We Need to Talk about Facebook
Whenever I think about the future, my mind wonders to “V for Vendetta”. The movie paints the future as a time when people are watched and controlled, and butter is a luxury.
“If the future is a time when butter is a delicacy, I don’t want it”, I often think.
The social media frenzy
I try to put those feelings aside, especially because I live with a tech fan and I do believe he has a point when he says that technology must be understood and only then accepted or rejected. On this premisis I haven’t shied away from extending my social media accounts. Beside Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, this year I acquired Instagram, Twitter, Ello, Vent, Medium and Vocal Media. No, this is not bragging. You’ll see.
As we all know, Facebook has basically changed our lives. Made by millennials for millennials, it started innocently 13 years ago, endearing us to find our former classmates, long lost relatives, and show off our life status to them. A little competition didn’t hurt anybody, aye? That’s what we all thought. So we put ourselves out there, likes and dislikes, for our friends to see what we have achieved.
The glam and glitter captured more and more young people (10-12 years old), then pets (Grumpy Cat), then parents (mom, are you reading this?).
Sometime along the way, public figures, organisations, blogs, pretty much anything we think it’s important has acquired a Facebook page.
However, long before that happened, Facebook had already gathered zillions of bytes of information about us. Why? Because its revenue model sells user data to whomever wants it.
Did you really think Facebook is free?! No! 73% of Facebook revenue comes from selling user data. For that, Facebook gathers 98 data entries about each user. Stuff like religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, geolocation, food preferences, job, income, mortgage status, family members, medical history, and the list goes on. 22% of world’s mobile internet advertising budget ($ 3.54 billion in the first quarter of 2014) is based on the informations that users deliver, sometimes unknowingly, to Facebook (see more).
Advertising wouldn’t really be a problem. After all, we live in capitalism. The problem is that user data usage doesn’t stop there. Trump and Brexit and two political phenomena that happened also because some smart fellas exploited the huge user database Facebook has for sale (source). Manipulation – strike 1.
And if you think for a second those were just unhappy coincidences, there is also this article that reveals the shady morals of the 2012 experiment Facebook did on its users without their consent. Shortly put, the newsfeed was altered in different ways for over 600.000 users in order to see how they react to certain kinds of content. You don’t have to be a degreed psychologist to intuit that certain kind of emotions fuel certain kind of customer behavior. Manipulation – strike 2.
So yeah, there is loads of dirt on your favourite social media platform. Wait, is it still called “dirt” if it’s true?
I mentioned that I recently tried different social media platforms. They are not all the same. Ello, for example, makes a promise of never collecting user data and is free from advertising. Vent, also free from invading ads, holds on to your data as long as you keep it. Medium or Vocal Media allow for a more articulate expression, don’t allow ads, and sell data only under certain conditions they clearly mention in the agreement.
As time goes by, I think more and more people will begin to understand that intimacy is priceless and will stop feeding with information this already obese child called Facebook.
Giving up intimacy will be more than just a tick in the “I agree …” box. As a consequence, people will migrate from Facebook to other, more friendly platforms, where data selling will not be a default requirement.