Saturday, April 18, 2009

Are You Into Social "Nutworking"?

Lately, there has been a wave of quizzes in my Facebook (FB) newsfeed.

More than half of my FB homepage is flowing with results of my FB friends' quizzes and I cannot do anything about it. Almost every other person is attempting the sea of quizzes, especially ever since FB got its facelift.

The wide variety partly explains why these quizzes are so popular. You can find quizzes for the "younger", like "What Pokemon are you?" and for the "Young" like "What 17again character are you?".

Most of the quizzes are pointless like "Which animal are you?" and some are clueless, like "Ho, Ho, Ho". Occasionally, I see a normal looking one that goes, "Are you happy?".

There are also those which are down right silly like, "What kind of poop are you?" and those which are morbid and tell you, "When will you die?" and "How will you die?".

What explains this phenomenon? Why is everyone so keen on taking these quizzes and enthusiastically share the results with their friends?

Here's my reasoning.

People are naturally curious and interested about themselves. By doing a quiz, they get to find out about who they are, well, at least from the quiz-maker's point of view. Once they try some, they get the high from the results which are in their favor. They want more, and more. Sometimes the results may not please them. So, they will hit the 'More Awesome Quizzes' button and attempt other quizzes to make up for it. Before they know it, they are addicted to this new cyber drug.

Why would Mark Zuckerberg want this to happen in FB? I reckon that his idea of fun in FB could not be far from some element of commercialism. So, what exactly is in it for him?

First of all, think of the quizzes as a means for you to click from page to page as you attempt the questions. FB needs you to move to those pages where the advertisers have parked their commercial messages. You must have noticed by now that there are so many blinking buttons at various parts of the pages, waving at you, persuading you to click on them.

FB is selling eyeballs to the advertisers and they need yours to ogle at those commercial messages. In return, you get a few minutes of fun doing the quizzes and laughing at the silly outcome. So, in essence, FB users who are addicted, err... i mean, avid quiz takers, are actually helping FB to maximise their commercial cause. On top of that, FB also allows users to create their own quizzes so that they can help to further propagate the popularity of these quizzes and hence FB's profitability.

Afterall, FB is a free social networking site and it needs to get its money from somewhere. I take it that, this is the users' way of paying back.

However, you may be paying FB with more than just your eyeballs.

Each time you attempt a quiz, you will be asked to 'Allow' the application to use your profile information, photos, your friend's info, and 'other content' that is required for it to work. You will never know what is "other content" and you should also wonder why the application need your information in order for it to 'work'.

Some users are aware about the possibility of info abuse and infringement of privacy. However, not all are that bothered. Others are plain ignorant of the down side of social networking, while some are totally paranoid and will not click on any button.

Just what are we supposed to do anyway?

My take is that, nothing we do inside or outside the cyberspace is entirely safe. The way to manage our lives is not by sheer avoidance but by acquaintance. We need to learn about the DOs and DON'Ts of whatever we are engaged in, whether it is a matter of cyber social networking, driving on the road, diving in the ocean or trekking on the mountains. All of these can be fun and dangerous at the same time.

Social networking has been popular but it has received lots of criticisms, especially on the danger of data mining. The easiest way to stay away from this danger is to stay away from social networking sites like FB altogether. Alternatively, you can choose to learn more about it and follow some
simple advice.

Back to the FB quizzes... life is full of choices and I can suggest some. You can,

1. Stop doing the quizzes (and miss out some fun)

2. Hide them from your newsfeed so that no one knows "What kind of flower you are." (then, what is the point of doing them?)

3. Encourage your friends not to do it (and endure their snigger)

4. Go to 'application setting' and remove them (require quite a bit of effort)

5. Get rid of all third party newsfeeds, including the quizzes, by using Firefox add-on such as
Greasemonkey (if you now how)

6. Ignore everything I say above and continue to find out the result of "Are you stupid?" or "What kind of idiot are you?" quiz, and get loads of fun from them.

The choice is yours. Whatever it is, nothing is entirely safe or dangerous. Caveat emptor.

Now, wanna try "
What kind of Facebook user are you?" quiz? :]

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