Everything Wrong With The World: Facebook
Facebook might not be the only thing wrong with the world, but it’s definitely part of the problem - and I’m not even talking about how it records your every move, or can do anything it wants with everything you put on the site thanks to draconian terms of service no one pays any attention to. Sure, it does those things - and more - but Facebook doesn’t even do what it’s supposed to do anymore.
You’re supposed to be able to connect with people by following their posts, only you can’t really do that anymore because Clickbait Factory #47 is busy pouring so much money down Zuckerberg’s holler hole for Sponsored Posts that all you’ll ever really see are 27 different takes on the same stupid Top 10 listicles and hyperspeed recipe videos you never really cared about to begin with.
If you do manage to see something worth looking at while you’re scrolling past all the garbage, good luck on ever finding it again. The site will probably reload on you before you finish reading whatever it was, and that post will disappear into the unfindable netherworld where everything you care about goes to die.
Remember when you could keep up-to-date on what was going on in your community by following local media outlets on Facebook? Ah, memories. These days, you’ll be lucky to find out about a fire raging next door because Facebook’s algorithm thinks Buzzfeed’s video about how to boil water is more relevant to your interests. The same goes for local businesses.
I follow a lot of local restaurants since I've basically become a hobbit at this point in my life, and I used to be able to find out what was on the daily menu, or when they were having a sale just by checking Facebook. Now, thanks to even more changes to the algorithm, I almost never see any posts from local businesses, no matter how often I've interacted with them because I really, really wanted an extra slice or two of brisket by getting on their good side. How am I supposed to meet my fatness goals for the year now? HOW, I ASK YOU?!
I use Facebook to store pictures of my kid and share them with family and friends because he’s objectively the best child on the planet - which is an indisputable scientific fact, by the way, so don’t come at me with your nonsense - but the only drawback is that I could very well see him in an advertisement for soap or something one day, because Facebook “owns” those pictures now and can do whatever they want with them. (It doesn’t technically own them, but it does have a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license” which means it can pretty much do whatever it wants with whatever we post, even if we technically retain ownership of our puppy video that went viral.)
Local “For Sale” groups are useful if you’re looking for overvalued junk people are trying to get rid of at ridiculous prices by telling you how much they paid for it ten years ago, as if that undoes a decade worth of wear and tear. Still, they’re a good place for finding random stuff you might be looking for. Of course, the flip side to that coin is that Facebook tracks everything you show an interest in, so searching for Pajama Jeans even once will put about six months worth of ads for infomercial products in your timeline.
Facebook does have a lot of fun quizzes, though. From IQ tests “only 1 in every 10,000 people can pass” (that all of your mouthbreathing friends from high school somehow manage to pass), to quizzes telling you which Harry Potter character you are based off of the recipes you’ve been sharing recently, there’s a quiz for just about everything out there. The only problem, of course, is that these quizzes need access to your Facebook data to work, so every time you take one, you’re more or less inviting strangers into your house and hoping they don’t take anything. (Which is the whole reason those quizzes even exist in the first place.)
Look, I get that Facebook used to be a good place that worked as advertised. Once upon a time, it showed me everything people and brands I follow posted - in chronological order. Now, all I see are obnoxious videos and posts my aunt made two weeks ago that inexplicably waited until today to appear. Of course, that’s only when Facebook decides to actually show me anything I care about at all. These days, it’s mostly nonsense articles and angry rants about the government from people no one invites to parties.
Even Facebook has admitted that using it is bad for you. It isolates us, makes us feel bad about the reality of our own lives when compared against the fake, curated joy of what other people choose to share, and it for damn sure isn’t making us any smarter. People tend to mute whoever they disagree with, so we’re left with echo chambers that only reinforce what we already believe instead of challenging us with new ideas and unfamiliar ways of looking at the world. You know, the sort of thing we used to call learning.
So why do we keep using it? Because there’s nothing else out there. Not really. There’s Instagram, but Facebook owns that, too. There’s Twitter, but…it’s Twitter. I guess MySpace is technically still around, but no one wants whatever it’s trying to be these days.
With no real alternative, we’re forced to keep using a platform that abuses our trust, mines our data, keeps us misinformed, reinforces prejudice, rewards ignorance, and generally makes us feel awful about ourselves and the world around us.
What a time to be alive.