Facebook - where users get used

'Social notworking', it's all the rage. I know that isn't exactly earth-shattering news. But I have been living under a rock.

Willfully, conscientiously, manfully, doggedly, forlornly trying to ignore the zeitgeisty shitstorm that is Facebook. And the jig is finally up.

The site now attracts more visits from users in the US than Google. I'd be shocked to hear it's any different here. It is less than a year since the punk upstart first claimed 200m users, and now there are more than 400m.

Its gravitational pull is starting to wear me out. Friends persist in inviting me to let Facebook help 'connect and share with the people in your life.' If you knew my friends, you'd understand why that sounds more like a threat.

Switch on the TV and I am harangued to 'log on and join the fun'. Turn on the radio and every DJ who matters seems to have their own personal page. And Kyle Sandilands.

I understand the driving impulse enabling these sites. People, by and large, are blathering imbeciles. We like to natter on about the minutiae that makes up our pitiful existence, regardless of how inane it may be. Fair enough.

What I can't grasp is the desire to surrender so much private information in the process. I used to have a begrudging respect for cold callers; told to piss off sharpish six times for every misfit starved of human interaction, they had to earn their wage, dig deep for information. Now we're queuing to back up and dump a truckload of personal data into their gleeful arms.

It's evil, I tells ya, and quite brilliant, as far as business models go. They get subscribers to blithely sign away their privacy and data without a moment's thought. Because, let's be honest, that covers 99% of the sign-ups. And Facebook are pretty upfront about this. Which leads me to conclude they don't think a hell of a lot of their audience.

Witness attempted modifications last year to their laundry list, sorry, 'Statement of Rights and Responsibilities'.

The moves were so all-encompassing, so transparently grasping that it managed to stir its docile followers into action. That is, when they weren't thinking 'OMG, I can't believe I wore that last night. And I can't believe she put the picture up. She is soooo de-friended"

Your image can find its way into a promotion you had no idea existed and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. I don't want to end up as the 'before' photo for a plastic surgery clinic. You can laugh about it (or smirk if you like, I'm getting paid by the word) but take special note of the word 'sub-licensable' in the terms page.

And, of course, it's been a boon for news media, an absolute trove unfettered by morality checks and, come to think of it, royalty cheques.

I can see the digerati stroking their chins and shaking their heads. "The poor Luddite...This is the way of the future, where synergy means opportunity. One in which collective energy overcomes corporate lethargy to create deeply innovative and sticky content. These are paradigm-shifting times..."

Oh, to be at university again. Social networking sites are not progressive charities out to spread their creative commons licence love, they are here to leverage you to within an inch of your oily hides and drive up their own share price.

The $US23bn (SA34bn) in revenues that Google generated last year dwarfs the $500m forecast by Facebook But board member Marc Andreessen bragged recently that the company could have doubled their revenue last year if it had really put its mind to it.

Yes, you are going to get leveraged good and proper, and that's no mistake. Your pics, your videos, your content, your time.

Yes, yes, I'm sure there are many worthy endeavours on Facebook. If you're prepared to wade through the innumerable Speak English or Die and F*&k off We're Full-type welcoming committees, you can find a Transgender Whales Against Deforestation in the Amazon support group.

And I know there are people with games and stories to tell. And I'm sure there's a bear in there and a chair as well. No doubt there are widgets that will do your homework and plug-ins that will take the dog for a walk.

But let's be honest; it's nothing more than a run-for-profit crèche for adults where the carers are happy to leave the tots in front of commercial TV for hours at a time. A two-hour session on a friend's account in the name of research hasn't imbued me with a desire to get to know my fellow human better.

Instead, I have been left with the spelling of a six-year-old and nursing an overwhelming desire to 'get ripped in 4 weeks'.

You could sit a monkey in front of a food-encrusted keyboard and get more engaging banter. Except the monkey would get bored and start throwing his own crap against a wall. Which is much the same thing; it's just that the monkey understands the importance of exercise.

I know, I know - if I don't like it, I don't have to join. But resistance isn't just futile, the resistance gets taken out by jackbooted megalomaniacs hell-bent on world domination. The only choice seems to be submit and subscribe to one of the many 'Facebook is Evil' groups.

And then there are the user contributions... I wasn't going to go here. It's not exactly big game hunting, intellectually speaking; you can't really miss and the rewards are meagre.

But, Christ on a bike, have you seen those status updates? The ones that allow you to read that Stacey "just had a gr8 p00p and now I'm going to have a crappuccino, lol!"

These are markings of end times, make no mistake. More rupture than Rapture, but still clear and undeniable proof we've peaked as a species. Time to make ready with the bananas...

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