It’s not one guy, social media is the problem
The era that Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard knuckleheads grew up in was not unlike the various cliques and clubs many of us joined in college. We were having our first taste of freedom, but we were all so immature and drawn to the fantastical.
In college we learn a trade, develop a skill or find a dream of doing something that we not only like but that will provide a moneymaking job or career. Zuck went to an Ivy League school, and while that does not confer an official title or status it impresses many. Ivy League schools are not permitted to award athletic scholarships, but other than that they are just old schools with billions of endowments.
Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard because he had a money-making scheme based on a college website named The Facebook, which students used to vote on coed’s faces — a narcissistic dating game. It then spread to other campuses but, in the beginning, only kids with an .edu email address could participate. There were always rules, but they were rarely updated, refined or improved. Zuckerberg and his nerd patrol spent every waking hour working on engagement and popularity, and they quickly saw that Facebook was more than a college campus app for immature and emotionally needy kids of their own zeitgeist. The word “The” was dropped at the advice of an investor.
Most Facebook users will tell you it’s exciting seeing their words, pictures or videos, but true gratification comes when someone else acknowledges their post. The FB crew eventually reasoned that they needed more than a “Like” button. Zuckerberg, who appears to be empathetically deficient, came up with other buttons like “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” because people kept dying, and also “Angry,” because people kept posting terrible things. Had I been at that meeting, I would have suggested a ”Fuck You” button. Then, out of nowhere came a “Care” button. Really? What the hell is that for?
Other wannabe-Facebook social media companies scooped up and massaged this unpatentable idea and some of them, like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and, most recently, Tik-Tok, worked well and became successful. All of these companies market themselves as social networks, but they struggle to build infrastructures that are safe from skullduggery and hackers.
This might be a fun time to admit some happenings from my college days, I and a cohort committed an offense by drawing money from two different budgets to build a campus radio station. We had already purchased all the state-of-the-art broadcast hardware when we got caught and our funds were cut off. Problem was, we had great gear but no desks or chairs. So, we ran around campus taking furniture from the offices of deans we didn’t like to make our radio station a true showcase. We got our hands slapped in those carefree days, but there was no trial or jailtime. Incidentally, I left college before I graduated. Just like Zuckerberg, I wanted to get on with my career, but that is where the comparison between us ends.
Mark built an amazing communication application that has touched a wide audience. 2.8 million monthly users check in to use the system. Its only protections come from Congress, under an old set of rules that were intended to promote ideas and innovation on the internet. The First Amendment protects those social media services, perhaps more than its users. You might want to say online exactly what you feel but remember these are free platforms with “terms of service,” meaning you might have to kowtow to them. Both the former US President and yours truly have been thrown off Twitter “for life,” although the former is suing Twitter in California to get his account back. I have no intention of spending money to rejoin Twitter world.
This brings us back to Mark Zuckerberg, who has become a rich man to the tune of more than $100 billion. He’s not about to let the government break up his software development factory and network of social media companies, yet he is aware of the lack of goodwill some of the leaks have caused him personally. It seems to me that either he is not in the loop of his companies’ research or he’s a bold-faced liar. As many “pure” souls before you have already learned, after climbing far up the corporate ladder there are times when a lie is the easiest way to solve a nagging problem. It’s so unlike college where you can get away with a lot of shenanigans. When you do incredibly well in business or government and amass vast power, you may start to believe your own lies and turn your darker aspirations into real things. We saw this in our last president and now we see it in Mark.
Twitter is just as bad as Facebook. Instagram hurts people’s feelings and makes young girls think they are inferior. By the way, Facebook owns Instagram, and their own research is the source of the facts about users’ self-esteem. It’s not the work of some investigative journalist. Top-level Facebook employees have obviously turned against Zuckerberg and are now making sure Congress and the public know about the smokescreen they are hoping will protect them.
The complaint against all social media platforms is they collect your data then sell your information, political viewpoints and content of your posts. Companies pay money to the social platforms so they can learn your desires to sell you something or, most recently, convince you to vote for a person or proposition.
In the beginning, the data buyers were content with generic information about a person or group, but they eventually demanded specifics. This allowed them to see, for example, that you like or searched on golf clubs so they could then place ads for the sport on your timeline. It was a small step for the social media companies to begin selling databases of users political affiliations. This data then gets leaked to foreign entities who try to convince you that Hillary Clinton is a baby-eating Satanist. Make no mistake, data selling is not solely a Zuckerberg thing. Google does it, Microsoft does it and so do many others. Hey, you don’t have to pay for posting privileges so let the non-buyer beware.
Mark Zuckerberg is a horrible communicator. Bill Gates is extremely good at that game. Jack Dorsey, the guy who runs Twitter, gets a grade B for messaging but he looks more believable. Rich people aren’t trained to be public speakers but that doesn’t matter. When Zuckerberg goes before Congress, he knows damn well the people asking the questions have no idea what they are talking about. He can simply say we’ll make it better then thank them for inviting him. The stock value goes up, everyone feels good, but nothing of substance happens. “We would welcome regulation” is their biggest lie. Remember, when you are under oath in a hearing a lie is a lie. They would hate regulation because it would cost them tons of money to alter their algorithms and procedures at the whims of Capitol Hill.
There is probably some logic in separating social media companies so no single entity controls all those posts, pictures and political opinions, but how do you do that without screams of government intervention in capitalism? The government could claim “monopoly” to force firewalls or dissolve assets, but that could fume donors who have large stakes in the companies.
I hate to break the news to those fat mouthed losers in Congress, but social media platforms provide many remarkable things. They help solve murders, find lost kids, and create power groups of influencers who force local governments to do better. Unfortunately, there are a lot of lunatics out there who exploit the reach and power of Facebook and the other platforms to do terrible things. When someone posts that the 2020 election was rigged we know it’s a lie, but it might be an honest opinion of the author. Yet because it’s such a harmful untruth you might think someone controls how often it’s repeated, but you would be wrong.
Remember, conservatives often complain about their ilk being put in “social media jail” for something they posted, but equal numbers of far-left people have been thrown off platforms for things they said. If the conservatives get their way of a completely open platform with no oversight of content and context, they might not like what they see. How many January 6th photoshop pictures of US Senator Josh Hawley as a Nazi with a black leather glove on his raised fist will be posted before they attempt more censorship?
Freedom of speech and the press were cornerstones of America’s creation, but our founding fathers didn’t know about radio, TV or the internet. Those things hadn’t been invented yet. It’s clear to me it’s the application of the law and not the letter of the law that’s in play here. I am sure that if Congress tries to regulate social media, lawsuits will fall from the sky and no meaningful reform will take place. I understand why I was banned from Twitter for life, but Donald Trump cannot comprehend where he went wrong because he does not understand rules of any kind. He feels his opinion is infallible.
I hope that things get better and our social media pages contain only cute kids, fluffy cats, funny dogs, colorful butterflies and wonderful pictures of places to visit after we get rid of this awful coronavirus. Sadly, the likelihood of that happening is next to zero. You could replace Mark Zuckerberg with some investment banker, but nothing would be improved and things might get worse. Facebook is not a monopoly; no one needs them. When the service went down for six hours a few weeks ago, nothing collapsed and no one died. Oh, some people had trouble getting information they needed, but why are they using Facebook to gather facts? Use Google or other search engines to mine vital information.
As I was just finishing up this post, the word came out that the parent company of Facebook has changed its name to Meta. Zuckerberg is now positioning his collection of companies and apps as a “metaverse.” I guess the reputation of Facebook has become so damaged that even the mothership is distancing itself from the main product.
Mark Zuckerberg is no longer a nerdy kid in college but he’s not grown into a thinking person. He’s like a young kid who confuses sex with love. Mark’s power is extensive, almost unbelievable, but engagement is not empathy. Stats, numbers and math cannot comfort a family whose daughter committed suicide because she gave too much power to those Instagram “friends” who bullied her. I’m not sure if Mark comprehends this.
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