“How do you solve a problem like Facebook?” Interesting question. Intriguing. Funny, I was talking with my wife about these very issues, & more, just within the past 24 hours. Finally got around to glancing at email just now, this article was the first thing I saw. Obviously it’s a controversial article, topic, issue, etc., and I literally know, have worked with, have former colleagues and friends and hundreds of connections at Facebook so I want to tread a little lightly, but I’ll just say I’ve not really been thrilled with where they’ve been going over the past decade for many reasons. Facebook has great power and can use it how it wishes. A decade ago, people were happily playing Oregon Trails, Angry Birds, talking with friends and relatives about all sorts of stuff (music, reading, travel) you literally never seen anymore because the money is where the hot stuff is and that’s in ticking people off, engaging in flame wars, encouraging the degradation of once rational humans, etc. Not everyone, but it’s been shown that’s more than potential – that’s been fact & much more (don’t have to point just to Haugen. Cambridge Analytics remains a great place to look at the goings-on.) I got off Facebook years ago and was happier than I’d felt in years, because all I ever seemed to do was encounter people who felt their purpose in life was to rip me hard for just about anything. When I publicly intellectually destroyed these bozos every single time, usually within minutes, they resorted to childish name calling and religious threats of eternal damnation. Didn’t need it, walked away. Nicholas Carr is one of several to write some interesting books lately that go further than the surface things I’ve mentioned. One is The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In fact it was a nonfiction Pulitzer nominee. (Another more recent book of his is The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us.) Don’t have to buy into it, but makes for an interesting read. Facebook has done a lot of good. It’s also done a lot of bad. Sometimes I view it as a metaphorical Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors.
(Movie’s a lot of fun. Seymour isn’t.)
I really don’t mean to Facebook bash. Like I said, I know hundreds of good, decent people there and most people I know are still users. But I think it’s good to read pieces you may not always agree with though, just to get other perspectives. So I urge you to think about reading this because it brings up some food for thought. (And don’t misunderstand me. Power, potential, do good, power corrupts, rein in — one of those rare things found in the US that can’t be looked at in a traditional American Calvinist black/white construct. I’m not damning Facebook. Just urging thought, analysis and reflection, at a minimum.) (I mentioned there are a number of books and resources out there these days. You can look many up yourselves, so I’m not going to post a list, but another potentially interesting book is Cathy O’Neil’s Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.)
[This blog post is an expanded and modified version of a small post I made on my LinkedIn page on October 30, 2021.]