Pretty sure everyone is talking about the Facebook FIles series on WSJ. And of course, by everyone I mean everyone I’ve paid attention to who is reading it and who happens to have an above average interest in the trials and terrors of social media companies, You know, “everyone.”
Naturally, it’s pay-walled (rude) so I did the dirty and threw my life away with a $4 monthly subscription month to read the series. You’d think that’s nothing, but just wait until you’re stuck in the 7 levels of customer service phone tree hell trying to cancel your subscription. I spent at least 2 or 3 days debating if it was worth it, like going back to a shitty ex because I’ve done this before and lived to regret.
But, I did it, and thanks to the PayPal option was able to cancel authorization for the next charge so at least I have time to find a calm mood to spend goddess knows how long on a phone tree to cancel the damn thing. Why can’t I just pay a flat fee to read the series? Maybe the related podcast will give it all away without time or money. But I digress…
The Facebook Files expose reminds me of Big Tobacco back in their heyday. Internal documents confirm they know cigs cause cancer but every time their exec’s mouths open it’s “hard nope! That doesn’t happen! It must be correlation, obviously not causation!” I need a re-watch of that gem of a movie “Thank You For Smoking”, obviously a cult favorite. Machine gun mouth meets corporate striving. If we take that plot as bait, do we have to wait for a FB execs daughter to be hospitalized for an eating disorder or something before something starts to crack?
George Orwell would have a field day with this. I’m well into a field trip over it. 90% of Facebook users are outside the US and Canada, but with only 13% of the resources for content moderation being used for that 90% (most of which don’t speak the languages in use) what the actual hard hell is that platform doing to these people?
If Mark Zuckerberg himself can’t get the platform to do what he wants (see Saint Mark’s ill fated vaccine push vs the highly active and sadly effective anti-vaxx crew in the last of the series), who can really hope for tweaking the technology away from the toxic, divisive, civilization undermining habits it’s gotten so good at. And to be fair Zucks not only to blame, but with Facebook, Inc owning most of the major forms of human communication of our era (FB, Insta, Whatsapp etc) he’s bound to end up the proverbial whipping boy here.
You can do a lot online when no one is looking (or isn’t speaking your language and has no idea what you’re saying). The days of “no one knows you’re a dog” are over. The platforms we know have fed us all the cookies, they know more about us than we do. But you can be a total dog (but by dog not bark bark but like…bad human) and as long as you don’t interfere with the ads (or better yet, click a few, earn your keep!) you are right as rain. You’re doing your job as a product for these marketing behemoths.
What now? How the actual heck do we go from the kind of massive user adoptions we’ve seen of an obviously problematic platform to something better? Shoot Mark Zuckerbug at the sun with Jeff Bezos in the next dick shaped billionaire rocket?
But honestly, let’s not let my fantasies of bad solutions for wealth accumulation tint the message here. None of that will bring back the middle class… Seriously, how would we actually fix this? Shut it down? Natinalize it? All of these options sound pretty shitty.
A lot of people depend on these platforms for work etc, I’m not the one to suggest we take away someone’s lollipop if they’re enjoying it just because it’s full of white sugar (and cough cough…diabeetus). Hey, but couldn’t it be nice to reset the router on it just this once? Unplug it, turn it back on and see if it works better?
Ok, still in fantasy land. But so is the idea of nationalizing it. Lawmakers are just barely starting to understand how Facebook even works and some of the best brains in our country don’t understand the black box that is this technology. And they, you know…built it.
On that note, surely an American corporation signing up people in other countries and tweaking their behavior to be seething capitalist consumers is bad enough as is. No problems for national security there, right? Judging by all the questionable shit the govts done in the past…hi agent orange, et al….the last thing they need is even a modicum of digital control over billions of humans in other countries.
That billions is something that gets me every time. Billions of users (in 2021 3.51 billion monthly active people). More users than the sum of the United States (in 2021 is 332,915,073). More humans than the population of any sovereign nation on our planet (the highest is China at just under 1.5 billion, with India just behind it).
That’s a significant chunk of the humans on the entire planet. Is this maybe, just maybe, a bit too much power for a corporation run by a bro with debatable empathy for other human beings?
It’s interesting, and sad, to watch growth on FB stagnate in the US and Canada. We get to catch on sooner that this platform isn’t fun and messes up lives, we get to get bored. But what now?
What now as the experiment shifts to other countries where they can’t even legislate what’s coming in because it’s not based on their lands. Places where Zuck is smooching with their dictatorial or otherwise horrifying leaders to ensure they can keep their platform live in the country. Is this dystopian enough yet?
I’m not sure what the solution is yet. Here’s what I’ve tried. I’ve deleted my social media (aside from Readup and LInkedIn), I’ve written my lawmakers and the lawmakers on the panels for assessing the impacts of co’s like FB (let’s make it harder for Zucks next time in congress please and thanks!), and I’ve told friends and written publicly about what’s on. What’s next?
If you’ve got some hot takes I want them, because one person doesn’t change culture (although they can) it takes many people working together.
The next big thing is a bunch of small ones, and I’d like to think the next big thing could be regaining collective agency by getting ahead of these technologies before they trounce all over the things we hold dear…you know, like life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. That sort of stuff.