It's time to go Facebook-free. What follows is what I hope is an objective, fully-referenced decision. Maybe you will come to the same realisation I did: this place is a dumpster fire. The question is: do we stay or do we go?
Note: For those who originally read this on Facebook, the article below has been revised and has some additional references.
Over the last few years, Silvia and I have progressively worked through different parts of our lives: slowly re-evaluating lifelong decisions, ideals, and thought processes. We've tried to find better ways to live, simpler ways to get by, and working out whether what we were passionate or blasé about years ago is still the same. Or, are we now completely put off by that same thing? After all, people change.
And so enters social networking (as they were once called).
Initially, I was blasé. Then mildly fascinated, before finally succumbing to addiction.
And now? Disgusted.
Yes, social media includes, by extension, the capability for us to stay in touch with friends and family, or to find and converse with others who share a similar passion. Those are all admirable qualities, but they're by no means unique to Facebook. There are thousands of platforms for that.
Facebook Inc (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, plus other products such as Oculus, Portal, etc.) is a nearly unstoppable machine. It's CEO, chairperson, and the single largest controlling shareholder are the same person. This person is unelected by the people and – short of legislation – unlikely to be removed. Zuckerberg is worth $76 billion, and Facebook Inc has a market cap of $593 billion.
For the average Australian household, it would take over 15,000 lifetimes to earn that much.
With that much financial backing, who's going to say no to either the man or the company?
Zuckerberg is someone who never finished college. While that's not a problem per sē, it appears in this instance that this is one of the most powerful people on earth who apparently has zero understanding of the humanities, of empathy. There doesn't seem to be a lot of introspection and reflection going on. Instead, he seems more concerned with all-encompassing power, money, and his perverted idea of what a democratic society entails. Perhaps by completing college, some of those finer qualities could have been instilled in him.
If these were the only issues, it'd be a somewhat easier pill to swallow. Unfortunately, you can't take the blue pill once you've already taken the red pill.
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.
― Letters and Questions, by Voltaire
By using Facebook, we enter into a social contract with global consequences for peoples' lives, and the future of democratic societies.
- Facebook accounts have been harvested to build profiles of voters to influence elections.
- They've made it harder to scrutinise political advertising on the platform.
- It's played a leading role in the genocide in Myanmar.
- Hate speech and disinformation are rife.
- It's "community standards" continue to trump law.
- They're more dedicated to building the world's most massive propaganda machine than they are pursuing and publishing objective truth.
If only this was the complete list of problems!
Make no mistake. We are not the users or customers of Facebook Inc. We are the product. And like any product, it can be manipulated in several ways.
Scrolling + News Centralisation
Building on top of the transition from social networking (friends and family) to social media (highly targeted business and political advertising) are two worrying trends: the general decline of attention spans coupled with reading, and the centralisation of news.
We get lazy. We're in a hurry. We scroll. Pause. Like. Scroll. Pause. A glance through an article. Back to the feed. More scrolling. More glancing. More liking. We're all guilty of it at one time or another.
What we're not doing is reading. We're not absorbing or digesting. We have zero attention span. Instead, we're too busy being busy. Too busy getting distracted by cat videos. If we're not doing five things at once, we're not productive enough.
We do not go to the source or dig deep. We just skim the headlines.
By doing this, we're subjecting the objective journalism we're exposed to, to the whims of a murky algorithm that gives precedence to media organisations who pay to post. Even then, there's no guarantee you'll see the article. It means you're missing out; you're not getting the full story.
Combined, we end up in a click-bait, Buzzfeed world of PowerPoint-like news articles: big pictures, not much text, and one little bit of info per slide. Ugh.
Without long-form, investigative pieces and quality, objective journalism, we cannot hope to stay a democracy. The downhill road to authoritarianism and fascism will be underway, with no-one to hold governments to account.
Why do you think far-right political parties, both at home and abroad, make a sport of calling the media biased, liars, and fake? If we buy their story, they can continue unhindered, and our freedoms will continue to erode.
When it's possible to distort objective facts, and the world's largest social media network refuses to do what's right, authoritarian and fascist regimes thrive. What's real? What's honest? You only need to look at Australian, US, and British politics. Elected leaders take the fruits of "free speech" offered by social media and use them to deceive the public.
We now have an understanding of some of the issues plaguing Facebook Inc. In part 2, I take a personal look at my experience using their social networks after almost a year, before delving
into deleting Facebook and looking towards the future.
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