One of my favorite things about Facebook is the ability it provides users to share information. I tend to think of Facebook as a place to share articles, photos, videos and the like, whereas I view Twitter as a place to share some of the same things, but more often just random thoughts and musings. Facebook often becomes a repository for things I want to read myself or remember.
Unfortunately, as Facebook becomes more wary of these choices by its users, it tries to monetize them. In the case of news stories, that means the use of reader apps for major publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and others. So, instead of clicking a link that takes me directly to a story, I'm sent to a page like the one above asking me if I want to install an app for that publication so that similar stories can be dropped into my feed.
The short answer: NO!
Making decisions about what to read, especially when doing so from a phone, is something I think most of us do judiciously. We click the links that most interest us and we move on. It's bad enough that Facebook and Google have probably gathered enough information from me over the last couple years to create a robot that acts just like me -- God help us all -- but now they offer the opportunity to media outlets to do the same.
When I first found these reader links, I just decided the article wasn't worth reading. Occasionally, I'd type the title into Google and find the article without the aid of Facebook. But, recently I clicked the "cancel" button to see if it would send me back to my feed and I got the image below.
This is tantamount to a big, full-color ad. It's bad enough The Guardian is trying to force-feed me news items I will ignore, but this process is sending me through the whole "are you really, REALLY sure you don't want this lame-ass app constantly sending you crap? Seriously? C'mon!" process. No means NO, Facebook.
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I'm not a privacy hawk. I don't worry all that much about what information companies gather from me. Rather than being guarded with my information, I just try to have good spam filters and a discerning eye. For me, not signing up to an app reader service on Facebook is the equivalent of setting up a spam filter for my news feed, because, frankly, the information plastered on my monitor screen is often more important to me than keeping embarrassing photos from leaking to the Web. I'm smart enough to realize no one cares.
But, I definitely care about the garbage cluttering my news feed. Just as I block the kind of stuff that resembles e-mail spam sent to me ten years ago by unsuspecting older relatives who didn't know what Snopes was, so too shall I prevent news organizations from filling up my feed with crap when all I wanted to do was read that one story that one time.