Facebook is a Double-edged Sword

It cuts both ways

France Haugen testifying before the Senate. Photo credit: Drew Angewrer/Getty Images

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!

Vanessa Collier

Performs at Mojo’s Boneyard

Vanessa Collier now playing at Mojo’s Bone Yard
Mojo’s Boneyard

Last night in Evansville Indiana at Mojo’s Boneyard, I had the opportunity to see Vanessa Collier Live! She put on another fabulous show with her great band backing her up. She projects powerful vocals and belts out a bluesy sound as she sings her original compositions and covers the classics. Miss Collier is a virtuoso saxophone player and always excites the audience with her signature moves as she walks out into the audience and plays a little at each table and then moves on. She is a real crowd pleaser and I predict she will become a big star someday.

Vanessa Collier and her Band
Vanessa Collier and her band

My only complaint was Mojo’s no picture-taking policy which quite cramped my style. I did get a few shots but not exactly what I wanted. Oh well! The main event was listening to that great sound and watching this amazing performer connect with her audience. If you ever get a chance to see her, I highly recommend that you do. She is currently on tour.

Vanessa Collier
Vanessa Collier
Vanessa Collier and her band
Vanessa Collier and her band

All photos by Benn Bell

Freedom

Live free, but do no harm

Photo by Benn Bell

In the course of human affairs, there is perhaps no more important principle than the right of personal freedom for the individual. However, these rights are not unlimited. One has to go no further than to John Stuart Mill for guidance. Mill posits the “harm principle” which holds that the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals. He states in his treatise, On Liberty, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” If we turn to Frances’s Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789,” we see a similar statement of values: “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”

Articles IV and V from the Declaration of the Rights of Man states:

Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the fruition of these same rights. These borders can be determined only by the law.

The law has the right to forbid only actions harmful to society. Anything which is not forbidden by the law cannot be impeded, and no one can be constrained to do what it does not order.

An individual’s action can be legitimately encroached upon if and only if that action might harm another individual.

Returning to Mill, “No person is an entirely isolated being.” But it is only when an individual “violates a distinct and assignable obligation to any other person or persons, the case is taken out of the self-regarding class.” We harm an individual only when we violate an obligation to that individual. The damage done by the bad example set to others by a drunkard provides no legitimate reason for interference with his conduct; if his drunkenness causes him to violate the obligation to support his family, then that action constitutes “a harm” and is subject to interference.

If we cause sickness and death to come another individual through our actions or inactions such as wearing a mask and or being vaccinated during a pandemic, then we are in violation of the “harm principle” and are subject to interference.

The dividing line between the legitimate and illegitimate use of our freedom is difficult, but not impossible to draw. As responsible citizens and moral beings, we must look out for the rights of others as well as our own individual rights.

Zardoz

A Poem

My name is Zardoz

I come from the land of Ur

I come seeking relief

I am in disguise

Yes, I have come to tell you something

I need your understanding

I want to know the correct path

Sharing a good laugh with you would be nice

I don’t want to be sad

When I have what I need I will feel Ok.

Fork in the Road

Celestial Tip of the Day

Celestial tip of the day: when hiking on the orange Trail in Jefferson Memorial Forest, when you first start out, if the Sun is over your left shoulder when coming back be sure that the sun is over your right shoulder, that way when you come to the fork in the road you will take the right one. That is all.

How to Fix It

Poem

Collage and Photo by Benn Bell

How to fix it

Leave a legacy of love

Shovel shit against the tide until you reach the end of the line

Everyone has a story

And nearly everyone undergoes a startling metamorphosis

By morning

All is emptiness under the moon

The umbrella academy offers scant protection.

The Five Powers

Buddhism by the Numbers

Photo by Benn Bell

The Five Powers

  1. Faith
  2. Diligence
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight

Mindfulness leads to concentration, and concentration leads to insight and to faith.

According to the Lotus Sutra, all sentient beings have the Buddha nature.

“Buddha” comes from the root verb “budh”, which means wake up.

Every moment is the opportunity to water the seeds of happiness in yourself.

Based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh