made a movie about it…him…whatever. And the way rumors spread about celebrities, they spread about Facebook on Facebook.

3. Facebook requires users to be spam filters
People are the best spam filters. By harnessing people power, we’re able to prevent lots of spam email from ever getting you. And Facebook is actively fighting spam with new functionalities and by pursuing the worst offenders. But when the numbers are huge as they are on Facebook, you have to trust a lot of people to filter out the nonsense. And if your friends pass on spam runs and you don’t alert them or unfollow them, the problem keeps getting worse.

4. The spammers are smart
They follow the news. One day you hear millions of people Facebook from bed, the next day there’s a run about insomnia cures. Who doesn’t want free gift cards or shocking videos of what that kid found her doing? Some spammers are tapped into our deepest desires and on Facebook they’ve found a new way to make that ability pay.

If you still use Facebook knowing all these things, you can definitely enjoy the incredible tools the site offers while filtering out the bad stuff. But if you’re going to close your account, please do it properly.

Cheers,

Jason

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[…] I agree with my nephew. Most people who use social media don’t suffer significant negative consequences for doing so—or there wouldn’t be millions of new people trying it every day. Stories of people being fired or arrested for what they’ve done on Facebook are rare. But they get lots of attention because Facebook is the superstar everyone knows. […]

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