The original question came to me from someone who had read an article on the subject at http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/is_facebook_a_cult.php. Marshall Kirkpatrick compares Facebook to an article by Robert J. Lifton on the dynamics of a cult. These dynamics include:
1. Milieu Control -- physical isolation and control over the environment inducing personal change.
2. Mystical Manipulation -- a messianic personality and magical connections using planned spontaneity.
3. The Demand for Purity -- no dissent is allowed.
4. Sacred Science -- simplifying the world with a set of dogmatic principles and a claim to a science that embodies all truth.
Kirkpatrick gives examples in each category of Facebook's supposed guilt. He also makes this observation: "Facebook management is acting like a group of cult leaders intent on changing the rest of us into more social, less private people than we might like to be."
I think the article is overstated, undersupported and overkill. Facebook is undoubtedly a social phenomena but not in the same category as a cult, at all. Facebook is a tool and is whatever we make of it. It can be used for good and can be used for bad. The issue is in the heart of the user, not the purported diabolical design of management.
If you are really worried about the cult-like conditions, you can refuse to participate. I've also heard that aluminum foil on your head works too! :-)