Facebook is a Platform for Low Information Garbage, Racism & Hate: Why I Left.

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Facebook doesn’t want to be the platform for intelligent discourse, and that’s exactly why I left it.

I first started using the platform in college, when Facebook was only availble to those with a college email. After it was rolled out to the general population, I never added a lot of people I knew I wouldn’t talk to. I kept my friends list manageable, mostly family and friends I would see often.

Then after a few years, approaching its initial public offering, Facebook began to distort the social experience. It rolled out a feature called news feed. Instead of receiving posts from your friends in chronological order, you saw what an algorithm determined was news.

At first this wasn’t too bad because most of what was considered news were topics, people and posts you probably liked seeing. It was often populated by those you interacted with often and topics/pages you “liked” on their website. It was a healthy mix between people and pages, with minimal sponsored posts. Plus you could still switch to a chronological time line that didn’t limit how far back you could scroll.

Then advertisers began to make up a larger portion of the social networks revenue. They became crucial to their profitability. Facebook repeatedly landed in hot water for privacy practices, notably data mining and the ownership of user IP, like photos.

It was around this time Facebook started to take over control. No longer was the platform content in allowing users to determine what they wanted to see. Facebook determined what Facebook wanted you to see. It even ran a social experiment showing more sad/happy posts to gauge user reaction.

Facebooks news feed functions as a tool for data analytics. 2/3rds of my news feed quickly turned to Facebook games, public pages for brands/sports teams etc, media pages, sponsored posts and maybe only 15% would actually be people I wanted to hear from.

Concurrently, Facebook launched an update to its smart phone app that limited the chronological time line and saturated that time line with sponsored posts.

Unlike Twitter where the user can create lists to track interests and those they most want to hear from, Facebook finally removed the option for users to control anything. Twitter cares about the experience its users have. Facebook does not. Whereas Twitter allows multiple apps, giving users even more options to filter content, Facebook only has its one app. Facebook wants to be in full control.

After news feed went to shit, many friends started leaving the site. I stayed, perhaps only because it was one of the few ways I could see all of my families posts, photos etc.

Then finally those posts were less and less too. I began having to manually go to people’s pages to see what they were up to. Within the past year, news feed is largely not even text. Over 90% of what you see on Facebook are inaccurate memes, stupid viral content and tabloid headlines. Whether or not a friend posted it, that’s what you would see. Also, if I liked a story on a public page, my news feed time line would quickly be consumed by all that pages posts.

Facebook does not care that it is the low information social platform. It relishes in that because the sheep who fall for bull shit memes are exactly the kinds of people Facebooks advertising partners want to buy their junk. Uninformed, easily manipulated morons — it is easy to part a fool from his/her money.

Yet in spite of all this, what ultimately put me over the edge was a new tweak to their news feed: the garbage political posts and proliferation of racism that went unpoliced.

I have recently tested a theory that Facebook shows you content you will disagree with in order to bait you into argument. Instead of seeing things you generally agree with, like in the early news feed days, Facebook wanted to find a way to keep you on the site longer. If you see a post you agree with, at most you’ll give it a like. Maybe you’ll add a comment or two. Then that’s it. Whereas if you find a post that offends you or is just totally factually inaccurate — you’re more likely to debate with the poster. The more you debate, the more you’re opening the app to check replies.

Think about why this makes sense. The more you open the app the more advertisers can learn about you, advertise to you etc.

So Facebook finds out what you are passionate about and shows you content in that subject that you are likely to disagree with. Maybe a sports team you despise, a friend supports. A political candidate or positions you disagree with in the strongest terms.

Facebook wants people arguing because it is good for their bottom line. The more outrageous the garbage content, the more divisiveness.

Recently I reported a page posting bigoted content called “Fuck Islam.” Facebook wrote back to me saying it didn’t violate their community standards. Of course it didn’t, that’s because Facebook has no moral or philosophical standards! Only greed.

At first the refusal to ban this page shocked and appalled me. However as this kind of virulent racism and bigotry became more common on their platform, I realized Facebook was fast becoming a home to the fringe political right wing – the low information voter. The fool and his money. The reactionary sheep advertisers are so desperate to court.

As higher educated people and younger people of progressive leanings fled the platform, older socially conservative people filled the gap. Facebook quickly became like an early 90s chain mail of made up stories and factually inaccurate memes meant to reinforce toxic political beliefs.

So finally I had enough. I couldn’t take the exposure to what had become a toxic right wing environment. I could no longer stand a news feed full of racist memes, promoted pages endorsing awful views and just plain dumb crap that as an educated and well read person I’d have no interest in.

So I deleted the app, blocked the site from my MacBook and hope to never look back.

I’m sure I’ll miss friends events. I won’t get to see many of my families photos. I think that’s a small price to pay for removing awful content from my life.

Maybe one day I’ll go back to Facebook if it decides to give users more control over their experience. Perhaps one day I’ll go back if it decides to be a more inclusive place and bans pages and content that are broadly offensive to most reasonable people.

But I doubt that day will ever come. Facebook does not care about inclusiveness or what you want. It just cares about what it wants, and what it wants is to make money. It is a company which has lost all moral compass as it makes money in perhaps the most repugnant of ways; privacy invasion, manipulating people’s emotions and fostering an environment which promotes divisiveness.

Today I realize I don’t have to help them make money. I hope that if your experience is anything like mine, you shouldn’t need to help them in that endeavor either.

Why Are Millennials Childish?

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While Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm the past week, not everyone is happy about it. Those who didn’t grow up with the first generation of pocket monsters in 1997 cannot understand why those in their 20s and early 30s would flock to such a “childish” game. The reason behind its success shouldn’t be surprising at all — it’s about nostalgia. More so, it’s about escapism for a generation that has largely known nothing but misery the past decade.

Millennials grew up in the 90s, arguably a time when it seemed that economic prosperity was all but guaranteed. The internet seemed poised to deliver profits through to eternity. It was a fascinating time for all technology including that which gave us handheld games like Pokémon, A&R tech which gave us a new generation of pop acts, and CGI technology which gave us memorable blockbusters of a different scale.

Our Boomer parents all but assured us that if we studied hard, we would be able to participate in this profit taking too. We were destined for success. Then, 9/11 happened and the Dotcom bubble burst. Years later, the big one: the Great Recession wiped trillions from the economy in 2008. Suddenly my generation graduating college was left with little economic prospects. The aching pain for nostalgia, a time when we still believed all was possible reigned supreme.

Before you accuse Millennials and the Buzzfeed listicles that cater to their sense of nostalgia of being childish, let’s take a trip back in time… To the 1930s.

The only generation that can truly understand the economic and emotional pain of the Millennial generation is The Depression generation. Much like the seemingly unstoppable 1990s, the 1920s too made it seem as if the gravy train would never stop. Until it did. They too were about as penniless as my own generation.

The only real difference between then and now is the modern conveniences which make it seem not as bad. We don’t have shanty towns and dust bowls — but the younger generation in both cases has very little money or wage earning potential. Both mostly live(d) at home because they cannot afford rent or property. Both sought out nostalgic forms of escapism.

Three things became very popular in the 30s: movies, radio and baseball. Since very few avenues of technology existed, these three things were the main source of escapist entertainment. People could spend an entire day in the movies for very little money. Baseball offered cheap seats, and minor league teams were also a popular attraction. If you were lucky enough to afford one, the golden age of radio was a way to escape to lands far and near — or just to listen to a favorite comedian.

The things these methods of escapism have in common is that they’re all populist. Yet, we still have these populist forms of entertainment today, so why are Millennials instead into “childish” things like PokemonGo?

Well first let’s take a look at the word childish. It assumes that what Millennials are into is made for children. But is it? Nostalgia is big business. When Niantic was doing market research for this game, they tested the waters with my generation, not 10 year olds. Why? Because they knew it was my generation that would be most interested. Nostalgia — it’s practically what turned Buzzfeed into a billion dollar enterprise. It’s what added $9billion to Nintendo’s stock price in days.

But it’s still childish you may say. But is it? Is it any more or less childish than the super hero movies coming out every few months, movies 40-somethings are also attending? Is it any more or less childish than adults who read comics? Is it any more or less childish than grown men buying up Star Wars and Marvel action figures? Is it any more or less childish than all the 80s remakes so obviously catered to Gen-X?

No it isn’t, and it’s also had a very positive impact on the generation it’s aimed at.

Millennials can’t afford many of the escapist forms of entertainment once pursued by the Depression generation. Studies continue to show Millennials aversion to dropping $15 on a single movie. Baseball and other live venues have become wholly  unaffordable to anybody not sitting in company seats. Yet we still seek out entertainment which allows us to check out from how awful things are.

PokemonGo, a free phone game, has had an incredible communal aspect. It’s brought people together from different socioeconomic backgrounds and races. It’s gotten people out of the house and walking around, exercising — like geocaching apps before it. It’s social enough to get people to befriend others they wouldn’t have before. Perhaps it’s even a possible networking tool too.

Many in Gen-X making fun of us would rather say it’s leading to robberies and data abuse. The underlying cynicism is that Millennials are not responsible enough to be treated like adults. Somehow, it’s easy to overlook that robbery, data abuse and walking into things on your phone long existed before PokemonGo and will after too. Street smarts will always evade some.

What those with economic opportunity fail to understand is that Millennials are not childish. We just need to check out sometimes. We have seen a decade of stagnant wages prevent us from fully appreciating all that adulthood offers us, things like home ownership, financial independence or starting a family. Instead of getting cynical and moping about because of that, we’ve instead chosen to invest in nostalgia.

If that nostalgia has the power to bring people together, I say that’s a good thing. So instead of criticizing people for being “childish” how about assessing your own proclivity for childishness? What things do you like which are also allegedly aimed at children? Probably a lot, because nostalgia is a happy feeling. If something makes someone happy, something that is largely benign apart from your hatred of it, why be that curmudgeon? If something appeals to multiple generations, isn’t that good?

Instead of criticizing Millennials for walking by your home hunting Pokemon, how about be grateful you can afford a home? Instead of shitting on Millennials for catching Pokemon near your workplace, be happy you have a job — one which likely pays a lot better than anything we have available to us.

The Millennial generation has a lot to be unhappy about. So too did the Depression generation. I’m just of the opinion that if something makes someone happy despite the miserable world in which we live, that’s a good thing.