How do you feel about Facebook?
Facebook inspires conflicting emotions. We love it. It makes us angry. Hear three differing perspectives and decide how you feel.
Facebook inspires conflicting emotions. We love it. It makes us angry. Hear three differing perspectives and decide how you feel.
Facebook inspires conflicting emotions. For some, it’s tough to ignore the lure of endless scrolling and content filtered just for us. It helps us feel connected and in-the-know. On the other hand, it feels like quicksand. It influences our mood and our sense of self in negative ways. And on the other other hand, it’s a centralized company that harvests user data and uses it to manipulate those users psychologically and then turns that data and those users into a profitable product — it kinda seems like something we should probably move away from.
What’s your relationship with Facebook?
Three TIKI team members share their differing perspectives below — it’s likely you’ll relate to one or maybe all of them. Like we said, Facebook inspires conflicting emotions.
Do you love logging in and seeing what’s happening with friends and family, like Shannon?
Does it make you wary, particularly for your kids’ mental wellness, like Barry?
Does the mere thought of using Facebook make you want to take a long, hot shower, like Shane?
Read three perspectives and decide where you fall:
My Facebook feed is a glorious blend of outdoor adventure, the smiling progeny of high school friends, my mom’s perplexing lunches comprised of ingredients that should never go together, and video montages of poorly behaved drivers getting their fair share of on-road comeuppance. Those videos are hilarious.
Facebook is an upbeat place because I’ve curated it that way. I’ve followed a prolific number of hiking, paddling, and wildlife pages, and I’ve unfollowed the ALL CAPS screamers and fake news junkies. Facebook is where I see photos of my out-of-state nieces, find out about fun upcoming events, and get reminded of how, on this day five years ago, I made an apple pie that looks like a scary face. That was awesome.
And sure, Facebook tracks what I do online — who I’m friends with, where I am, the posts I like, what times I log in and scroll and scroll and scroll — but that’s the trade-off for using a free platform. And yes, they sell that information to businesses who use it to dangle new hiking boots or paddling paraphernalia in my feed. That’s cool — I figure if I’m going to see advertisements, I’d rather see things I might actually want.
And okay, sometimes I see ads for things I’d recently talked about with a friend. In real life. Like Facebook was listening to the conversation. It’s weird, but not as weird as when Facebook tosses up an ad for something I’d only thought about. An hour ago. Like they’re listening to my thoughts. That feels gross.
But I still like Facebook. I rely on it to know what friends are up to, get recommendations for a local handyperson to tackle a drywall project, and scroll Marketplace to buy other people’s gently used furniture.
Or at least I used to. My Facebook account was hacked months ago.
I appreciate that Facebook alerted me via email to the presence of suspicious activity on my account and asked, “Is this you?” I didn’t appreciate that Facebook didn’t wait for me to answer and instead let the hacker take over, change my 2FA, and start delivering ads via my business page.
Getting my account back turned out to be an exercise in masochism.
There is no customer service to email or call. There is no help desk to help troubleshoot. By design, there is little recourse for the increasing number of users who’ve been booted from their own accounts. There is only a generic questionnaire that culminates in the same unhelpful advice: log in and change your password. Sure thing. Except I can’t log in. That’s the problem.
Following the “verify ID” path — when the link was actually working, which wasn’t always the case — led to an auto-rejection every time. And I tried dozens and dozens and dozens of times.
After days of online searches, forum scrolling, asking around, reading the stories of other users who’d been hacked, it sank in: It was highly unlikely I’d get my account back, and Facebook didn’t care.
That’s when I got sad. I’d lost access to 15 years of photos, memories, and messages. I was disconnected from conversations and weekend plans. And that small business page I’d worked so hard to grow for several years? Not mine anymore. The only activity coming out of that page was a barrage of ads I didn’t buy, hawking heaven knows what — but at least I still got the email receipts. Thanks, Facebook.
I’ve hated every second of that experience.
Not just the loss of my account and complete dearth of concern from Facebook, but the realization of how I’d grown so reliant on something so unstable. It feels like I’ve built a house on sand. CoConstructed out of toast. In a flood zone.
In the months since I was hacked, I grew used to not having Facebook. It’s true, I wasn’t as aware of the daily goings-on of all my former colleagues, college roommates, or people I met once on vacation. Turns out, I didn’t miss it. I started to enjoy NOT feeling the need to post photos to Facebook every time I ventured outdoors. Or killed a plant. Or found peanut butter on my clothes again.
Then, miracle of miracles, I got my account back (just kept trying that verify ID route. It finally worked after 3.5 months of trying). I was elated! I shook with glee! MY STUFF!
And I haven’t posted a damn thing since. It just feels weird now.
Not just because of my poor hacking experience, although that did, at least for me, put a magnifying glass on the bigger issue: When it comes to Facebook, my stuff isn’t really my stuff. And I’m not just a person connecting with other people around the globe. I’m data, I’m a recipient of advertising, I’m valued for my likes and clicks and searches and shares — until my account gets hacked and then who cares.
I want to like Facebook again. I do. But it needs to be better.
— Shannon Bryan, TIKI brand evangelist
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. (Maya Angelou)
This is not a Hallmark quote, it is something that makes me very angry. Social media has made several generations want to be “normal.” Influence on what was normal for kids used to be mainly limited to their immediate peer group, but it was okay to be a little different outside of the “school” type of environments, and being creative or sporty at home was okay. Along came the social media vortex and kids have to be normal 24/7. There is no let-up.
In 2008 or 2009, when we discovered Facebook, it became this fantastic place to reconnect with people we hadn’t seen or heard from in some time and see what the kids of friends and family overseas were up to and how they were growing up.
I was pretty slow about posting anything about my kids on Facebook as I saw how some of the precursors to social media had been “mined: in my time in the mobile industry. When it came to getting my kid’s phones and enabling them to access social media, I was not very comfortable and tried to establish some ground rules. As a parent, you will know that this is a waste of time. Kids will try to do the one thing you tell them not to do.
Fortunately, they were not interested in Facebook. In their eyes, it was for “older people.” Their favorite was Instagram. We are talking about the old Instagram before Facebook bought it in 2012.
I tried to stay on top of what they were doing on “Insta” by occasionally asking to see their feed and asking who their friends were. I had an early rule that there were no friends unless they had met them face to face. I was pretty stunned by how much Instagram influenced their lives and how they wanted to be seen as “cool” on it by their peer group.
As a parent, you are placing trust in the offering, believing that they made some effort to have some form of diligence and understanding of the trusted position that they held. So to my mind, it is like an implicit contract between the parents and the service based on the child’s trust who created the account on the platform.
It was something that never sat comfortably with me. I always felt that the kids were under pressure to conform and that the resulting artificial behavior pattern was mined for the new “norms,” and the cycle just became worse.
On the other hand, the kids were happy to feel as if they were in touch with the latest and coolest things, like songs or influencers and what they were doing/promoting.
Fast forward a few years, and I find myself watching Frances Haugen testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on her revelations about Facebook and its related companies. The shocking thing to learn is that Facebook was passive about the issues around the kids and actively encouraging problems. Haugen has leaked one Facebook study that found that 13.5% of U.K. teen girls claimed their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram.
As any parent of a teenage girl will tell you, they are both hugely influential and hugely influenced. The ability for something to become the most important thing in the world can happen in a nanosecond, and there is significant sensitivity around any images and comments made on these platforms. Given the sensitivity — and my very rudimentary understanding of it — I can see how influential and powerful this is. This is the type of thing that can influence kids for the rest of their lives. I guess that is why I’m so angry. I’ve seen the wilful neglect of the responsibility done to these kids and how social media is influencing an entire generation.
For the sake of my kids, I hope that this has not had any negative long-lasting effects on them. Although I am not naïve enough to believe that this is the root of all that is wrong with teenagers, the nature of sociology teaches us that as the group grows, stability is higher, and stability is reduced.
My concern is for the hundreds or thousands or even millions of teenagers who had slight insecurities manipulated and exploited by Facebook through the company’s internal practices. But finally, we have somebody willing to explain how this happened: the pursuit of profit.
There has to be some accountability for this. If Facebook were responsible for some form of physical abuse, the company and its executive would not have reached its 17th birthday. But, as we know, emotional and mental abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse, and some action needs to be taken to hold the people responsible to account.
— Barry O’Connor, TIKI data market lead
Facebook went down earlier this month. Way down.
It is a premier example of the downfalls of centralization. The problem with centralized anything is a single point of failure. We saw this in early October with all of Facebook’s systems going down simultaneously. Yes, all, from internal systems used by employees to Instagram. EVERYWHERE. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before, and it’s only going to keep happening. One problem with their BGP took it all down. You don’t even need to know what BGP is; it’s just one of a million smaller systems and protocols stacked on top of each other and called the “Internet.”
It’s such a uniquely big deal because we’ve never really seen something like this before. If you remember back to the other times large portions of the Internet went dark, it was like Twitter didn’t work in parts of the world, not all of Facebook everywhere. The ramifications of such a huge chokepoint like Facebook (IG, WhatsApp, Oculus, …) shutting down were felt everywhere. The resulting traffic from wayward Facebook users migrating to other platforms started crashing other systems everywhere. People were reporting outages at Google, Snapchat, Telegram, Twitter, and numerous more. Hell, our guy Barry in Ireland had no internet for hours because the traffic from people trying to open FB in their browser took down Vodafone’s network.
You know what just kept chugging along, seemingly unaware? Largely decentralized systems. It’s risky to have all that power consolidated in a single place; inevitably, it will fail, and we, the people, will be left to deal with the consequences. It’s an endemic problem and the very one at the root of why we started TIKI. All of our data consolidated in a few hands will inevitably come back to bite us. In many ways, it already has. Until we put the power back in people’s hands, these issues will just keep coming.
That same week, Frances Haugen, the mainstream media’s darling whistleblower, claimed that Marky Mark and the Facebook Bunch prioritizes profit over safety. Ya don’t say. Anecdotally, as someone who feels an immediate sense of despair and a strong desire to take a long, hot shower when he opens Facebook, I can confirm the validity of this statement. This fact-checker has marked Haugen’s claim as “true” and “obvious.” Don’t fact-check this fact-checker.
I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I feel as if I can confidently say that not many people would list “safety” on a list of the top five or ten priorities at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park. Somehow though, a whistleblower was required to truly shine a light on the dubious behavior of the largest social network (and one of the largest data collection tools) on the web.
This situation is still playing itself out, but as a lifelong skeptic and doubter of the broadcasted motives of the federal government, this whole Facebook debacle of the fall of 2021 seems quite sketchy, with the ramifications potentially jeopardizing what remains of free speech on the web.
In late September, Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, pumped the brakes on releasing Instagram Kids (not Finsta) amid backlash from lawmakers. This was on the heels of reporting from the Wall Street Journal that cited research claiming Instagram had negative psychological effects on teenagers, especially girls. Again, ya don’t say?
Then, on October 3, purported whistleblower Frances Haugen emerged complete with a verified Twitter profile, a slot on 60 Minutes, and her own PR team to take ownership for the documents leaked to the WSJ and SEC.
The next day, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all went down for hours, and everyone on the Internet went nuts. The Pandora Papers were also released, but nobody really cared about that. What was going on with Facebook? Scrubbing data? Strengthening algorithms? Hacked? Some server errors? Who really knows. Mark Z. has been offloading plenty of stock in the past few years too. What’s going on, dude?
The very next day, Frances Haugen went from her 60 Minutes spot right into testimony before the US Senate Commerce Committee. The product of this hearing seemed to be this: Facebook is bad, knows it’s bad, and does bad things anyway, and it should be regulated more. By whom, you ask? How about the government. Perfect. Gotcha. Bravo. Got it.
So, a centralized power (Facebook) gets knocked by government officials such as Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey for trying to develop Instagram Kids. Immediately after, a mainstream-media-propped whistleblower emerges on primetime television as the one who leaked the documents that alleged Instagram’s negative effects on teenagers. The following day, Facebook goes out, like OUT OUT, for much of the day. The fooooollllowing day, Haugen testifies before Congress and calls for more internet regulations. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, among others, agree, and the kicker is the mental health of kids is being used as emotional leverage to enact sweeping legislative changes to speech regulation for everyone on the Internet.
Hmm. Seems a solid script, if I were to write one. A classic old gods versus new gods scenario. Who will emerge victorious? The titan Facebook or the titans of government? Will content regulation be enacted by the centralized powers of Facebook and payrolled “fact-checkers” or from the centralized powers of government and new legislation?
One thing is for sure: we, the users, lose. A centralized company that harvests user data uses it to manipulate its users psychologically and then turns them into their product seems like something we should probably move away from. However, the solution of a centralized government harvesting the already harvested user data to police speech on the Internet hardly seems like the correct resolution. Surely there is a way to protect kids on the Internet without developing a true Ministry of Truth on the web.
One theme throughout this ordeal prevails: centralization makes fools of us all. And it’s only gonna get worse unless we as users do something about it.
— Shane Faria, TIKI cofounder and user champion
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