© 2016 by DOC WHITE

November 22, 2017

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Why I'm Leaving Facebook

November 22, 2017

Facebook used to be a useful tool for musicians and other arty types to get in front of potential fans. It was also a good way to hook up with old friends, distant family and like-minded, fellow travellers.

Unfortunately, as the investigation into Russian meddling into the US election has shown, it has become a tool for misinformation and disinformation and, more disappointingly, an echo chamber for folks with entrenched views..........like me.

Despite its promise of democratising information and providing instant communication (with pictures and movies, no less) it has turned, like the Summer of Love, a worthy social goal into a money-making scam run by conservative ideologues and control-freaks.

The flow of information needs gate-keepers we can trust and that means people with training and expertise who can smell a rat and hunt down facts. Trump and other regime leaders know instinctively that discrediting proper news provides them with endless opportunity to make mischief and substitute fiction for fact, happenstance for history and malice for meaning. Facebook and Twitter and a host of other social media platforms have aided and abetted this behaviour by simply not caring enough to do anything.

It is the want of tech companies to have apps and algorithms do our work for us so we will be able to live better, more useful lives. And indeed, sometimes they manage to do just that. But there is a disturbing trend in all forms of tech to actually take humans out of the equation. Apparently we are too capricious, erratic and unreliable, so much so that we have invented algorithms to invent algorithms to make code more pure and presumably even more immune to the fuck-up that is human error.

Facebook algorithms are the gatekeepers for the information flow on its platform and apparently it is completely uninterested in facts or nuance and able to smell a rat. It is well trained to hunt down and eliminate pictures of babies being breast-fed, a natural and desirable human activity, but will allow photos of headless corpses, a very much less desirable human activity. The algorithm has no training in newsworthiness nor is it able to sort out fact from opinion (or bombast, for that matter). Some people defend this under the guise of citizen journalism whereby anyone with an iPhone and a lower primary school literacy level can fashion a story by virtue of being somewhere when something happens. Sense of place, purpose, context and human interest are all sacrificed in the name of immediacy. Being Johnny-on-the-spot is good, going viral is excellent. If the algorithm likes your stuff, your 15 minutes of fame awaits. Endless titillation is the goal because that generates "likes" and "likes" can be turned into dollars. Fortunately for the shareholders of Facebook, the content cost is next to nothing and the revenue generated is substantial.

I like some of the people I've met on Facebook but, and not to put it too bluntly, others I would not piss on if they were on fire. There is no shortage of bad or dumb ideas on Facebook and no shortage of bad or dumb people to circulate them. The algorithm pays no attention to either . It is as indifferent to callousness and calumny as it is to irrational thought and bad grammar. But this flawed, slightly fucked-up human being cares about how we treat one another and the power of well-organised words and ideas. So, for the most part, I return to pen and paper to organise my thoughts and record my day's activities and only when I have something useful to say will I stick it on my blog and invite discussion. Bye for now.

 

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