Leaving Facebook, Again

As  regular readers know, I deleted my Facebook account back in 2011. However, this past January I set up a new account, the plan was to eventually run some campaigns to support a project that I am planning.

But like everything else in 2020, those plans went out the window with the entry of the virus. Still I found Facebook useful for organizing some projects that I am working on with the local homeless population.

Despite what follows, not everything about my dalliance with the social network was negative, I enjoyed catching up with old friends and even making a few new friends. But the impacts on my own mental health and the quite obvious deleterious societal effects far outweigh any positive outcome.

“The most important thing about a technology is how it changes people.”–Jaron Lanier

It now seems obvious that most of our present problems–from race riots to white supremacy, from  divisive politics to science denial,  from virus denialism to Trumpism–are being exacerbated by social media in general and Facebook in particular.

Facebook’s algorithms, designed to draw you in and increase your interactions with the service are amplifying messages and doing the following: 1) taking something good and pushing it far past its logical conclusion and turning it into a negative and/or 2) taking something good and creating a backlash that does much harm.

Facebook’s algorithms took something good, Arab Spring, and transmogrified it into ISIS. Facebook’s algorithms took something good,  Ferguson protests of 2014, and mutated it into something terrible,  Charlottesville 2017.

At its heart, Facebook is an ad machine and data aggregator. To enhance this it has to constantly increase interactions and get you to spend more time within its gated walls. This is accomplished through algorithms which decides what you will see during your interactions with the service. These algorithms are soulless equations which do not care about family, country or planet and will happily destroy all 3 in its quest to increase its master’s profits.

Facebook is free because you are the product, they make money by selling little tiny pieces of your soul every minute every day. The pieces are tiny so you hardly notice that they are missing, but compounded over time, you still end up being soulless.

This is why a dear old friend posts Trumpist memes every day, day after day, despite having no idea what they mean and what the outcome will be.

This is why a family member posts about confederate flags and heritage despite being as Yankee blooded as can be.

This is why a community activist whose real world actions I admire, posts memes glorifying violence for other people while she lives peacefully  in an unscarred quiet community.

This is why old friends post mindless anti-trump memes day after day after day, mindlessly clicking like and share and not ever wavering.

Because their souls have been eaten by the algorithm. They have lost the ability to act differently. I love each of these individuals, but due to the amplification and distortion of the algorithms, I can’t stand who they become.

It is extremely important to not confuse Facebook’s fun house mirror version of reality with the true reality that takes place in the real world, many of us are not capable.

When I re-engaged with Facebook in January, I promised myself that I would only post positive things, I would somehow use my life energy to push back against the machine. That promise proved to be short-lived and I did not keep it very long. The algorithms are like a strong tide, impossible to fight.

Soon after making this post I will delete my Facebook account again. I urge every reader to consider doing so also. I assume everyone sees the bad that is being done to society by Facebook, although many might think the good outweighs the bad. I ask you to read Joran Lanier’s “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”

Our country is on the path to civil war, we need to act immediately to stop this. Part of stopping it is to free ourselves from the algorithms designed to amplify divisiveness and to begin to seek out commonalities instead. There is no money for tech monopolies to make in promoting our  vast similarities in needs and beliefs, they can only sow discord in thier mindless efforts to increase profits at any cost.

Unfortunately, that cost is your soul. I can not take part.

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” –Mario Savio

Facebook as Plato’s Cave

Forgive me if I butcher this badly, I have not read the Republic in 30 years. Since this analogy seems so obvious, I am sure that I am not the first to make the link.

Is Plato even part of our shared heritage at this point? Is our education so debased that one would need to explain it before referring to it? These are the questions this soon-to-be 55 year old wonders. Since I don’t have the answers at hand, here is the Wikipedia entry.

I find Facebook and Facebook culture to be abhorrent. I deleted my Facebook account in 2011 and only created a new one this past January.

I am constantly surprised by the fact that some people seem to think the grotesque shadows of the real world that are filtered and reflected by Facebook are actually representative of the real world. Plato thought that folks would only live in the cave if they were prisoners and some entity had shackled them there. In reality, many folks purposely shackle themselves inside this virtual cave.

I was part of a Facebook flareup last night, and it struck me…all this person knows is what she reads on Facebook. She has mistaken the fantastical shadows for reality. Now I feel like the escaped prisoner, whose eyes have adjusted to the daylight, and has returned to the cave to inform his fellow prisoners of the real life outside the cave. I don’t remember if the shackled prisoners killed the one who returned with tales of the real world or only wanted to.

But I get it. The real world is bright and painful, it hurts after being shackled in the cave so long. However, crawl out of the cave we must, or spend our lives looking at the grotesque reflections and mistaking them for the real life that is taking place outside.

 

G+, not living up to the promise (hype?)

About the only good thing I can say about Google’s descent into social networking is that it motivated me to finally delete my Facebook account.

On FB I networked with people I know (or once knew, or once thought I knew…).  What I discovered is that there is a reason I lost contact or have minimal contact with those folks.  They are mostly a bunch of religious wackos and cheerleaders of war.  As I interacted I bounced between being offended and being outraged…the positive interactions were there but seemed muted in comparison. Maybe it is just me?

On G+ I networked with followed people who seemed interesting, few people I know in the meat world are utilizing G+.  Most of my posts just hung in the echo chamber…no feedback…no interaction…hello…hello?…

My conclusion after this short (months long) experiment is that FB is for the dirty unwashed masses and G+ is for the elites (whether economic, media, political, or technical).

It’s true, everyone is on FB.  But the majority of users are posturing, many of the rest lack self censorship, and the remainder seem to bring their psychological baggage out for all to see.

G+ is designed for those in the higher status strata…they talk down to the masses (consumers). G+ is exactly the social network that would grow out of a bunch of advertisers getting together and attempting to build a social network as an ad platform.  One way conversations, the all important brand, form over function, the elite setting the tone, the sheeple along for the ride to consume the crumbs.

While I haven’t yet deleted my Google profile, I have quit viewing it as a social platform.  For whatever reason, Google seems incapable of creating a platform that promotes 2 way interactions.

The final straw was the release of the G+ for Android update.  Pictures dominate even when they are unrelated to the post. Text is reduced to small snippets overlaying the pictures, often unreadable due to lack of contrast.  Designed for consumption, for the promotion of brands, and obviously not for the masses; G+ wildly misses the mark of a usable social network.  I deleted the app from my phone, unusable for anything but consumption.

I’ve stopped using G+ for micro blogging and went crawling back to Tumblr, a much better fit.

Now the question.  Did G+ fail to live up to its promise?  Or did the promise succumb to the (media) hype?

Comments? Experiences?

I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.
–Epicurus

What’s the deal with facebook?

Some time ago I checked out facebook. Lots of folks that I know use it. The problem was that I, normally a pretty tech savvy person, couldn’t quickly tell what was being shared with who. If I am posting private info and it isn’t clear who gets access to it, then how do I know what is safe to publish? Facebook’s privacy settings seem purposely confusing and vague, not a company that I want to let own my personal data. Also, where is the export for my data? How do I take MY data and leave facebook? Nope, sorry, no can do. Facebook is a walled garden much like the now dead and dying AOL (one can only hope that facebook meets the same fate.)
So I took the time to wade through the settings and find a spot where I could delete my account, delete my data, remove myself from their database. Done. That should have been the end of it.

But it wasn’t.

Months later I used a different email address to set up a “throwaway” account. An account that I created in the name of John Smith. It wasn’t meant for sharing, I intended to give it none of my personal data. I simply created it to make commenting on blogs and such that allow facebook connect for posting. I simply used it to log into blogs and sites that allowed it so that I could avoid registering for every site on which I wished to leave a comment.

That worked fine for a month or two.

Then I accidentally used my personal email account to login to facebook from a third party site. Bam, I am redirected…to…my old facebook account. The one that facebook had assured me had been deleted. All that personal info that was “deleted” was back. There was no wait, it was instantaneous. The data was never gone, they didn’t even bother moving it to an archive server.

And there lies the problem with facebook. They are amassing a huge assortment of personal data and they are not being clear about what is done with it, who has access to it, how long it will be retained, or who they will give/sell it too. Can you name another site that needs 4 pages of settings related to the privacy of your data? This is purposeful obfuscation in the hopes of getting the user to share more than he/she means to.

The main argument in favor of facebook is that it is simple and easy (look how happy gramma is interacting with little Jennie.) It is all fine and good until little Jennie gets stalked  due to the info that gramma shared with her “friends”.

This morning I finally waded through Facebook’s settings to “delete” my account again.  I see that they have now replaced the word delete with deactivate.  Pisses me off but at least it is honest…there is no way to delete your account.  Facebook owns your data, you can’t take it with you, you can’t delete it, you don’t own it.  Facebook is making bank and they are not bringing anything to the table.  The users generate the content and facebook rakes in the dough…great work, if you can get it.

In the week or two that my account was (re)activated I recieved 5 “friend” requests.  Two from people I know and three from apparently hot young women who wanted to get together with me.  Want to know a sure way judge a neighborhood?  Look at the people you run into on the “street”.  If you run into low lifes around every corner, you might want to look for a better place to hang out.

The criticism so far hasn’t even touched on Facebook’s model of existence, which I think is also fatally flawed.  Facebooks whole premise is to get you together with people you know, or once knew, or might have known, or who share common friends, or what the fuck ever silly nonsense they can use to get you to create content for their shitty service.

Nobody stops to ask if I care what people I knew 20 years are up to today, let alone if I want status updates from them.  I would much rather network on line with strangers who share common interests than with people I used to know.

I came close to grabbing a screenshot of my wall before deactivating my account.  It would have illustrated my point exactly, it is not conversation that happens on Facebook.  Instead it is pompous, arrogant, show-boating with a heavy dash of egomania.  I refrained from publishing a screenshot because I don’t want to embarrass the dumb asses who post such drivel.

I had hoped to write a better post, but this has been a draft for over a week and I didn’t want it sitting around for three weeks while I am out of town.  Perhaps a future post will delve deeper into facebooks model.