Monday, August 29, 2011

Facebook and Caller ID

OK, who around here remembers the late 1980s and early 1990s? Try to take yourselves back...picture it...all of a sudden there was this thing called caller ID. At first, very few people had it. Prior to caller ID, if you wanted to know who was calling you, you answered the phone. In between answering the phone and caller ID there was the whole answering machine call screening interlude (that was something we did before voice mail. You actually heard the message while it was being left! Good times) but soon enough we moved on to a magical device that told you who was calling when the phone rang.

I thought those people who needed to know who was calling them before saying hello were, frankly, a little paranoid. But OK, so, then the next thing happened: people on the other end were outraged! How would kids spend hours prank calling their neighbors, how would adolescents stalk their boyfriends and girlfriends, without anonymity? So they retaliated with a new invention: you could BLOCK your number on caller ID. Ha! thought the newly blocked callers, triumphantly. I shall save my privacy! A little paranoia from the other direction.

Or maybe, those calls would not get through, because the first set of paranoids quickly upped the ante by refusing to accept blocked calls. Maybe you dialed someone's phone number around 1993 and got a message that you could unblock your call for just this number by pressing some button or other. The paranoia was flying fast and furious, now.

And, then, ten years later everyone got a cell phone and checking the identity of callers became so automatic that all that early 90s paranoia became just ancient history for the kids today -- until it got transferred to Facebook.

The Facebook news feed is the new home for paranoia. "Facebook has done it again!" a friend's status will warn you. "Copy and re-post this so you can warn everyone your privacy settings have changed." There are blocking of friends, hiding of posts in news feeds, and the latest bit, an attempt to not be left in the dust by Google+, of deciding post by post whether to share it with everyone or some people or some other people.

Yet, it's Facebook. Facebook! The idea of being paranoid about one's privacy while on Facebook remains a marvel to me. But then again, I clearly don't understand these things, as I never once in my life shelled out one red cent or spent one minute of effort on caller ID, call blocking or not accepting blocked calls.


Anonymous said...

FACEBOOK. I don't understand why anyone would want to put their life into widespread availability for anyone to view. I find it totally bewildering when someone uses facebook then is alarmed when they find out someone else saw what they wrote! If I hang my colored underwear on the line across my outdoor porch and someones sees it, who's fault is that? As for cell phones, blanking numbers etc, here's one I did today, 9/6. Took my car in for service, told the mechanic to call my personal cell phone (vs my work cell phone or work desk number or home number). So he went to write it down on a pad on the wall then stopped. "Just call me." he said. Of course. So while we were standing 8" apart I called him so his cell phone now had my name and phone number showing (from previous contact.) How simple.

Brian said...

I'm a tad surprised you thought people who used caller id in those early days were paranoid, based on your refusal to answer the phone these days. But I guess you'll say that just has more to do with the availability of e-mail now and you don't answer anyone's call, much less someone whose number you know.

linda said...

Exactly...I have many reasons to not answer the phone, but not-knowing-the-identity-of-the-caller is not one of them.