Facebook Fails

No, this is not a list of hilarious faux pas drawn from the virtual pages of our favorite (?) social media* site. It is rather an unordered set of small complaints about the use and users of that service. I am disappointed by Facebook and I will explain why. But I cannot simply assign my discontent to Mark Zuckerberg’s enterprise. While he has benefited enormously, it is almost certain that it is put to uses that he may never have envisioned.

Let us start with the commercial aspect of Facebook. Advertising was in the plan from the beginning, as it had to be. It is not the straight forward advertising that is a concern. Rather, it is the nature of some advertisers that is questionable. Facebook makes it possible for what you would have to call “fly by night” operations to use the system. Pay attention and you will see numerous ads for products from multiple vendors with odd names selling similar or even identical items. Most of these things originate in China and probably come from the same factory. If there is a problem, it is unlikely that it can be readily resolved.

Everyone is aware of click-bait posts, yet many still fall for them. Most common are the 10 best/worst list types that make you click through page after page of text to get to the main point. The only purpose for these is to accumulate your clicks to sell advertising.  Then there are the “intelligence” tests that only a genius can pass. Everyone must be a genius to judge by the responses I have seen.

The click-bait posts and the shady advertising go with the territory, I suppose. All things considered, they should be expected. What it tells us is not that people may have less than honorable motives, whatever the legality, but that Facebook is not too squeamish about what is accepted for posting. This is odd, given the inclination to declare posts of a political nature as “not factual”. Maybe Mr. Zuckerberg’s minions should expend more effort in assuring the integrity of posts and less to attempting to control the political debate to their particular liking.

All this is the least of what frustrates me about Facebook. I will state flatly that understand the purpose of the site and that is to make money, to fill Mark’s bank account, and those of his investors, munificently. I begrudge them that much. I pay nothing for using and I sympathize with their desire to avoid being a charity. So my real beef is not with Mark Zuckerberg, et al. Instead, I am disappointed with the regular users more than anything else.

I say that the purpose of Facebook is to make money, but the basic use to which it may be put is building and enforcing a sense of community. Those adorable baby pictures? Those usually hilarious cat videos? Give me more! Facebook deems anyone you designate to view your postings as a “friend”. It may strain the name, but a study showed a while back that FB friends tend to be just that, people you know and like. If this be so, then why all the shouting and screaming, the posturing and campaigning?

How many times have you seen a post that is intended to go viral? Typically, it will be along the lines of “Put Prayer Back in School! I dare you share this?” Or “This dog did ___ and the Internet went wild. Like and share.” Always there is the challenge that implies or outright states that to be a good Christian/Muslim/Democrat/Republican/Liberal/Conservative you must share the post. All of this is simple trolling, but it is accompanied by vehement admonitions about climate change, politics, current events, etc. the meaning of which either implied or stated is “How stupid you must be if you don’t agree with me!” All of this has only intensified with the virus and lock-down, comments on which have taken on an almost vicious tone.

So when I say bring on the baby photos, what I really want is for my fellow FB users to recognize that while I, like Voltaire, appreciate your right to an opinion, your expression of it may not be appreciated. What I value in Facebook is the opportunity to keep in contact with friends and relatives near and far. This is especially important for us having relatives spread around the world on three continents.

Instead, what I get is a steady diet of admonition, vituperation, preaching and scolding. This bothers me but more important, it keeps many people away that I would like to keep up with. Where I want to know how my friends and relatives are. Especially now, their posts are lost in a bilious babble. One by one, I have stopped following those who persist in posting political noise. In a few cases I have felt moved to unfriend people I know that I would otherwise appreciate. The recent political cycles have become so vitriolic that I am tempted to depart the site altogether. I know though, that I won’t do that because my curiosity will get the better of me. I can only hope that those reading this will consider moderating their campaigns and perhaps post a baby picture or two.

So this is a long winded way of explaining my recent flower pictures. I have determined to desist from any political commentary (and everything degenerates into politics ultimately) and instead post a flower photo from my collection (I have over a thousand to choose from) each day until the election in November is over. Then, I am sure, we will return to a more prosaic and friendly state. Won’t we?

*FB is the target of this dissertation, but I dabble in Instagram as well. The only reason it has not descended as far as Facebook is that I follow very few there. It is no less likely to become as bad as there is nothing to prevent it, not even the different posting style and policies. I have not attempted Twitter which is regularly described as a cesspool. That is laughable in that it comes from people who regularly indulge in it. I never saw the sensibility of breathlessly following someone who makes a hobby of posting noxious comments in any case. I am not interested in any of the other services for that matter.

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