Facebook Doesn’t Like You. And the Feeling Might be Mutual.

I keep going back to the questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced in front of a Senate panel last week.

Much of the hearing stemmed from the news that Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook “surveys” to gauge voter preference and then exponentially data grab from like-minded friends. The immediate outrage is that this information was used by the Trump campaign. But let’s be honest —  Facebook was used in one form or another by all the Presidential candidates going back to President Obama. It’s all slimy.

That’s how Facebook makes their money. They don’t just connect people to people. They connect people to products and that’s done by the selective culling of your data. Your age, your gender, your home, the pages you “like,” and up to 29,000  data points are all gathered to put things in front of your eyes. That’s how the company found itself worth upwards of $200 billion.

Some of the hearing was devoted to reported censorship of conservative pages, including Pro-Trump, Chick-Fil-A appreciation, Glenn Beck, and Catholic groups.

Here’s Ted Cruz asking those questions.

Zuckerberg is in a tough spot. Judging his words, he seems to be want to do the right thing, but he’s battling human nature.

“Connecting people” sounds positive and simple. Yet the reality is that some people, by their very nature, are mean, and hateful and divisive. Having a neutral platform means all those voices get to weigh in equally, even the ones you disagree with.

“Unintended consequences”

Unbelievably, the company is a little more than a dozen years old. It seemed to hit a zenith earlier last year, but is starting to lose its cool status. Many young adults – including mine – have opted out or rarely use the platform, turning to other means of communicating. In fact, more than 2.5 million users under 25 said, “See Ya” last year alone.

They don’t like being marketed to and can sense the rising tide of intrusive behavior the platform brings.

And plenty of people have held steadfast – no, no, no. And you have read that many Silicon Valley heavyweights won’t let their children use Facebook, and have sworn off it themselves. That should say something.

Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive in charge of user growth admitted in a recent interview he is concerned about its impact on his children. He feels “tremendous guilt” for his hand in expanding Facebook’s reach.

“It literally is at a point now we’ve created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. I would encourage all of you how to internalize this is – if you feed the beast, the beast will destroy you.”

“It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Yes, we can live with less Facebook

While in many ways it has widened our circle of friends and influence, it has isolated us. It has fermented many social ills and caused more than its share of psychological problems.

For a variety of professional reasons regarding this space, writer’s communities, and work, I use Facebook. But I’m starting to feel the “yuck” factor.

I have seen the “share” numbers this blog fall. I’m not alone, as many in this sphere have said the same thing. Ted Cruz might be on to something.

Patheos needs clicks and reads and lingers to pay the bills and they depend on us to produce good content. But the other part of the equation is the need to share content with others. If you like this article, it’s good practice to comment and to share, helping to exponentially expand the reach of these words to make sure they continue.

But from a faith perspective, do you need to spend so much time online? The news items that are really little more than outrageous claims are eye-grabbers, but are they grabbing your heart too? How badly do we need to peer into the lives of our neighbors, friends and strangers alike?

I’ve seen it provoke jealousy, as all the smiling faces and happy meals create make-believe lives. There is a fear of missing out, isn’t there? You see some friends at a ballgame or a picnic or a party and wonder why you aren’t part of the gang. Some people simply share too much – fights with spouses, harsh words against an employer, or regretful posts. And who among us hasn’t tried to one-up someone on social media?

If we are really trying to live a right life, pursuing both the Black Letters and the Red Letters of the Bible, we should look at our Facebook life.

And finally, think what life was like just a few years ago.

Twelve years ago, you might have written a letter or an email. Twelve years ago, you might have sat across a table sharing a lemonade.

Twelve years ago, your relationships were likely much simpler.

And I kind of like that idea.

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