“Hey, Melissa! Are you on MySpace?”
“No. I have something called Facebook!”
“Facebook? What on earth is that?”
Circa 2007. I was proud as punch of my MySpace profile, which I could liken to a poorly decorated Christmas tree. It had music that auto-played upon profile visitation (I chose Straight Lines by Silverchair) and a top 10 friends list that was interchangeable depending on whose party I did / did not get invited to that week.
Big Brother is watching you… and he has every bit of dirt and data on you
Back in the day when Facebook was grassroots, data collection, privacy and being spied on didn’t even cross my mind. Posting candid photos and status updates was nothing but a little fun. Fast forward to September, 2018 and we see 50 million Americans fall victim to a serious breach of privacy as well as 3 million users in Europe. Facebook has come under fire over claims that user data had been hacked and exposed. To date, Facebook still don’t know who or what was behind the malicious attack, so basically, somebody out there has the juice on 53 million Facebook users. This data leak has potentially breached the European Union’s new GDPR policy, holding Facebook accountable for allowing its users’ data to be effectively stolen.
This is not child’s play. All your photos, personal information such as DOB, address, college and dare I say it, private photos – it’s all collected and contained in some punk’s hands, ready to be sold off to for advertisers or worse, stolen and duplicated for the purpose of fraud and identity theft.
Elections and in general, world views are being manipulated by Facebook data
Earlier this year in April, 2018, a scandal came to pass when it was revealed that Facebook obtained millions of Americans’ Facebook data with the aim of manipulating the US Election so Donald Trump would win presidency. A whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica spills that they spent $1M harvesting millions of Facebook profiles. For a social platform that allows us to share harmless memes, family photos and cat videos, it seems improbable. But, here we are. An orange man in a wig is El President of the USA. How could that possibly be?
We know that daily updates to the algorithms make the information ‘fed’ to you by Facebook all dependent on a few things:
- What you search for in Google and the data contained in your email if you use Gmail, Yahoo or MSN/Windows. If you are researching information on holidays, real estate, children’s toys etc. guess what’s going to come up in your Facebook News Feed? You guessed it. Ads and content for holidays, houses and toys. Those ads that follow you around the web when you’re browsing stalk you into your Facebook corner too, like a greasy salesman pushing you to buy their products and services.
- The Facebook pages and ‘news’ articles you click on. For example, if you happen to follow parties that have racist and white supremacy undertones such as the Swedish Democrats and Donald Trump, then guess what ads and content you’ll get served in your News Feed? Fake news and all that ‘white trash’ that only reinforces these racist beliefs. Not to mention the words you use in your status updates and posts. Anything that comes akin to a certain topic you’re actively talking about will be before your eyes in the form of ‘content for the gullible’ until you switch subject.
- The voice conversations you have while the app is running on your phone. Say what? I didn’t believe it for a while as friends claimed conspiracy theories saying, “They can listen in on your conversation!” Until I told my husband – in conversation only – that I would like to have some Gum Tree art in our new home. The next day, an ad was served up to me on Instagram (owned by Facebook and run by the same algorithms) for precisely what I spoke about. Gum tree art. Soon, there will be an in-home video device that can track your conversations in your kitchen, bathroom or wherever you put the damn thing. I am not only afraid of what Facebook can do with my data, I am infuriated that a bunch of suits sat around a table and decided it was a good idea to infringe on their users’ private conversations. When you’re uploading media, you’ll be prompted with this notification: “Facebook/Instagram would like to access the microphone.” I didn’t think for a minute that I was voluntarily allowing them to activate the creepiest form of surveillance possible. Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth a little bit.
You are not the consumer, you are the product
This conglomerate data-collecting, data-mining and data-harvesting corporation is out to sell advertising and that makes YOU the product. Ultimately, YOU are the one being exploited. YOUR DATA is being collected and sold off to the highest bidder. And in cases that are becoming more frequent, stolen from internet hackers.
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by eactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. . . . The process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.”
1984 by George Orwell
When you are a consumer, you have a choice about what a company does with your data. By law, all companies that collect personal information must comply with GDPR policy. As a consumer, you have a right to access your data and ask for it to be destroyed. Not so with Facebook. Their capabilities in terms of data collection are so powerful and their algorithms are deeper than the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. You cannot ask them to withhold your data from third-party apps because firstly, they have no control over their API and who accesses it. Secondly, WHO YA GONNA CALL? Like, seriously. What is Facebook’s number or email? They are a monstrously notorious corporation with no face. No contact. Nobody you can actually communicate with. And that’s exactly the way they like it. Remember, you are not the consumer, because consumers have rights. You are the product!
You are wasting precious time in a make-believe world that doesn’t really exist
Facebook or ‘Fakebook’ is pretty much a tool created by techies who have played on human psychology and all your insecurities. Instagram works exactly the same but at an accelerated rate with a billion times the fake and filters. Am I popular or pretty enough? How can I make my life look more glamourous to my friends and followers? Do I put out a persona or personal brand that makes everyone jealous of me? I’ll post this ‘white lie’ picture of our family cruising the Caribbean in this impeccable pose but nobody knows I just had a huge fight with my spouse, credit debt paid for this holiday and I want to throw my kids overboard.
We all get it. We all see it. And we all do it. Anxiety, depression and suicide rates are soaring and there is a clear and definitive correlation with social media use. There is a new generation of ‘lifestyle curators’ called Social Media Influencers posting sponsored content in exchange for wads of cash. I am not kidding, these ‘brand advocates’ are making Gen Y and Z actually believe that this is a real and legitimate career option. Honey, if you think you’re gonna be famous on the internet and make moula all the while, think again. Like all things, nothing lasts forever. The age of narcissism on social media will be over soon. People will tire of the bs and instead, cry out for authenticity. Already, we are seeing declining rates of Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat usage. Instagram will be next. One day, these ‘Influencers’ will look back and regret that they pretended to be famous on the internet instead of having a stable job and save for retirement. Remember, being famous on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly.
A recent article brought to light a fact we all know: people intentionally go on holidays so they can post pictures to make their friends jealous. Well, aren’t we a generation that is creating a better society for our children to grow up in? To compare and compete with each other, instead of loving and serving one another?
Ya know, in 5-10 years’ time when this kind of social lunacy is finally outlawed, we’ll look back and say, “Wasn’t that a stupid era where the bots controlled the internet and everybody thought it would be a good idea to feed our personal information to an untrusted source and intentionally incite jealousy in others.” Yep. *facepalm*
You are neglecting connection in the real-world and time that will never be had again
Our family, friends and loved ones want connection – real connection, not just watching and stalking each other on Facebook and Instagram. We all want real conversations, in private, free from the eyes and ears of our fans, friends and followers. We want to live in the moment with full attention and keep it there, not post about it and await the addictive trail of likes and comments.
For me, the point came when I noticed I had a better relationship with my phone than my family. Side-by-side, Husband and I would sit on the couch on our phones NOT CONNECTING in a conventional CONNECTING kinda way (i.e. talking), instead, mindlessly scrolling our news feeds. Something that makes me laugh is when I see a group of people sit around a table at a restaurant and refrain from talking to each other (like only crazy psycho people do) but just glued to their phones like millennial zombies. But who am I to laugh? I’ve been there too.
Facebook and to a degree, Instagram has been my life for 20 years in combination. Is that something to boast about and be proud of? Certainly not. Have either of these social platforms added value to my life or just created a lot of unnecessary distraction and white noise to an already demanding ‘offline’ life? Maybe a bit of the former but more of the latter. What I can say is that I’ve been off both Facebook and Instagram and the subsequent emotional and mental clarity speaks volumes. Instead of thinking about what I’m going to post, when I’m going to post it and feeling anxiety about who’s going to get FOMO/offended/jealous because they weren’t there, I try something new. I DON’T POST. That way, nobody misses out. More importantly, I don’t miss out on the moment while it happens. I’m right there, present and experiencing it in its fullness. It’s beautiful, private and nobody – not the Facebook bots, not the evil data overlords, not even Zuckerberg himself can be there. It’s only me and us and that is exactly where it will stay.
If nothing else here compels you to #deletefacebook, do it for the kids
I kept this nugget until the last because it’s one that I think we all need to remember. The decision to #deletefacebook is yours and one you should strongly consider. Before I sign off, I’ll conclude with this little number: it is reported that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and a handful of tech execs in Silicon Valley refuse to let their kids have social media and raise them tech-free. Working behind the scenes, they know these products are formulated in a way that is psychologically damaging to children and teens. Here’s what former Facebook Executive Chamath Palihapitiya says about Facebook:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
Parents, tell me this: do you feel Facebook and Instagram make your child better, brighter, more patient, tolerant towards others, kind, compassionate and understanding? Or, do you see them feed their innocent minds with an insatiable hunger to be entertained more, have better clothes, more toys and constantly compare themselves with what their peers have or how they look? Are your school kids bullied and belittled on social media or are they the ones dishing out this destructive behaviour on other kids? These questions I can’t answer, only you can.
All I know is I won’t have my wide-eyed and curious children be dulled and lulled by social media, for the sake of ‘everybody else is doing it.’ When I picture my children’s future, I don’t see them growing up believing that it’s normal for parents to create Instagram accounts on kids’ behalf, without their permission, for all of the internet to see. I don’t see them striving for attention online, being fed by dopamine hits and driven by screen addiction. Instead, I see them out exploring nature, building close relationships in real life and having their identity affirmed in their parents’ love.
Facebook, it’s not me. It’s you. I won’t be seeing you later because it’s time to #deletefacebook
Source: Brecht Vandenbroucke