HART: With ‘friends’ like Facebook….
Facebook has endured. I thought the social networking phenomenon would have slowed down after everyone got to look at that sandwich I had for lunch or the family pictures from Dollywood I posted last year. But I was wrong. Perhaps I will post pictures from my upcoming trip to Euro-Dollywood, which I think is in Louisiana.
Facebook is more compelling than intrusive — so far. It gives everyone another chance to sleep with that person he or she knew in high school. How did we survive for so many years without it, not knowing who was feeling “truly blessed” each day, and why?
But now there are revelations that Facebook has been monkeying with us. We are the monkeys in their psychological experiments (on 700,000 unwitting users) about whether positive or negative things posted on the site evoke certain emotions. Like the Edward Snowden news, the U.S. media did not find out about these “mood manipulation” studies, nor did our government. The Financial Times in Europe broke the story.
The European authorities who discovered the experiment said they could levy a fine of up to 500,000 pounds on Facebook. With a market capitalization of $170 billion, Facebook responded, “500k pounds? That’s adorable.”
Privacy has somehow become an antiquated notion. Facebook and the Internet have ushered in an age George Orwell warned us of in 1984. We are willing, even anxious, to put things our parents’ generation would never tell anyone right on our Facebook page for all the world to see.
Technology is marvelous, but it can be used for good or bad. Here in Florida, members of Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity were busted for posting naked pictures of co-eds on Facebook. Back in my day, we had to take a Polaroid picture of our naked girls, shake it for 10 seconds, then show it to our buddies one at a time. It was labor intensive.
Facebook has even become an important conduit for political actions. It hastened the Arab Spring. Obama used it well to spin his weak campaign message. Liberals love Facebook; they use social media to manipulate people of unreasoned emotions to vote for Democrats. They kill the GOP in this Svengali area. I think Romney’s campaign only had a MySpace page.
Occupy Wall Street protestors used free, capitalist-created Facebook, Apple iPhone apps, Google and Twitter to organize themselves against capitalism. They loitered in parks spewing their message that life is so difficult because of capitalism, and they were willing to use every free, work-saving invention it produced to prove it.
The Internet has been very positive. It has opened up the world to the flow of ideas, more information, and freer markets, primarily because government has not been very involved. But one of the casualties has been personal privacy. Either we accept this, or opt out.
We have a climate of unwarranted privacy invasions by our government. With the NSA spying on you, would you rather government or business have your personal information? Government will use it to tax you, harass you, destroy your reputation and send you to prison. Business will just send you coupons to buy those shoes you were looking at on Google.
In reality, I am not sure how accurate the information Facebook gets really is. When someone posts that he graduated from Yale, rarely does he mention that it was a locksmith training program.
A lot of deception surrounds the Internet and Facebook. We all have real friends and then we have “Facebook friends.” Post that you need a ride to the airport at rush hour and see who will drive you. Those are your real friends.
Founder Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook under a cloud of deception. He settled with the Winklevoss twins by giving them 40 acres of Farmville land and a mule. He married a girl I think he stole from one of the Winklevoss brothers. He is maturing; he wears more formal hoodies now. Maybe he will rethink his legacy. To remain a viable business, he has to be trusted.
MySpace blew up Friendster. Facebook killed MySpace after Zuckerberg lifted the idea from Harvard friends. Google spies on us and gives our information to the Feds. Twitter and Yik Yak trash talk users. At some point, social media needs to realize that it doesn’t grasp the concept of what a “friend” really is.
Ron Hart is a syndicated op-ed humorist, author and TV/radio commentator. Email Ron@RonaldHart.com or at visit RonaldHart.com.