I’ve been using my Facebook account on a regular basis for the past couple of weeks, since shortly before the travesty we amusingly call “Election Day”. I started out by going back to read a couple of geek and flight oriented groups that are housed within the confines of the Facebook platform. I smile every time I see a pilot share photos of their first solo flight. I read about the experiences of other pilots. I talk with folks that also own a Piper Cherokee. I also keep up with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a long while. Unfortunately I fell into the pits of Facebook hell and got caught up in the whirlwind of disinformation, fake news and the like the Facebook is becoming quite famous for.
The truth of the matter is that I know better. As a fairly well-educated tech guy, I know that Facebook tracks every movement I make on the web. Facebook knows every time I search for something and adds that information to my profile. The paranoid side of me believes that Facebook is somehow _hearing_ my conversations because I’ve had a couple of suggestions come up in the FB sidebar after Earl and I have had a conversation about a product, but I’m still trying to figure out if that’s possible or not. Facebook is a very dangerous platform for many reasons, yet I still wade in the acidic waters, clinging onto some shred of hope that it doesn’t rot me away completely.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that Facebook has significantly pared down the posts that I see from friends and family. The number of people showing up on my timeline has been whittled down considerably. On more than one occasion, while scanning through my Facebook timeline, I’ve thought to myself, “It’s funny I haven’t seen a post from X in the past few days.” I’ll then search up their name and see that they’ve been posting right along like they always have, Facebook just didn’t feel it was necessary to share that information with me. Instead, I’ve been barraged with posts from people that I’ve shared a hearty banter with (usually about the “election”), as if to magnify that particular person’s point of view in lieu of just presenting me with a timeline.
When a timeline is skewed with algorithms, it’s not a timeline. It’s propaganda. Instagram, owned by Facebook, is notorious for this. I keep seeing the same photos from the same six people instead of the 300 or so that I follow on Instagram. It makes me crazy. It’s not genuine. There’s nothing genuine about anything owned by Facebook. It’s not information, it’s manipulation.
I keep saying, and blogging, that I’m just going to share more right here on my blog and less in the Facebook arena, but the issue with that approach is that when I want to get an important point across, such as the fallout from the recent “election” (yes, I’m annoying with the rabbit gestures around the word election, which should give you an indication as to how much I believe it was truly an election reflecting the will of the people), the people I want to reach are comfortable inside the Facebook echo chamber and the folks I want to target with my voice aren’t going to hear what I want to share.
Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for this. I’m concerned that Facebook isn’t going to go the way of MySpace. A reader on Medium suggested that Facebook be treated like a public utility and subject to the same governmental oversight as the other utilities (power, water, telecom) in the United States. While it’s questionable that any utility will still be subjected to any oversight after we somehow survive the next four years as a cohesive country, the idea of Facebook being considered a “utility” is horrifying to me.
It is really my hope that the country will wake up from some drug induced trip and come back to its senses: in the way we think, the way we act, the way we use tech, the way we think our society should be going, all of it. My gut tells me that this is the new normal. I didn’t think it was possible for us to head in the direction of “Idiocracy” but I’ve been a wrong about a lot of things over the years and I’m afraid this is one of them. To mix movie metaphors, (I was going to paste a quote from “Angels in America” here but Apple’s iOS 10 won’t let me do that, so I’ll paraphrase), “Before life becomes merely impossible, it will be, for a long time, completely unbearable.”
I think Facebook is leading the charge into the unbearable realm.