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Amid privacy fears, some still resist Facebook

02 february 2012, 18:22
Facebook's 800 million users have made it a household name but some holdouts -- technophobes and privacy zealots among them -- are still refusing to join the social networking party, AFP reports.

Facebook -- founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, then a 19-year-old Harvard student -- filed documents with the Security and Exchange Commission Wednesday to go public, seeking to raise $5 billion in its initial stock offering.

But these staggering numbers only begin to describe the pervasiveness of the Internet giant in everyday life, as the online sharing of pictures, commentary and digital links becomes a common currency for social interactions.

For the 21st century rebels who refuse to join Facebook, the social pressure to conform is unrelenting.

"Finally, I just gave up. Now I have 200 friends," said Matthew Herman, a 31-year-old fashion designer who created a Facebook profile on Saturday for the first time after refusing to do so for years.

Herman said "some kind of snobbery" had kept him from signing up, even though he had used other social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster.

He said he liked going against the flow and "taking pride in living my own life in a real way."

But then Herman noticed he was missing out on parties.

"More social events would happen that I wouldn't hear about because they went, 'Oh, you're not on Facebook, I totally forgot,'" he told AFP.

And at parties, Herman found that he didn't always know what everyone else was talking about.

"I definitely did not feel isolated, but now that I'm on the other side of it, if I knew then what I know now, I would have felt isolated," he said.

"Now that I'm on it, I see it's easy (to keep in touch with people)," he said. "It's fun, too."

When Herman finally embraced Facebook, his profile was inundated with welcome messages from friends.

Others reject Facebook because they consider it a waste of time or because they are so overwhelmed by the number of social networking sites on the Internet that they just ignore all of them.

"There are so many social networks available -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ -- that it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Rather than decide which network they'd want to join, many forgo them all," said Mike Isaac, a staff writer for Wired.

Privacy is another reason why some avoid Facebook.

"What with the abundance of online predators and scammers, many aren't comfortable with sticking their entire lives online," Isaac told AFP.

"Privacy settings are hardly straightforward, so rather than navigate the confusing filters for keeping one's data private, many users decide to opt out entirely."

"This is especially true in the case of kids whose parents are worried about their child's online presence," he said.

Others are just wary of social interactions in the public domain.

A Los Angeles artist, who did not want to be identified, put it this way to AFP: "I'm not sure if I am ready to be quoted about why I am not on Facebook, maybe for the same reason I am not on Facebook."

Older Americans are one of the fastest growing segments of Facebook users, many of whom use it to stay in touch with their children, said Isaac.

But, he noted, "there are a significant number of technophobes out there who aren't comfortable with adopting the social network. Those who didn't grow up in the information age, for example, are far more biased against taking up the new communication medium."

A survey of 2,500 adults published a year ago by Business Insider magazine found that 56 percent of those who would not join Facebook felt it would be a waste of time, while 42 percent cited privacy fears.

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