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