Facebook gets e-mail: maybe not such a good idea

Facebook announced yesterday that it will be introducing Google Buzz Facebook Messages, which will totally change everything we know about communication! Unless, you know, it doesn't. Ostensibly, it's a streamlined, multi-platform, hyper-organized e-mail client. And maybe, in a year, we'll all be using Facebook on our smartphones as the sole means of non-physical interaction in our lives. But if that happens, it will not be because of the persuasive power of Facebook's official Messages introductory video, which exposes a few things to worry about. Specifically...

00:14 A lot of sharing should be simpler than it is. Actually, the most common critique of Facebook even before Messages is that it makes it too easy to share information. Facebook does not allow you to present a different persona to your various social groups, and that is most assuredly not a positive thing. I don't want my friends to treat me like their boss, and I definitely don't want my boss to know me the way my friends do. So simplifying communication by consolidating it to Facebook seems like a step in the wrong direction.

00:29 My grandmother, she only uses e-mail. No, she doesn't.

00:38 Why don't all these technologies come together? They do, actually. That is, in fact, the primary selling point of smartphones. Not sure what the appeal is of eliminating the nearly instantaneous process of switching from texting to e-mailing on an iPhone or Droid.

00:43 All you should need to send someone a message is the person and the message, and that's it. And, you know, Facebook. Unless...they aren't suggesting you go actually talk to people, are they?

01:02 So we're giving every user of Facebook the option of getting an email address. No one, not even the Facebook devout, wants that brand following them into every corner of their online usage.

01:17 We've modeled this entire system after chat. There are no subject lines, no bcc, no cc. That's actually a great idea.

02:17 We believe people should have control over what gets delivered to their inbox, no matter what the medium Yes, Facebook is known for its dedication to controlling the flow of information to and from unwanted sources. There is definitely no way the contents of your Facebook Messages would wind up in the hands of someone trying to sell you something. No possible way.

02:30 By default, the inbox only shows you messages from your friends and their friends This implies something very untrue about your social circle, namely that everyone you want to contact is a friend or a friend of a friend.

03:20 It also made sense to bring together all the different conversations you've ever had with one person into a single thread. No, it doesn't.

04:04 Imagine you had the entire history of your conversations with your boyfriend or your girlfriend. I mean everything from, "Hey, you wanna go get coffee later?" all the way to "You've got to pick up the kids tonight at soccer practice." My grandmother had that. It was a box of letters, written by my grandfather when they were dating. That kind of thing is increasingly rare, and I'm left to ask, where's my box of letters? It's locked up in a phone, it's locked up in e-mail. It's not in one place. Until now. Ignoring the irony of Facebook using a pre-Internet fairy tale to try and sell you on their latest Internet product, think for a second about the difference between the entire history of your conversations with your significant other and a box full of love letters. No one wants the entire history of their conversation with anyone stored away and literally attached to every new exchange they share. And what is this relationship that starts with a Facebook courtship and continues to a family life where you are so disconnected from your spouse that you need the Internet to get the kids from soccer practice? Or are we talking about some kind of Facebook game of life where you have virtual children to attend to?

Because there's no way that can go wrong.

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky