This post was written by Nicholas A. Lynchard, Ph.D., Professor of Cognitive Psychology at SUNY Ulster.
When originally pressed with the question, “Why is Facebook free?” for the Generation SUNY Blog’s Ask An Expert series, I thought the answer from a financial standpoint was easy enough – put simply, the mass public subscription to Facebook allows it to be profitable as a social data analysis goldmine. More importantly Facebook, I’m certain, thrives upon the profit from companies using the service to market products with sidebar advertisements. The answer seems intuitive enough – to the public, Facebook is (and may remain forever) a financially free service, but to me the question demands further inquiry: “What are the hidden costs of mass public subscription to text-based communication services like Facebook?” I’d like to explore the relative freedom of Facebook and other text-based communication services with this question in mind.
Since this is the first stab I’ll take at intellectualizing the potential, societal ramifications of text-based communication services, I’ll start with a bit of personal history, a disclaimer and some ground rules.