Living in Society

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Sumac on the state park trail, Oct. 5, 2021.

Most everyone was affected by the six-hour outage of Facebook on Monday, Oct. 4. Being offline with the social media network had limited impact on my daily life, although globally, many people rely on WhatsApp which was also down along with Instagram.

I discovered the outage while logging in to read the Facebook pages of school board candidates. The research was not critical so I worked on something else when I couldn’t get in. Like with any interruption, it was hard to get back to the project even when Facebook returned.

When former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower Frances Haugen was testifying before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Tuesday, it got wall-to-wall media coverage. For someone plugged into the internet like I often am, it could not be ignored. By the end of the day, Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg had responded to the proceedings on his social media site. The endgame here is two things. When billions of people participate in an online social media platform there will be problems. Facebook and other social media applications should be regulated more than they are. Now it’s time for the Congress to do their work.

I joined Facebook in March 2008, the spring after our daughter graduated from college. It was a way to stay in touch. Over the years Facebook was eclipsed in our relationship by other social media apps and today I gain insight on Twitch, and to some extent Tik Tok. The migration of the millennial generation from Facebook has to be bad for the company’s bottom line.

I don’t use WhatsApp. I make a post on Instagram every day or two and cross post it to Facebook. My time on Facebook is reading notifications, wishing friends a happy birthday, being admin for two private groups (high school classmates and neighbors), and posting selected writing from this blog. I store some information on the platform yet my main biographical information is on LinkedIn. Facebook serves a function in my life yet could easily be replaced.

We hear about advertising on Facebook a lot. I don’t recall seeing many ads, and that’s likely because I rarely scroll my time line and when I do, my ad settings are to show me the most generic types of ads selected by the platform based on demographics they know. I get a lot of ads about medicines, the names of which I can’t pronounce. They are easily dismissed without reading. I am not looking to buy something when on Facebook so I pay little attention to ads.

My visits to Facebook are brief and with purpose. I save my scrolling time for Twitter where I maintain lists of users in whom I have interest. Facebook decided what posts I should see and occasionally I see something that is of genuine interest. Not often, though. Not often enough to spend much time there.

I’m agnostic about Facebook and its related companies. I use the application when it brings value. Otherwise I don’t open it and don’t have it installed on my mobile device. When there is a hiccup on the internet we all hear it. With time, it becomes part of the background noise and out of sight. I’m okay with that.