This reading focuses on the controversy surrounding a major change implemented by social networking website Facebook in 2006, the introduction of the ‘news feed’. Facebook users were suddenly confronted with a start-up page that listed all Facebook activities undertaken by those in their network of friends in the recent past. This information had not previously been private, however the introduction of the news feed function made this information much more easily accessible and ‘in the face’ on users.

The introduction of news feeds was highly controversial and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reacted by promising users new privacy options to control this. All the while, Zuckerberg was defending this change, spouting forth about the free flow of information. However, as boyd suggests, Zuckerberg failed to address how the introduction of news feeds “alters the social dynamic of Facebook” (2008, p.14).

boyd discusses these changes against the backdrop of similar changes with DejaNews and Yahoo, describing how users felt that their privacy had become compromised. boyd then goes on to discuss social convergence and the discomfort that many feel when new technologies are implemented. Specifically she looks at this discomfort from two angles – exposure and invasion. boyd suggests that many Facebook users suddenly felt very exposed with the implementation of news feeds. The aggregation of this information meant that they suddenly had to give much more thought to how their actions would be interpreted and consider how comfortable they felt about their entire friend network viewing all their interactions. boyd also suggests that the aggregation of this type of information leaves us feeling invaded or overwhelmed by “social information overload” (2008, p.16). News Feeds remove any sense of heirarchy amongst our friend network and we are feed constant information about all of our friends with no regard to our level of interest.

Above all, the news feed diminishes our control over information. Social convergence certainly allows for a more efficient distribution of information, but at what cost?

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