The different ways people look at Facebook

JoeAm

Without question, Facebook has reshaped the way Filipinos act and think and the entire character of the nation. It was the platform that the Duterte armies militarized to get their idol elected and protected. It allowed the dissemination of lies, manipulations, and deceits as mainstream content. It also allowed the building of communities, for good and for bad.

Honest and honorable people wonder why Facebook does not clean up its platform so that it is wholesome rather than destructive, truthful rather than deceitful, and friendly rather than angry. Facebook has dragged its heels without guilt or humility, and only lately started kicking out fake news. It did this because US government agents came calling and said they expected Facebook not to be a medium that foreign agents are free to manipulate. So Facebook has set up a war-room and begun to take down bot-sites. It is not a hunt for trolls or deceit, just the removal of fake and bot-driven content.

What is Facebook’s purpose for existing, do we think?

Well, that’s a huge part of the problem because different people look at the platform differently.

  • Facebook sees its user base as a platform for advertising, to make big money. The more it can get people to build friendships and actively participate, the bigger the audience delivered to advertisers, and the more intelligence the advertising people can gather for pinpointing ads that resonate. In short, Facebook is a giant technology company in the business of making profits via advertising. (Never mind that they peddle private information to do it. They disclose it in incomprehensible user agreements, so they are home free.)
  • Advertisers, political candidates, and blog-writers see the large user base as a market to sell or push into. So it is a medium for presentation of their messages, a partner to radio, television, and print media. They think Facebook is genius.
  • Officials for governments like the Philippines use Facebook as an important part of their propaganda initiative, doing the brainwashing and information-shaping that keeps the principals powerful and rich. Truth and facts are not so important. They love Facebook, as it is. Well, except for the removal of the fake sites that promoted their interests. They don’t like that.
  • Some governments or government agencies use the platform to fulfill their service mandate. They can provide an information library or issue storm warnings or conduct other helpful public service initiatives. Facebook is convenient.
  • The account-holders who have friends use the platform in different ways:
    • Some keep it private and within the family. Facebook permits more frequent and rich engagements than if they had to write letters or telephone one another. It is a personal network.
    • Others use it to reach out to other people and institutions for information, humor, insights, political expression, and an unlimited range of topics for exploration. It is “news, gossip, and analysis” on the fly.
    • Some join groups that advocate for political candidates, create communities of like interest (mountain climbing clubs, for instance), or form self-help collectives.

Most account-holders take the good with the bad and only complain if Facebook helps deliver a dictator when they wanted democracy. Otherwise, it is what it is, a useful, amusing, occasionally irritating tool.

I suspect the two most difficult challenges for Facebook are:

  • Sorting out free speech from malicious content. They’d rather not have to make such decisions, which is why to this point the public dialogue has been a free-for all, insults and threats included. Now the pressure is building to clean the place up, but it is hard to do that without constraining someone’s idea of free speech. Facebook does not want to actively edit content. They are not morality police.
  • Allowing or blocking governments that employ Facebook maliciously. Mocha Uson is a perfect example. She peddles deceits, insults, and propaganda but is an integral part of the official government mechanism for information management. Facebook does not want to go against governments because it is outside their jurisdiction. They are not the United Nations or ICC.

The final point to be made is that Facebook has changed our social and emotional behaviors. Attention spans are shorter, content is shallower and more emotionalized, hostility is on the rise, and some people are finding they read and learn a lot less because of gaming and social media distractions. Some families are starting to restrict or ban cell phones for their sons and daughters who are in school. They see how kids are choosing thrills over knowledge.

So what do we conclude?

Facebook is an active medium that has changed politics and social and emotional behaviors of Filipinos. There is less truth in public discourse. There is more information and more emotion, but less knowledge. Thinking is simplistic and tends to be hardheaded and outspoken rather than flexible and receptive. The “like” emotional kicker is addictive.

Well, that’s the way it seems to me. I’ve read a few reports about it and observed the environment into which I offer blog articles and take up discussions. More research is being done on the unwholesome aspect of the medium (Newsweek article).

All in all, Facebook is neutral, it seems to me. Neither good nor bad. It is commerce, it is convenient and rich with expression and quick-hit information. But it is used badly.

Although Facebook can and should remove clearly manufactured and fake accounts, I believe it is unreasonable to expect staff to edit content to remove what some would consider offensive material. Personal threats, yes. Shut them down. But name-calling or fallacious arguments or fake facts?

That’s on us, not Facebook.

Every television set has an off switch and every computer is easily clicked to new content.

We should expect schools to teach values, and responsible social media engagement. Just like sex education.

Facebook should not have to do that job for us.

Now as for a government that publishes and promotes false and malicious comments and ‘news’ . . . it seems to me the GOAL should be, no matter how difficult, to shut down that gross abuse of the public trust.

 

Comments
47 Responses to “The different ways people look at Facebook”
  1. I think every form of social or internet media is different. Facebook was originally supposed to be for sharing photos and comments, like a dynamic yearbook. It isn’t really that good for discussing topics, which is the strength of WordPress, for example.

    In Twitter it is easier (due to retwitter) to form like-minded groups, but harder to troll than on Facebook. What I don’t get is how Bolsonaro in Brazil managed to weaponize the chat application WhatsApp, but I guess there is a strategy for weaponizing any medium.

    The invention of movable-type printing by Gutenberg caused a spate of fake news in Germany, people just published all kinds of pamphlets. Lügen wie gedruckt or lying like printed is still an expression in Germany today. Orson Welles made a radio show about an alien invasion that many people believed – and some years later Hitler and Goebbels used the radio for their propaganda. Every new medium is I guess weaponized at first, then people develop a sense of what is true and what isn’t and it gets harder to misuse the medium. Next front might well be AI and VR videos.

  2. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Thanks, Joe! this is a sober account. Much depends on the individual: we need to be more discerning. Much depends too on the country’s school system: our teachers (like our parents) shape a people’s future.

  3. edgar lores says:

    *******
    1. Before the 2016 elections, my access to FB was minimal and infrequent. My usage was to get updated on family events. Even so, I rarely commented.

    2. Since then — heaven help me! — I am a regular daily visitor. I log in in the morning to get updated on the latest Dutertian antics and to upvote reformist reactions, putdowns, and insights. And, in the course of the day, I may log in several times.

    3. At my age, FB is the perfect nostrum to stir my blood and get me up and running.

    o Nostrum (noun) “a medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine.”

    3.1. As it happens in the morning, I take FB with my cocktail of pills (for the ills that plague old age). And, depending on the mercy of the gods, FB — despite my usage of the term “nostrum” — shapes my mood, which may change from one post to the next. Delight at one, despair at the next.

    4. There must be a toll to our emotional and mental health to these frequent mercurial changes. To be sure, there are valuable insights to be gained. Like how many friends you have. Like how some friends and relatives have very brave proposals. And so on.

    5. I often think of retreat. I often think that I will deactivate my account but, like St. Augustine, I say, “…but not yet!”

    5.1. Perhaps, after the next election.
    *****

    • Yes, those very brave proposals are a delight to behold. I’m locked out of my personal Facebook account for having messed up the forgotten password routine and I’m unwilling to bother a friend to help me unlock it. I think I have maybe 8 friends there. That I have the limit of 5,000 friends for the Blog is a thing of great perplexity.

      The Blog’s account doubles as a distribution vehicle and a discussion forum for quick perspectives. I get good ideas there often, and learn a few things. I’m more amused by trolls than offended, and am not pestered very often as my follower base is generally civil and rational. Not so brave, in the British interpretation, I suppose. 🙂 People seem to draw encouragement by having others to commiserate with.

    • NHerrera says:

      There is an oft-repeated [but probably apocryphal] quote from the economist John Maynard Keynes:

      “WHEN THE facts change, I change my mind.”

      Even if we take that to heart as a neutral advise for or against any important issue from different parties, the problem is how to conveniently filter FB for the facts that are embedded in the blah blahs. I would think that in some near future date we will have an AI assist to do that.

      I admire the TSH stalwarts for their patience and their engagement of the Facebookers.

      CAVEAT — the unbiased programming of that AI app, or its hacking or re-programming, of course, is an issue in itself.

  4. madlanglupa says:

    “Honest and honorable people wonder why Facebook does not clean up its platform so that it is wholesome rather than destructive, truthful rather than deceitful, and friendly rather than angry.”

    The apparent justification of its existence, its leadership under Zuckerberg claims to be, is to provide the means of free speech.

    However, Karl Popper begs to disagree, as the intolerant have their own cheap platform for which to spread venom and malice as they overwhelm the tolerant to the point of non-existence; to create their own system of censorship through intimidation and harassment; to create a debased form of “education” where morality is punished, immorality and ignorance are promoted; to build up villains of questionable repute into fake, shallow heroes.

    • I agree that the output is harmful in two ways. First, it changes learning patterns and contributes to a dumbing down, and emotionalizing, of people who use Facebook a lot. Second, the platform is used for what are essentially destructive purposes, as you illustrate with Popper’s view.

      Which of these do we expect FB to ‘cure” and which ought we take upon ourselves? If we believe in free speech, the first is our responsibility. Just because someone is passing out free cigarettes does not mean we have to smoke them. The second is a shared responsibility. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that FB does not really engage with people. It systematizes problems and complaints, as it must because of the volumes of users and problems, and one has to be powerful to get their attention. The US Congress largely failed at that, I think, so it is hard for the common user to get FB’s attention on abuses or other bad experiences.

      That may mean that people need to get laws in place that serve notice to FB to clean up its act or clear out of the Philippines. I don’t see that happening, so lot’s of luck.

  5. popoy says:

    I was in college once whose campus (40 m above sea level) lies on the slope of a majestical magical mountain facing a 90 square kilometer lake said to be the crater of one of the volcanoes chain doting the long Pacific rim of fire; in that college I happened to join two frats one of which names carries the Greek alphabet; so I got baptized with nuttism (shenaniganism?) of campus machismo; Popoy (I adopted here) is the neckname of a senior friend whose girl friend was the daughter of the Lady Matron of the Girl’s Dorm where one or two student residents I have to deliver flowers (while I was under indoctrination for military science 31) and where I heard panty raids had occurred; where as I was taking military science 41, other students might have seen cadets under indoctrination jogging around me while I walk the campus. Those nuttism I would say was a notch ahead in USA’s campuses where an example of a tame kind happened in Harvard that Lo and behold became FACEBOOK. It might had been FUN motive that later raked in billions of green backs; but to expect it to have nobler side effects and righteous consequences would be to lower one’s cynicism to a level of normal romanticism; it’s like a fun idea that’s an aberrant of lyrical true love sung by Johnny Cash.

    The above musings and waste of blog space came about of faulty recent memory from seeing a movie based on a true story on how Facebook became part of the elusive American Dream. It is where I also was able to post wannabe poetry. I find higher, nobler socialities are better seen and heard here in TSoH.

    • popoy says:

      The riddle of the connection is here but as distant as a black hole and as close as Mars in outer space; but who will say it’s not good music.

      • popoy says:

        hey, HEY, I ain’t saying nor even suggesting that the country and Folsom has a connection.

      • NHerrera says:

        Popoy, thanks. I love the tune and the lyrics — one of my favorite country music.

        I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
        I keep my eyes wide open all the time
        I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
        Because you’re mine, I walk the line

        I find it very, very easy to be true
        I find myself alone when each day is through
        Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
        Because you’re mine, I walk the line

        As sure as night is dark and day is light
        I keep you on my mind both day and night
        And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
        Because you’re mine, I walk the line

        You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
        You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
        For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
        Because you’re mine, I walk the line

        I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
        I keep my eyes wide open all the time
        I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
        Because you’re mine, I walk the line

  6. madlanglupa says:

    OT: This left me laughing.

  7. Francis says:

    @irineo — and to everyone

    An interesting question to consider. Why is Facebook so much more popular than Twitter among Filipinos—besides the presence of Free FB? What (if any) factors in Filipino culture and society may predispose us to prefer Facebook over Twitter?

    Which is not to say that Twitter can’t be toxic in its own right—in America, Twitter has recieved quite a bit of hate as well—but it is something that may help explain why Facebook has become such a central part of many of our lives as Filipinos…

  8. Tweeto Wakatono says:

    If you think of the said “queen” of trolling este blogging, think of this post as the “queen” of OOT:
    I have read here in TSoH that there is no TRUE EQUIVALENT in history, like what happened in Timbuktu will also happen in toto in Tabuk because history is social science, is not math science; but I daresay that historical events or epochs should be predecessor or successor events and as such, probably will be good for the health of the good earth.

    However, groupie pundits, opinion makers, cynics and prejudiced journalists should do some straight thinking when similar (ie. almost) concurrent historical events happen in parallel but not different time periods as predecessor or successor events. There could be something cooking in history when two historic leaders of a big and small nations rule at concurrent parallel times. The groupie mentioned above at times like to compare Pres Duterte with Pres Trump. A powerful piece to cogitate rarely appear in print media like the link below:

    https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/opinion-trump-won’t-be-a-loser-the-worst-is-yet-to-come/ar-BBPnDTO?ocid=spartandhp

    Clue of the riddle: the coming elections in the nations of the two leaders: HOW to stay and wield REAL political power.

    • Tweeto Wakatono says:

      More from tweeto este popoy . . .

      HISTORY is not an eche bucheche because of the blood and tears that water its life; but historic events and epochs are replete with the eche bucheches of the clueless and snoozers in an unfortunate noodle land. Think of the rights of man and the etceteras of history as narrated in the link below:

      https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-french-revolution-and-vs-russian-revolution/

      History is seldom characterized by concurrence or simultaneity.

      No, No, NO. Not at all: that there will be a revolution soon anywhere in the world. But a war? Who knows?

      • Details always differ. Broad patterns do exist though, like “revolutions eat their children”. Ask Robespierre and Trotski. Another is that revolutions often lead to new dictators, like Napoleon and Stalin.

        The final result you never really know.

        The Fall of Communism led to freedom in Eastern Europe, killing in Yugoslavia.

    • There is a parallel between today and the 1930s where authoritarians were on the rise after a major economic crisis. Insecurity from that plus changes in society made people seek false saviors. Of course every period and each country differ in all kinds of details.

      People and nations are not mathematical.

      Only some women with Daddy issues marry an abuser or become strippers. Only some battered kids become drug addicts etc. etc.

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