The Facebook Conundrum

I’ve been a user of Facebook since about 2007. It was a late introduction, given that I’m not predisposed to follow trends (I’ve generally always had a severe allergy to fashion), but I got on because an ex had been using the platform and I finally decided I wanted to see what it was all about. That and I had nothing to do with my time outside of work, which was my life (well, that and dealing with the early stages of undiagnosed Lyme disease).

It very quickly became something I’d do while smoking. One hand held a cigarette, the other a cell phone. I loved the humor, I loved being able to get in touch with people from my life that weren’t geographically close, and I loved being able to get my news all in one place. Plus it made smoking a lot less boring. Frankly, didn’t help that both are addictive.

Unsurprisingly, when I’m not smoking I don’t get on it that often.

My relationship with Facebook has changed over the years. Sometimes it’s just a way for me not to feel as lonely (I’ve never had many friends and have gone long periods of my life without any). Sometimes it was a way to express my views, especially during times my health was such that blogging was extremely difficult (i.e. relatively short postings). Sometimes it was a way to seek out people with similar views—often it was a way to open myself to those with divergent views. For the year before COVID it was often something I did at the nearby tavern after work where I’d shit post because, fuck me, with Trump in the White House there wasn’t much else for me to do but lament the state of the union (and not so subtly slamming those who believed him to be America’s savior).

I tried using Twitter for a while but I just didn’t get it. My theory is Twitter (or ‘X’, for anyone that wants to respect Musk’s general state of billionaire insanity) is a social media platform for extroverts or at the very least people that need to be socially obnoxious. Me? I’m happy to spin through a ton of cat pictures and read the local news postings without anyone being any the wiser. Needless to say, I’ve never tried Tick-Tock or Instagram. I guess I’m too old to bother. Facebook works for me (most of the time) and if I really want to spend more time with computers than I already do I opt for Pac-Man, Tetris, or Super Mario on my Nintendo DS.

I have become increasingly frustrated with Facebook’s algorithms, though. For one thing, I don’t generally “like” news articles because, well, most news isn’t good news. As a result, the dozens of news sites I used to rely on every morning don’t show up in my feed anymore, nor do sites and groups with views very different from my own, while things of a humorous nature, kitten videos, and photos of hot women, generally do. In summary: the algorithms give me a highly biased view of the world and the result, if I’m not careful, is a world view that doesn’t match reality. And that’s just not the me I’ve ever been interested in being.

I’m not a big fan of their “community standards” either. It’s obvious, to anyone that uses the platform regularly, that one can be put in “Facebook Jail” for simply offending the wrong person, even if the only way you’ve done that is to say something they don’t agree with (for example saying you don’t believe in God which offends someone who does). I was once put in Jail for posting a fairly well articulated statement about WWII, in particular about Mussolini and Hitler—I have since always referred to the later despot as “Hister” as the dumb algorithms apparently don’t find that offensive. On the other side of the isle, I have reported others for extreme forms of bigotry without FB taking it seriously. For example, a picture of a trans person under which was a picture of someone loading a hand gun with the caption, “What God doesn’t take of I will,” the obvious implication being that deadly violence against trans folk is acceptable behavior, was considered by FB “acceptable.” Did I report it? Yes. Did Facebook agree it was against community standards? No. Nearest I can tell, the more followers a given user/page has, especially if that user/page is bringing in money, the less likely it is to result in being jailed regardless of content. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised to learn on NPR today that there are pedophilia groups (and worse) that frequently get by the pathetic FB censors because, well, that’s just how their “greedy algorithms” (yes, that’s actually a technical term) work.

I often wonder how other people use Facebook. Someday I’d like to drop by a dive with an old friend, nurse a few four shots of whisky, and while doing so, exchange phones. They’ll look at, use, and comment on my Facebook reality, and me on theirs. We might even “pretend” to be each other just to see how those drops in the water affect that small universe. Sounds fun to me, but then, I have a weird idea of fun I suppose. Facebook the Drinking Game. I should patent it.

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