It’s still about friends

Three examples of back-handed positive coverage for Facebook:

* bNet praises the anticipated Facebook Stories campaign about the service’s 500 million friends:

Stories of communities using Facebook to come together to help a family in need; stories of finding a long-lost love on Facebook; of finally being able to easily share photos with grandpa, and so on. It will be cheesy. And it will work. Facebook will always have its detractors, but this effort will reinforce the reasons why those 500 million people got on Facebook in the first place — to connect with their fellow humans in times of happiness, sadness and hilarity. (Oh, and because people they know in the real world pressured them into it.)

This campaign is hardly genius. In fact, Facebook execs seem a little slow on the uptake in finally sharing individual users stories now — the social net has been collecting them for years. As Facebook marketing honcho Randi Zuckerberg (yes, sister of that other Zuckerberg), told AllThingsD on Friday: “In the past, it’s been all about the numbers and milestones, and we realized we had never taken the opportunity to celebrate users.” Well, duh.

“Facebook Stories” may finally show Facebook that the best way to combat constant assaults from the privacy police and regulators is with stories of Facebook-inspired engagements, how it helped raise funds for causes important to some parts of its community, and, of course, with pictures of the new puppy shared amongst far-flung family members, replacing anger with “Awwwwww.”

The writer, Catharine Taylor, just can’t resist the snark. Why? Is that the new cool: diminishing rather than understanding the motives of 500 million people? Complain about Facebook’s execution at will, but there’s a phenomenon to be understood here, not dismissed.

* MediaPost reports that those suing Facebook over its privacy changes are going to have a problem: proving damage.

The main hurdle that plaintiffs in privacy lawsuits encounter centers on the difficulty of proving damages. Simply revealing information about another isn’t seen as causing injury — at least not the kind of injury that courts compensate people for.

Facebook now is arguing that a potential class-action lawsuit against it for having changed its privacy settings should be dismissed precisely because the members who are suing haven’t alleged any tangible injuries. “Plaintiffs fail to make a single factual allegation that specifies what information, exactly, Facebook has allegedly improperly disclosed or that Facebook publicly disclosed information that any Plaintiff intended to remain private,” Facebook argues in papers filed last week in federal district court in San Jose, Calif. “Instead, the complaint relies exclusively on vague, generalized allegations that say nothing specific about the named plaintiffs or how they have been harmed by Facebook.”

Right. I’m looking at that same issue in a broader sense in my book on publicness, wondering what the real damage is in privacy matters. Apart from identity theft and stalking — crimes in their own right — it’s sometimes hard to say what the damage is other than to spark fears. But fears aren’t damages.

MediaPost’s writer, Wendy Davis, also reports something positive for Facebook but then she, too, can’t resist the slap: “Facebook reportedly is ready to announce that it now has 500 million members. But if those members don’t repeatedly return to the site, their value to Facebook is limited. And with new social networking options in the works, Facebook could decide it’s in the company’s interest to rethink its approach to privacy.” That’s one of those on-the-other-hand remarks reporters make to inject faux balance: ‘Well, I’ve just told you how 500 million people use this service and the people who are complaining apparently don’t have a legal leg to stand on but I’m still going to say that they should change.’

* And then Forbes points to this video by Casey Neistat in which he says he loves Facebook and endeavors to explain it to the poor souls who can’t figure it out but at the end says using Facebook comes at the utter destruction of one’s privacy … though the video doesn’t back that up.

A Movie for Anyone On FaceBook from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Complaining about Facebook has become so hip it’s square. It’s knee-jerk, obvious, repetitive. Let’s move the conversation along. Facebook represents — no, it serves — changes in society and we journalists would be wiser trying to investigate the roots behind it than trying to root against it. Yes, Facebook has been clumsy about its changes lately. Stipulated. But 500 million people can’t all be wrong. Can they?

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  • Probably more accurate number would be “how many users visit Facebook at least once a week on average”. And this one divided by total number of users would show a certain percentage. Dynamics of the percentage would provide more or less accurate measure of real users’ attitude towards the service.

  • I’ll sound like marketing blurb, but I sincerely think that except for meeting in person, which is often difficult or impossible to arrange on daily basis, Facebook is the best way to connect and share with friends and family we have so far.

    The most common mistake people make is that they think of their friends list as their followers, i.e. people who can read your posts. I think it makes far more sense to think of it as the list of people you follow, i.e. the ones who’s updates you want to read. Adding everyone who asks to your friends list on FB is like automatically following everyone who follows you on Twitter, which quickly stops making sense after 1k+ followers.

    Facebook isn’t perfect, but it’s most certainly the best social networking site I’ve tried, and by a long shot.

  • The endless discussion about the sooo bad Facebook…
    Oh well, everybody complains about it and is willing to close their accounts and what? Only a very very few people really do close the account, all the other complainers who obviously only like to howl with the wolves, stay and keep using Facebook same as ever before.
    In my honest opinion, I think Facebook is a really good social platform, people just don’t know how to use it the right way and how much of their personal information to publish.

  • Probably like twitter, there’s a huge gap between those that signed up, and those that are active (like weekly logins mentioned above).

    On average, its usually just under 10% of the numbers provided that make up the regular users. Or so seems to be the case with many sites like twitter, Match, and others claiming lots of members. If that was the case, they’re still huge. fwiw, there’s also a lot of marketers using multiple accounts they build up and use to promote affiliate offers.

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