As it happened, I was reading Zucked by Roger McNamee when I heard that celebrities were sending a signal to facebook by boycotting it and instagram for a day with the #StopHateforProfit campaign. I immediately remembered this tanka I drew and wrote last year and decided it should be translated into English so that I could share it with the world. The message is very important, you see.
I read quite a bit about surveillance capitalism and “social” media and I watched a lot of documentaries about it. And some time ago, I wrote an article on Medium about my own ordeal in deciding whether or not to stay on facebook. And even though many people think objections to facebook are “just” about data sharing, the reality of what goes on in facebook’s backoffice is way, way more serious.
Earlier this year I experienced just how bad it was myself, during the BLM protests. One of my facebook contacts is a white woman, married to a black man and they have two black kids. At some point during the BLM protests, she wrote a facebook post saying how she felt forced to publish something on the subject when it seemed obvious that she supported the BLM movement, being a wife to a black man and mother of two black kids. She wrote how awful she felt for being pushed by some of her contacts to write about it and expose herself to the hateful noise that was loud on facebook at that time.
What was horrible, was not her post. She wrote eloquently and full of love for her husband and children and she basically asked people not to push her to take a stand when it was obvious how she felt. But the response was everything she seemed afraid for. As I read on, I noticed the post had a truck load of comments, mostly by two women, herself and a few of her friends and it was a very fierce row. The two black ladies who commented most were hateful, disrespectful and incredibly rude and mean and my contact’s response grew more and more defensive as the argument wore on, eventually saying things that – out of context – could seem anti BLM. And since few people read an entire thread and see only the latest remarks, that in itself generated even more hateful comments, driving my contact to tears and frustration.
I wanted to stand up for her. But at the same time something in the back of my mind said: “Stop! Don’t interfere. Think!” So I did. I turned off the computer and sat quietly for a moment, allowing my adrenaline levels to sink and then it suddenly hit me. There was something very odd about the comments the two black attackers made. So I went back online, opened facebook and looked up her post and started reading the comments again. Contentwise the comments were just a repetition of one another, only more rude each time. They didn’t put forth new arguments or examples, they didn’t refer to events in their own lives. And that made me click the profiles of these ladies.
What I found, made my heart bleed. Neither of these two profiles were real. This argument – evolving around REAL lives – had been fired up by trolls, instructed by who knows who, to destabilize people, to destabilize society as it is. It made me sick as I realized in that very moment how fucked up facebook is. I knew that the platform only grew this big by using unethical procedures, using their users as raw materials to suck data from for sales to who cares who. But I had never with my own eyes seen how damaging and disrupting the platform could be by offering a stage for hate spreaders set out to ruin the society we have. I informed my contact about what I’d found, we both reported the profiles as fake and I decided to leave my timeline and look up only those people I really wanted to see from then on. My only active use would be to update my Art page with new work and reply to any comments there and some direct contact with friends.
Facebook isn’t worth my attention. And the thing is…people think it is a side-effect, but it’s not. Facebook algorithms are programmed to piss people off and to scare them to pieces because those negative emotions generate “engagement” – being the time you invest there and the activities that come out of that – each generating new data facebook can sell to third parties for whatever purpose. So everytime you thought you were an emotional wreck because your timeline affects you…no, you aren’t. Facebook is doing that to you. Purposely. Everytime you feel drained after reading your timeline, it’s not you being a mop, it’s facebook doing that to you. Purposely. And all the gruesome things you see and the fake news and the bickering going on, it doesn’t happen accidentally. It is facebook doing that to you. And guess what. If you are a thinker or a sensitive person, facebook will dump more gruesome shit on your timeline because that is what you will be most responsive to. People who are not easily moved by such things get puppies and kittens.
But even beyond our timelines stuff is going on with facebook that makes you sick once you know about it. Sucking and selling our data to whoever pays is not very ethical, but they get away with it by pretending ‘oops’ and loopholes in legislation. Making us addicted to dopamine by dripping notifications is alsno not very ethical. Nor is the spread of fake news and giving foreign governments the chance to meddle with our national elections. Facebook says it’s all a case of “whoops”, we didn’t know, we’ll fix it. Only, they never do. But where it gets really, really, REALLY bad is that facebook costs lives. Literally.
Facebook is all about groups these days, right? Well, guess who look eachother up in groups. Not just pigment-crazy ladies or art journalers. Also hateful people look eachother up. And without society around them to correct them and keep an eye on their behaviour, these people get the chance to encourage their unethical behaviour and thus “social” and “freedom of speech” becomes blatant crime when facebook groups lead to violence and even death. Ethnic cleansing, even. It is an inconvenient truth that people choose to look away from. Maybe you too would rather not see it. But I’m asking you, please, inform yourself. Know it. See it. And ask facebook to change their policies. I know it’s easier not to see things when they are off-putting or confusing, but this is so, SO very important. Facebook plays a huge role in our daily lives today. Not just your timeline, but also in our elections, in the distribution of our news and on our markets…we cannot condone a service that does not do ethics as long as they grow, grow, grow.
Growth for the sake of growth is cancer.
Facebook has become a social cancer.
And it’s up to its users to aks them to stop and become what they ougt to be: a SOCIAL platform.
I highly recommend Zucked as a read on this topic, but there are many more books on facebook and surveillance capitalism. If you want, I can give you tips. Just let me know in the comments below.
Thank you so much for reading my plea. And please, please…be informed.
As an encore, here’s my original, Dutch Tanka: