24 Comments

  1. Margreet Laan January 29, 2019 @ 10:00 pm

    Dear risa,
    What a wellspoken artikel about fb.and i love the way you write. A bit complycated for me but with some persevarens. I manage. Its good to follow your thougts. All the why we like and hate fb in one artikel.wel done and lots of love margreet

  2. Risa Aratyr January 30, 2019 @ 3:10 pm

    Bedankt voor het lezen van mijn blog! (Is that even close to correct?) And thank you for persevering through my long, rambling sentences and unnecessarily fancy words. I do get carried away sometimes . . .
    You are one of the FB friends that made FB so terribly appealing. I love seeing your garden through the seasons, and going along with you on your travels, and reading (often in translation) the articles you share. I would have missed Humor Tegen Haat and Kate Tempest’s “Brand New Ancients” entirely, if they hadn’t shown up on your timeline. We are just going to have to Skype-chat and email more often, my dear. That’s all there is to it.

  3. Declan Kenny January 30, 2019 @ 2:26 am

    Nicely put. We both ditched ours years ago and never looked back. Not even a sneaky ‘wonder what’s going on’.

    I think the more banal truth of social media is less about bots, sneaky Russian spies and a massive Matrix-like conspiracy to fleece you of your heard-earned cash (it is, of course, but that’s not the real ugly truth). It’s just as much about us. Social media is the perfect reflection of us as a modern society when you hold up the mirror.

    We can blame the oligarchical tyranny of capitalism (that’s a mouthful!) and we should, but we should also admit that we are all complicit in this, in some way. Do the many filters and algorithms distort the reflection? I’d argue that, in the end, it still shows the truth. And the truth is always out there somewhere, and it’s rarely a world of fluffy kittens.

    What social media has allowed us to do is do what we have always done as a species, but just do it a lot faster, and so, finally, we are able to stand back after millions of years of evolution, and see the fruits of our labours. And they are not always nice, healthy fruits either.

    Indeed, you could argue that we get the social media we deserve, to paraphrase… well, to be honest, I don’t know. Google tells me it’s Joseph de Maistre (‘the most visionary of France’s early counterrevolutionaries’), but that could be a conspiracy. It could have been Abraham Lincoln. Or William Shatner. Or one of the Kardashians.

    Having said that, I have yet to be convinced that Zuckerberg is not actually a lizard. I mean, he could be, right?

  4. Risa Aratyr January 30, 2019 @ 4:46 pm

    Your departure from FB was a wake-up call; I just hit the “snooze” button for several years before rousing to follow your example.
    Social media may be a perfect mirror of society, as you say. In ‘Murica, though, two years (and counting) of exposés about the hacked election and how targeted media campaigns manipulate social groups into more extreme positions seems to point to something more than a reflection of truth. It’s truth creation, engineered by people with some serious agendas.
    Did we ask for it? Well, not directly, but yes. Are we complicit? Absolutely, in the same way smoking fags and drinking sodas makes us complicit in undermining our physical well-being. But surely the companies that deliberately make and sell addictive substances and then ruthlessly market them to suseptible consumers using all the available tools of psychological coercion – surely they are giving us more than we asked for and can be held accountable?
    A radio interview with Max Read, senior editor at New York Magazine, inspired me to read his article: How Much of the Internet is Fake? Short answer: an awful lot. The long answer is well worth the read.
    What rankles, though, is the feeling that we’re being disingenuous to imagine we’ve escaped the influence of FB when we’re still posting on Instagram or WhatsApp. In this whole election-hacking debacle, turns out content shared to FB from Russian trolls was seen by more people but received 2.5 times less “engagements” (likes/comments/shares) than it did when posted to Instagram. (Full story HERE)
    Finally, the “get what we deserve” quote was Gandalf (duh). And, yes, Zuckerberg is totes a lizard. It’s all over the internet.

  5. R Lee Smith January 30, 2019 @ 6:44 am

    Congratulations,
    To anyone who has reached the conclusion that was obvious to those of us involved in the technology of the communications industry since the early 80’s. (Although some of my companions in the industry still fell for it)

    I am approaching 80 years of age and spent the last 25 years of my 60+ year career in the space age manufacturing industry. Early in the field of accessing a client’s computer to correct programming mistakes made at the site I heard the warning bells. I am talking about computer sites on military bases, aircraft manufacturers, satellite manufacturers, makers of medical instruments and on and on. At one time I had over 400 customers relying on my company to solve their problems, I won’t name any of the companies but anyone who reads or watches the news would recognize the names of most of them. I was responsible for over 30 employees working on supporting the companies making airplanes fly, satellites communicate, and almost any organization using computers to run the machines that make almost everything we put our hands on.

    I could not even talk to people in my social world about the dangers I saw from the beginning of so-called “social media” about the dangers I observed concerning the hijacking of private data because I was subjected to the age old motion of twirling one’s finger around the axis of one’s ear that signified that the object of the gesture was a nut.

    I was elated by reading Dave Eggars book called The Circle. I think it would be an exaggeration to say that a dozen people that I recommended it to read it.
    I was elated again when the movie came out but it sort of missed the true point of the book.

    I have children ranging in age from 28 to 60. The oldest is the only one that gets it.
    The reaction I got when describing what kind of access to data could be accessed with only only an IP address, phone number and email address and the danger of signing on to something that was unregulated by law was “Yeah, isn’t it cool?” Everyone eas amazed that I could run a technology company using only a website, email, phone service, texting and voice communication. I don’t get it because the only thing I was lacking in communication was spreading DRAMA and GOSSIP to hundreds of people at once and giving each of them the poison to spread to hundreds more.

    Risa, I thank you for being brave enough to say what you did.
    I have not posted any comment on your site for a while but could not resist this time
    R Lee Smith

  6. Risa Aratyr January 30, 2019 @ 5:46 pm

    Richard! I’m so glad I (finally) wrote something that compelled you to comment! Your experiences, insight, and knack for telling a tale never fail to intrigue, amaze, and inspire.
    I can’t help trying to imagine what drives people with access to inside info on the internet and social media, people who work on the tech end of the communications industry, people who are constantly encountering security breaches, data loss, and hackers = what drives them to such adamant states of denial? I am right there with you on the generational schism, as well. I’ll defend Millennial texting and gaming till the cows come home, but I cannot understand why they all have Alexas in their homes. Just stick a clock on the wall, darlings. And tell your own jokes.
    It’s not that people believe FB and Alexa and Google and all the rest are benign. They know their activities and words are being monitored, they know their privacy has been hijacked, they know their reality is filled with tracker ‘bots and fake news. But they accept it, they accommodate it, and when pushed, they deny it and scoff at those who are sounding the alarms.
    I suspect it all comes down to that “convenience” I mentioned in the blog. Life is tough, life is busy. Life, for all but the elite, is a grind of waking, driving, working, covering basics and paying bills, snatching a few winks, and then waking again. It’s easy to see how FB friends and groups, Instagram pics, YouTube videos, online shopping, and all the other amenities of virtual existence have become an integral part of the modern social fabric. Add in the drama and gossip, and you’ve triggered addictive endorphin responses that will keep people coming back for more.
    Deep down, we all know that availing ourselves of the proffered conveniences means we are making ourselves available to exploitation, manipulation and, potentially, oppression. But the attitude seems to be, “So what? That’s the world we live in. We’re not going to stop socializing, networking, shopping, and playing on the ‘net – so stop trying to make us feel bad about it.”
    Eggers’ book looks terrific. I’ve put it on my list.

  7. Roy Jimenez January 30, 2019 @ 9:40 am

    You nailed it Sweetheart!

    I drifted off FB a few months ago just cuz I felt like I needed a break from the hours of wasted time I spent browsing all the trivial dreck

    Now I feel like I felt when I quit smoking — why did it take me so long to do this, and why did I start in the first place?

    My first FB post in many moons will be to share your wisdom with my “friends”

  8. Risa Aratyr January 30, 2019 @ 5:53 pm

    Thank you, honey!
    I know what you mean about the cigs, ony when I quit smoking, I still had cravings for a while. Quitting FB was the reverse; I felt better immediately!
    True confessions – I posted a link to my blog on my FB page, too. Some readers just won’t get on-board with subscribing, gosh darn it.

  9. R Lee Smith January 30, 2019 @ 5:55 pm

    What a coincidence that the day this topic shows up I caught this headline on C|Net.

    Apple knocks Facebook with shutdown over app privacy flap
    The social network was paying people, including teens, $20 a month to collect their data. Apple says it took action to protect its users.

    The ultimate in lack of consideration for the ethics of other companies.
    For more detail go to:
    https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-shuts-down-ios-research-app-it-used-to-access-user-data/?ftag=CAD090e536&bhid=26206865969197888558572792466841
    R Lee Smith

  10. Risa Aratyr January 31, 2019 @ 5:20 pm

    Well, that was timely! Thanks for the link, Richard.

  11. Declan Kenny January 31, 2019 @ 3:07 am

    Hi, and thanks for your (always) thoughtful reply. I do , of course, agree with everything in your post, it’s just my default facetious setting is a little high. Has been all my life really. If only I was like TARS in Interstellar, and you could dial it down to about 70% (from its current 95% setting). That would make life more tolerable for my family and close friends.
    I read that article you recommended (How Much of the Internet Is Fake?) and it’s very interesting indeed. Of course, at the bottom of the page, it is trying to lure me into reading about that Military Watch Everybody in Ireland is Talking About. Must have missed it. Along with the drone that’s taking the country by storm. Damn. Missed that one too. Then there is the obligatory snap of over-ripe bananas that are slowly killing me. Gotta love the internet!
    But just to gently reinforce one of my points: these companies are no more rapacious and unethical than any other. Logging, strip-mining, big oil… and those are the easy ones. Plenty of supermarkets and clothing companies are every bit as dodgy. It’s just that we don’t see the shit storm, in general, they create. And I guess that’s partly as a result of geography. And poverty. We were just born in the ‘right’ place.
    It’s not that we haven’t been warned. We’ve had countless warnings about the hazards of unfettered capitalism. It’s just that, well, I don’t know… we seem to like our DVD players. (I know what you’re thinking. Who the hell buys a DVD player these days. Well, seeing as we’re in a truth and reconciliation forum of sorts; me. Just this week. To play the box set of Game of Thrones).
    Just another hurler on the ditch? Guilty as charged, your honour.
    “Take this man down, to serve 30 years in a dark room watching kitten videos on YouTube”
    In space, no-one can hear you scream.
    Online, they hear you, watch you, and then like it, and forward it on to their WhatsApp group.

    This clip says a lot about the Internet, and more specifically, YouTube. Though I readily admit I am not sure exactly what it’s saying. My daughter is studying sociology, so I will ask her for a comment one day:

  12. Risa Aratyr January 31, 2019 @ 6:24 pm

    Yikes, right, of course – I can’t post a link without simultaneously inviting the ‘net to bombard anyone who clicks on it with *relevant* ads. And right, of course – big companies may be monopolies, but they do not have a monopoly on unethical, rapacious business practices. Geography and poverty (or lack thereof) certainly alter our view of the storm in question. I daresay other demographic factors play their part as well; gender, age, race, religion …
    Your recent purchase reminds me of my man’s recent purchase of a PS3, so he can play Red Dead Redemption. Consumers, much? It’s a fair cop.
    I’d thank you for the clip, but I’m still trying to sort out what I just watched. YouTube in a nutshell, omg.
    And, Dec – I love your default settings. Don’t ever change them!

  13. Kathleen Kelly January 31, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

    Bravo, Risa!
    You have articulated this so well. I’ve wanted to do the same with FB for such a long time, but have been concerned about losing touch with faraway friends. I know I could write or call, but chances are I probably won’t so I like your idea of just checking in occasionally. Ironically, my kids haven’t been on it for a long time-lol. I think everyone finds Zuckerberg et al disgusting.
    By the way, something weird that I’ve noticed since I’ve been on FB less and less is that I get emails suggesting that my “friends” have been commenting on XYZ and I should jump in and see what they’re saying. Wow…way to follow up, FB.
    As for Alexa eavesdropping…it’s terrifying. And I know of instances, too, where the phone has been the only device on the table during a conversation and later there’s some FB info linked to what was discussed. Again, terrifying.
    I sure found your friend R. Lee Smith’s comments interesting and enlightening. I’ll check out The Circle.
    Your Manifesto is my guide. I would like to share it when I make my own Declaration of Independence if that’s okay? It delineates the reasons so clearly. If you’d rather I not, of course, I won’t.
    Hoping to make a drive north and stop for a visit in May or June after we get back from our European excursion (March and April) :-p
    Love, K.

  14. Risa Aratyr January 31, 2019 @ 6:46 pm

    Right? FB gives us something – a public connection with faraway friends – but then takes something – our personal data. And we abet the process, because scrolling through a FB feed and clicking on an emoji as a way of saying HI is so dang convenient and seems to demand so little of our time. In fact, FB is a big time-suck (studies have shown people come away from FB feeling guilty about having wasted the hour(s) spent there), the feed we see is carefully crafted to keep us scrolling, the ads are unavoidable, and the connections are so tenuous, that if we drop off the FB grid without announcing it, our FB friends don’t even notice.
    Yes, absolutely! I’d be pleased and proud for you to share my “manifesto” when you declare your independence! Way to a writer’s heart, m’dear … :)

  15. WEN February 5, 2019 @ 4:30 pm

    I’ve been a hypervigilant all my life — for regrettable reasons (trauma), but with some mad skills. When my younger cousins informed me they would no longer email me pictures of the family overseas, saying I’d need to join something called Facebook, I joined. Anonymously, at first, an act which allowed me to see the many others using my real name. Hypervigilant? Check √.

    Having already worked in tech for decades, and most recently worked on the cutting edge of IT at a research institute (yes, Mr Smith, Space), I had great respect for the richness of “tab-delimited” data, early metadata uses of SGML, and the budding applications of XML. The problem was how to attach useful metadata to data….
    My researchers were reluctant, when publishing, to take precious time to fill in the fields of a tab-delimited form. So we automated a default set, thereby forcing the author to correct any incorrect data. Voilà! Metadata.

    As I was filling in the necessary (tab-delimited) data required to enter Facebook, I hesitated. A familiar approach, I knew full-well I was entering the lion’s den. No to profile pics, no to gender, political, religious affiliations, no to pretty much everything. Of course, Facebook kept demanding I “share” more about myself — whining like an insistent child in the candy-aisle. I blocked their “research” arm, their ads, their persistent offerings to find “friends” by giving access to my contact-lists… I messed with their algorithms. I watched, carefully.

    Yes,I fell to temptations: a chance to catch up with actual childhood friends, to keep up with news from busy friends, to coast around to view the trends,… and to marvel at the data people willingly shared, data that would live an eternal digital existence. Even if it was incorrect.

    One of my favorite scientists explained to me, when trying to make sense of a puzzling bibliographic study, that there are three ways to get a high publishing-citation rate:
    1) Be the first.
    2) Be the best.
    3) Be the worst.

    When data-crunching, all three carry the same weight. Did you just google WWII because you love it? hate it? don’t know what it is? or are you just curious? Never assume.

    I’m more concerned about the rough sorting and lack of nuance that new technology claims, waving a magic tech-wand with brazen and absolute authority — and we are complicit in that. I’m more concerned about the repercussions of its arrogant missteps. We are messy humans, not zeroes and ones.

    Bravo, my dear! Powerfully and thoughtfully written, as always. Yes, Roy, she nailed it two-times!

  16. Risa Aratyr February 8, 2019 @ 2:44 pm

    Thanks, Wen. Praise from those of you with true IT experience and insight (and both you and Richard in the space industry, what are the odds?) means a lot.
    I find your take on rough sorting and lack of nuance particularly apt. It’s weird and dismaying when we get ads based on some ‘bot’s erroneous assumptions about our recent ‘net searches. A while back I visited some scary-Right sites like Breitbart to cull a few concrete examples of the Alt-Right’s take on Mueller and such. You can imagine what my ad feed looked like immediately after . . .

  17. WEN February 10, 2019 @ 12:17 am

    Keep messing with their algorithms!
    I do it as a daily amusement. Purposeful misdirection offers a mild satisfaction in the illusion of a bit of control — even if it’s by creating confusion.

  18. R Lee Smith February 10, 2019 @ 8:39 am

    As a test/prank I created an anonymous gmail address: johngalt1984@gmail.com using a temporary IP address. I was required to provide some information to activate the gmail address. I then sent a series of long tirades listing links to lies publicly told by #45 with corresponding links to sources verifying the untruths. I used gmail because it did not require using one of my current ISPs and sent them from a coffee shop far from my normal travel routes. They were sent to a list of known radical Rust Limpbowel fanatics whom I have not associated with for years. Also made from this device were a number of Google and Amazon searches for distinctive products out household has never shopped for. For a final security action The hard drive was stripped of all info (including the OS using a program that overwrites the drive to 5 levels of obscurity.

    This was done over 2 years ago and none of our current addresses has received references to the messages or shopping searches referred to. This exercise in paranoia was done both for fun and to see how far the algorithms had developed. I ever tried to email johngalt1984@gmail.com and it bounced. So far, so good.

    Not being in enough control of my worryosity to resist poking “The Terminator”, a year ago I used the prefix of johngalt1984 to create another email address using my current ISP for class registration at the local university. No spam, no references to past activities.

    A shameful confession: I cannot resist using Amazon Prime. Weakened by age my obsession for obscure books and music has bested me. (an obvious rationalization) ,

    Risa I was elated by your reference to Alexa obviously being programmed to listen to, filter and record anything and everything not only said but happening within it’s audio range. (I almost wrote hearing range, brrrr, a chilly thought) Shades of 1984.

    In reference to Gmail I am writing a paper on the evils of Google which I consider to be the most insidious power grabbing entity in the world. (Tip try DuckDuckGo.com and see if your searches do not become less interfered with in spades. I have not found a substitute for Google Map since it killed Microsoft Streets and Trips. (Which in turn swallowed Map Quest)

    Damn this Kindle! Anyone know how to turn off the algorithm that keeps attempting to change my words?
    R Lee Smith

  19. Risa Aratyr February 11, 2019 @ 2:24 pm

    I am over-the-top impressed with how you and Wen engage with the faceless algorithms and virtual megaliths, messing up their systems!
    As for Google, yeah, pretty dang insidious, but surely they must vie with FB and Amazon for top honors in the Insidious category. Amazon Prime is case in point. I use it all the time, too – piggybacking on my daughter’s account, actually. I try not to, because I know they are an amoral company that works its people like slaves and monopolizes commerce by ruthless means (brilliant segment on Amazon addiction and the Amazon business model HERE). But how can normal people afford to ignore the better prices, free 2-day shipping, and virtually limitless selection??

  20. Eleanor February 10, 2019 @ 7:32 pm

    I have never been an avid face booker, just feels like too much effort to shift through all the BS to get to any of those nice moments like you mentioned about your travel friend. I try to check it out about once a quarter and overtime, kind of wish I had not…

    the insidious stuff is kind of creepy for sure…

    Today I heard a discuss on the radio about the “evils” of Facebook and the question of whether zuckerburg is doing it on purpose (the evil mastermind theory) or just gotten in over his head but can’t walk away from the billions and the users who still are loyal (the megalomanic theory)

    on thing I ca’t understand is why there is no discussion about the responsibility of the users in all this….anyone who get their news on Facebook is naive at best, anyone who believes almost anything they read on Facebook, except those posts from friends about going to disneyland with the kids is not being very discerning and telling everything about yourself for anyone to see seems like it can only come back to bite you…

    my thought, all statement on Facebook should be “I” statements, I don’t mind hearing what you and your family did today (i.e. went on vacation to hawaii..pics included) or hearing what reaction someone has to something, or what they thought they heard in so in so’s speech, what their experience was at a March or a political event….might be interesting and informative…but beyond that… I am definitely not interested… and I am likely not to believe it.

    So maybe I will at Facebook again in the next few months, maybe I won’t…certainly not a priority

  21. Risa Aratyr February 11, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

    I have always found your lack of FB presence admirable, Eleanor. I’m mostly with you on your FB take – but I will devil’s advocate a bit on the “I” statements and on the news front.
    Telling FB where we went on vacation, what we ate today, what shoes we tried on, what events we attended — that’s EXACTLY the personal information I think we should be withholding. The fact that FB is spying on me when I give you the skinny on what I did in Hawaii, that’s the creepy bit. It provides them more data on me to sell and triggers an avalanche of ads from airlines, travel agencies, rent-a-cars, and swimsuit shops in my feed. Sharing what we do on a daily basis is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing on FB, to my mind.
    As for news, I used to get a fair portion of mine from FB. Friends would share links to interesting articles; when I came across worthy pieces, I’d do the same. The articles were almost exclusively tidbits from neutral media sources like Reuters and AP or from skewed-slightly-left-but-still-printing-facts outlets like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and NPR. I don’t see a problem with friends steering friends to well-written, timely pieces on an important or fascinating topic. The problem is that FB notes what we read, so we end up with feeds full of articles that limit, rather than expand, our perspectives. For me, it’s FB’s calculated news slant that’s the problem.

  22. R Lee Smith February 11, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

    The question that tugges at my Consciousness and now nags my Conscience is how can “ordinary” people afford the better prices, etc. etc.? In reality all the 2 day shipping, etc, etc. does is tickle the so-called “bargain” lobes of my brain.

    I am nearly ordinary and financially fortunate but I know for a fact that I would not spend a quarter of the money I do on books, wood carving tools, music, etc. The fact is evidenced by the amount of books and music I have spent on Prime. A year ago I recognized that I will have lived a very long life indeed if I am blessed by living to read and listen to it all. Yet I still do it. The old description of insanity being “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” id shoe that fits.:=)

    If it were not for the illusion that I am saving money by spending more than I save, I would live up to my self image of being conservative. This conversation has made me kick myself into admitting that it’s by my choice and my choice alone.

    Since I understand addiction from the long ago past of drug, alcohol and smoking abuse it is clear that when it comes to Internet abuse I AM a participant, NOT a victim. Notice that I used “I” and not “you” or “they”. I know I must identify and face my demons in order to combat them. As Pogo said to Albert “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”

  23. Risa Aratyr February 20, 2019 @ 2:17 pm

    I’ve been paying attention to my Amazon buying habits since reading your last comment, just to check my addiction level. Clearly I am not their demographic. I hate shopping, only do it out of necessity. I especially hate shopping Amazon; the fact that Amazon almost always tops online searches for a product exacerbates my antipathy towards them. If a smaller business has the same item for a similar price, I’ll go for the small biz deal. Sadly, the entire Amazon business model is based on pricing small businesses out of existence and exploiting the genetically-coded delight humans take in a bargain. I have my addictions – oh my yes – and a plethora of guilty pleasures, but for whatever reason, Amazon is not one of them.

  24. Anonymous February 22, 2019 @ 8:34 am

    That’s pretty funny. (As in strange) I have been monitoring my book buying urges since writing the comment. In shopping for a few “HAVE TO HAVE” books and resisting th use of the instant purchase button on my Prime account a number of times produced a surge of pleasant sensations I have finally deduced to be something like self respect. I guess confession IS good for the soul:=)

    I am not ready to smugly claim spiritual elevation yet as I purchased the books anyway. I bought them from my favorite used book store. It is a hundred miles away and the postponed instant gratification gland effect on my pleasure center was throbbing with anxiety. I called the store to see if they had copies in stock and if the could ship them to me. The books arrived 3 days later and the charge was about half of the Amazon cost. (I had forgotten my account with several hundred dollars credit for books brought in.)

    From an addicted person’s perspective I guess the above experience could be compared with purchasing one’s drugs from a non profit pusher who donates a portion of his profits to Doctors Without Borders.
    R. Lee Smith

Facebook Farewell

Write-Minded Comments (24)

It was a love-hate relationship from the start.

“Social” means fun for most folks. For folks like me, “social” means stressful. Introverts tend to find the very idea of socializing online somewhat to very off-putting.

When wonky pre-social networks (AOL profiles, Classmates.com) gave way to genuine social networks (Friendster, MySpace), I gave them a pass. Well, full disclosure, my daughter helped me set up a profile on MySpace, but I never went there, and I’m quite sure nobody else did either.

The early birds on the scene had only a couple of good years before the social-media raptors swooped down and snatched them out of the ether. In 2006, Facebook became available to the general public. Virtual moments later, MySpace was passé and Facebook was the place to be.

Resounding numbers of my peers were suspicious of the web and incompetent when it came to navigating it. Boomers baffled by VCRs and email were not the first to flock to Facebook. Those to whom the Boomers turned to program their VCRs and set up their email accounts – their Gen-X and Millennial children and grandchildren who had grown up or were growing up with computers, mobiles, and video games – were on Facebook before their elders even knew it was a thing.

I was 53 years old when FB went public, working as a stage manager in the San Francisco Bay Area. While many 50/60-somethings could disdain to buy into modern trends or dabble in them at their leisure, I was in a field where keeping abreast of developments in communications was mandatory. To stay employable, I’d already had to upgrade my phone to one that could send and receive texts, get a laptop to use in the rehearsal room, and master the mysteries of email.  With the advent of Facebook, it was clear I needed to hone my social-media skills in order to connect with my casts, crews, and production teams and monitor their show-biz posts.

Initially, my experience with Facebook was centered on figuring out how to protect playwrights’ and designers’ creative property rights on a platform where anybody and everybody could upload images and videos any old time. Most of my colleagues were younger than me, and so were networking online ages before I reluctantly joined them. My production managers heaved a sigh of relief when I finally got with the program. I heaved a sigh of relief as the PMs got off my back. It’s just part of the job, I reassured myself. No biggie.

Ah, but I was on Facebook anyway, right? So I friended my kids.

Notice friended above? Look up “friend” in a modern dictionary, scroll down to the verb bit (I assume you’re doing this online), and you’ll find two entries. The first usage is “rare”: to befriend. The second is more common: to add someone to a list of contacts on social media. The New Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2009 was “unfriend”, defined as to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook. Three years in, and FB friending had already entered the official lexicon.

Some users are super-invested in the friend thing. A while ago I clicked “accept” on a friend invitation only to be informed that the guy who had sent it had reached FB’s limit – of 5,000 contacts (!) – and had no room for me. I don’t send many friend-requests and don’t accept all invites, yet I’ve managed to accumulate 288 contacts. Seems a lot for a reclusive gal.

Right, so my kids were my first two Facebook friends. The perks were immediate and seductive.

It’s easy for parents to lose track of what their adult children are up to, especially if those children live far away. We can demand weekly calls, I suppose . . . but imposing parental demands on people who are finally free of parental rule is more likely to breed resentment than create connection, and I imagine the resulting conversations are as pointless as asking teenagers about their day at school.

With my kids as FB friends, I just had to log in to see that my son had hit the beach with his mates on a blustery day and read an insightful article my daughter had found on body positivity. No demands, no impositions, no prying – not really. It was something they had posted with intention to share, and they had agreed to share it with me. I liked how that worked. I liked what they posted. I “liked” their posts.

She likes that, FB’s algorithms observed. Give her more of the same. And find her more friends.

Facebook’s mission statement (taken from FB’s Facebook page) is as altruistic, idealistic, and noble as a mission could be: give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.  Wow. What’s not to like?

I have no objections to Facebook’s “official” purpose of making the world more open and connected. In fact, their revised mission statement, written after the info-leaks about their personal-data sales, states FB is there to help people stay connected with friends and family, discover what’s going on in the world and share and express what matters to them.

Thing is, Facebook kinda delivers on its advertised goals. I’m a crap correspondent. Before social media, I lost touch with people all the time. Those I retained, I retained tenuously, via an annual holiday card. No yearly recap with my cards, either; just a wave and well wishes. Aside from an exceptional few, primarily super-long distance friends, my “contacts” lived in the vicinity and were good at calling and dropping by. I am not a social animal, I may have mentioned?

Whether or not my feelings had any basis in fact, Facebook made me feel more connected to folks I care about. As my list of contacts expanded, I got to see how my cousins were faring, got to peek at my colleagues’ gigs and productions, got to marvel at my friends’ creative projects.

Every once in a while, FB enabled a connection that truly thrilled. When I got a 30+-years-later message from Susan Bradley asking if I was the same Risa who had toured Mont St. Michel and hitch-hiked bits of Northern Europe with her back in the day, I was beside myself with excitement. Though we haven’t yet managed an in-person reunion, Sue welcomed my son to her home with open arms when he made his solo trip to Australia and showed him the best time ever. A lost friend found, a treasured connection re-established . . . gotta admit, FB, that was well done.

Susan, 1978 – I’m behind the camera

Facebook is my link to this marvelous woman and to so many others – old HS buds, erstwhile kung fu brothers and sisters, pagan pals from our time in LA, travellers I met on the road and instantly adored, friends-of-friends I clicked with online, beloved former students, people who have moved on, moved away, or who I just don’t get to hang with enough. Facebook lets me see my nephews in Virginia setting off for the first day of a new school year, listen to the bass lines Hauk is getting down, play word games with fellow punsters, vie with my associates on the Grammar Police Force to find the most egregious misuse of our native tongue, talk EPL with Blair, and take vicarious holidays all over the world.

Ah, but that’s not all . . . and aye, there’s the rub. There’s the “discover what’s going on in the world and share and express what matters to them” part of the Facebook equation.

Even if FB did enable me to stay in touch with everyone I know and love (spoiler: it doesn’t), catching up with my entire social network isn’t something I need to do on a daily basis and certainly not something that necessitates multiple daily log-ins. What spurred me – what spurs us to open the app every damn day is the endorphin rush we get from the cool/uncool things that show up on our feeds. Phenomenal performances, breaking news, brilliant cartoons, insightful articles, compelling images, uplifting quotes, political commentary, horrifying tales, heartwarming stories . . . all that juicy click-bait.

While some of us see far more cat videos and breakfasts than we care to (I’d say zero is good number), Facebook’s famed algorithms ensure the bulk of our feed is stuff we do care about. When FB swapped out the thumbs-up “like” for an assortment of emotional response icons,

credit: Digital Resource – June 3, 2016

it was to give us a way to express ourselves more precisely, yes – but only because Facebook was keen to have more precise data on us to sell to their true clients. Too right, FB’s mission is to help us “share and express what matters” to us, because the more we share, the bigger targets we make. Because collecting and selling our likes, loves, laughs, wows, tears, and anger is what Facebook is all about.

For years I’ve shrugged off the insidiousness data-collection aspect of the FB experience on the premise that the Illuminati have access to that info anyway. Every time I get cash from an ATM, charge my credit card, browse the web, shop through Amazon, comment online, email someone, or speak within 100m of my phone, ‘bots in the service of virulent capitalism and authoritarian world domination are taking note and applying what I do and say to update the tailor-made ad-bombardment programs they design for me.

While I’m not as avid a Facebook user as some, I do give it plenty of data to sell. When a friend creates a professional FB page, I “like” it, in support of their endeavors. When I am invited to thumbs-up a page or join a group that taps my sense of humor, love of nature, occupation, sports interests, physical/metaphysical inclinations, roots, ambitions, predilection for languages, or desire to be entertained, I usually accept.

FB’s phenomenal success (sitting pretty on 2.23 billion active users monthly; read the full report HERE) makes it a – and sometimes the – primary communications hub for myriad real-world events and causes, from demo releases to demonstrations, birthday parties to the Green Party, the Girl Scouts to boycotts. When issues arise, social media acts as a town hall for airing views, a community kiosk for posting updates, alerts, and announcements, and sometimes the only way news and info can escape the media blackouts of oppressive regimes. No denying these services are valuable, even critical during emergencies or disasters.

I never shared anything deeply personal on my Facebook timeline and, until recently, rarely shared anything political. I posted killer jokes, remarkable vintage footage, innovative performances, images of earth and the cosmos, scientific discoveries, and perspectives on the arts.

All that changed when malicious Republicans, uncompromising Democrats, and listless legions of non-voters gave the go-ahead to racism, sexism, and xenophobia, turned the nation over to the oligarchs, and put a petty, puerile, pea-brained pervert in the White House. After that, posting non-political items felt irrelevant and irresponsible. As the democracy-destroying bombshells began dropping all around us, my timeline took a hard turn to the Left. I didn’t simply “like”/join a plethora of political pages/groups. I helped launch the SVAC/CAVS group (Sonoma Valley Action Coalition/La Coalición en acción del Valle de Sonoma) and am one of its managers.

Along with taking to the streets, making phone calls to government reps and agencies, writing emails and letters, and donating to worthy causes and organizations, I thought we could – and should – use Facebook to build a community of resistance; to spread the word on urgent issues, share opportunities for political action, get people woke, and provide assistance where help was most needed.

Alarm bells began sounding almost at once. Check your sources, don’t propagate fake news, be vigilant against propagandists, beware of hackers manipulating your feed . . .

Though policing news agencies and other informational media is not a task for which I am remotely qualified, I did my diligent best to post just the facts, ma’am. Bogus “news” occasionally snuck by me, nonetheless. I deleted it each time, apologized profusely, but kept posting, because Puerto Rico, walls, Muslim bans, tax bills, living-while-Black, pipelines, baby jails, Supreme Court nominees, de-regulation, and white terrorism never gave it a rest.

I thought I was doing my part, keeping friends informed. My lizard brain was too flooded with fury for me to realize I was in a vicious cycle of FB’s making. I didn’t understand that I was seeing posts that outraged and horrified me because Facebook’s true mission is to divide the world into outraged and horrified factions that can be easily controlled by the most ruthless and corrupt political/commercial powers on the planet.

While the breadth and depth of the corruption has not been revealed (and likely never will be), we know beyond question that Facebook is ruthlessly and unapologetically unethical, untruthful, and greedy. FB’s platitudinous “build community and bring the world closer together” is simply slogan subterfuge, on a par with the ubiquitous “make the world a better place”. Better for whom? As Maria Ferrell aptly noted in her piece published by Medium,

Facebook knew long before 2016 that “giv(ing) people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” only makes sense if you think “community” means herding people into ever-smaller filter bubbles to be data-stripped and manipulated. Sure, the company sometimes rolls back abuses or goes on apology tours, but it cannot stop doing what it does, fulfilling its fundamental drive to herd and strip, herd and strip.

In a much abbreviated form, all the social media pluses listed above were my excuses for sticking with FB and putting up with its abuse of my privacy. Unless we all leave en masse, I’d tell my friends . . . (I’d tell my Facebook friends . . . on Facebook . . . yeah, no irony there . . .), unless we all switch to MeWe or another network that is, or at least claims to be, spybot-free, I’ll fall out of all sorts of loops I like being in. I’ll lose track of what’s up with my friends and family. I’ll become informationally impoverished. And I’ll lose my platform for urging my 288 contacts to political action.

Despite everything I knew about FB, I would have kept logging-in for those pleasure/pain prods forever, if not for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

credit: NAACP

Just last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that conclusively proved a Russian disinformation campaign had targeted African-American Facebook users in order to suppress their votes and hand dumb-ass Don the election. In response, the NAACP called for a weeklong FB boycott. Seemed appropriate to me. I posted the boycott info, logged-out, didn’t log-in again for a week.

And I didn’t miss it. Didn’t miss the good stuff, because I didn’t know what I was missing. Didn’t miss the anxiety-provoking, gut-wrenching stuff, because life was sweeter without it.

A week stretched to two. Two edged into three. I debated making my personal boycott permanent . . . then something happened that clinched the deal.

I was sitting with my daughter at her dining table, chatting. Bryn asked her nearby Alexa-device for the time. Alexa apparently didn’t hear, because Alexa didn’t answer. Yet, moments later, Alexa clearly heard me mention a study that showed dancing was the superior way to stave off dementia, because when I logged in that night – opening the FB app for the first time in weeks to check out an article my daughter had posted – the ad space was chock-full of mature couples dancing and captions that read, “Do You Want to Dance for your Mental Health?” “Sign up for Seniors Dance Classes with One Easy Click!”

True, that was as much an Alexa thing as a Facebook thing, but it put me over the edge. Big Brother listening in on every conversation and phone call, reading my texts and emails, scanning my blog to refine my marketing profile . . . it’s too creepy.

“Just gotta find the balance between privacy and convenience,” a guy told me the other day. His point was that the convenience outweighs the invasion. I used to tout that same line, but for me, the balance has shifted. I know I can’t escape the Matrix, but I’m tired of being complicit in Facebook’s agenda, tired of imagining I’m immune to manipulation by foreign and domestic social media ‘bots and hackers, tired of handing my personal data to FB’s masters on a silver platter.

I’m not deleting my profile. I’ll even log-in now and then, maybe “like” a few things to let my friends l know I’m willing to sacrifice some privacy to stay in touch. But if you really want to stay in touch, call/text/email me, or find me through my website or the Neither Here Nor There blog site.

Because I’m through with FB. I’m over it. We’re done.

And we’re not still friends.

Risa Aratyr @ January 29, 2019

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