I'm sitting here chuckling because of course the title is in jest, but Facebook has been having a rough go of it lately. Not financially, mind you, where they've been absolutely killing it. I'm talking about in the media and political sphere, where roughly half the country (well, half + 2.6 million if we're being accurate) blames the social media giant at least in part for the outcome of the 2016 election. You can't go a whole day lately without hearing or reading about fake news, and since Facebook is the amplifier of choice for your average American they're catching a lot of heat.
But this isn't about the election (God knows we've discussed that ad nauseum). This is more about Facebook's role in society, its role in your life, and an exploration of how a company with a free product does $25 billion a year in revenues.
71% of the adult population online uses Facebook. And they use it a lot. At last count, Facebook boasted 1.8 billion monthly active users. But that's not the scandal. Of those 1.8 billion, nearly 1.2 billion are DAILY active users. That means they're logging on every single day. And they're spending an average of 40 minutes per day on the site, which would be shocking enough until you consider that the average family only spends 36 minutes a day together. One in five pageviews in the United States happens on Facebook.
Clearly Facebook has a stranglehold on the market. And I get it; it's sticky as shit. Every time I think I'm going to quit altogether, I remember all the different accounts I use Facebook to log into and what a hassle it'll be to start over from scratch with all that crap. Plus there's the whole creepy factor to not being on Facebook. Don't give me that look; you know you think it's weird when someone doesn't have a Facebook account.
One thing this recent election has taught us all is how powerful the echo chamber is. If my feed is any indication, the people who are middle-of-the-road have nothing to say. All I saw for the better part of a year were extreme views (on both sides). And I'm not convinced that's organic. I think Facebook is juicing a lot of stuff for views, and tailoring the experience to drive advertising. And I don't mean that in a simplistic way (like, no shit Sherlock, of course it's about advertising). I'm talking about taking it to a truly diabolical level.
On some level we're all aware that whenever we get something for free that we're the product. But we've reached a point where we really have to start thinking about how much we're giving away. We've all heard thoughtlessly posted on social media went on to blow their whole life up. That's not the only trap, though. By dialing in the algorithms to a ridiculous degree, Facebook can guarantee that you only see things that appeal to you, and that leads to a pretty distorted world view.about something someone
So I'm curious. How concerned are you that you've basically given a metric shitton of personal data to a company you don't know anything about (aside from what you read in the news)? Have you or anyone you know actually successfully quit Facebook? If so, what is it like when you get asked why you don't have an account (I'm assuming employers sort of expect it these days)? Do you think Facebook influenced the election? Could it ever be trusted as a viable news platform? What do you think of the efforts to blacklist "fake" news sites?
Facebook has been with us for a decade now, and no single other company in the history of mankind has had their impact in such a short period of time. Zuck and Co clearly caught us all napping, and now we've given away the ranch. Facebook has been responsible for some really sketchy shit, both on and off the site. Are we better off with Facebook, or would we have been better off if the Winklevi had driven a Ferrari over Zuckerberg?
I'm looking at the world around me and I really have to wonder. Of course, without Facebook we'd never have epic Facebook pranks like this one.