It cuts both ways
Facebook is a double-edged sword. And like many things in life, it can be a force for good or evil. First the good. It is a means of connecting and staying in touch with other like-minded human beings or family members. It can hook you up with long-lost friends or relatives. It can be fun, entertaining, and a platform for free expression and creativity. I have met people from all over the world and even in my own city that I never would have had the chance to meet otherwise. And I really do care about these people.
Now, the bad.
Facebook can be divisive, polarizing, and demoralizing.
There is a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who worked as a product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team during and after the 2020 election testifying before congress right now.
The key problem, Haugen has argued, is that Facebook’s business is built around driving as much engagement as possible from the social network’s billions of users, and data shows that social media users engage more with inflammatory content.
“When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other,” she added. The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”
“Extremists subsequently weaponized Facebook to plan the Capitol riot. Facebook posts have repeatedly been cited by federal prosecutors in cases against the Capitol.”
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” Frances Haugen told Scott Pelley of CBS’s “60 Minutes.” She went on to say, “The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”
Mark Zuckerberg operates according to his motto: “Move fast and break things.” Which would seem to presage living in a consequence-free environment. However, in 2019, the FTC fined Facebook a record-breaking five billion dollars for deceiving billions of users and failing to protect their privacy.
So, I have mixed feelings about Facebook. I have been in some pretty ugly Facebook fights that were unpleasant, and I have dropped friends and have been dropped. Neither of my two sisters is friends with me on Facebook because of my political views and edgy comments. That makes me sad. But, on the other hand, I have some remarkable friends that I interact with every day and share ideas with and pictures and well wishes who I wouldn’t give up for the world. I also have an audience, some of whom will actually listen to me and read my rants and raves. For that, I am truly grateful. But Facebook needs to clean up its act and be more of a force for good. I know they can do better!