- Facebook’s algo maximizes outrage, not joy. Long ago it stopped showing me the things I care about (my friends).
- Facebook’s UX maximizes time spent, not efficiency. It wastes tremendous time by requiring constant re-checking.
My thinking on the subject:
For around 10 years, Facebook was great. It helped me to re-connect with many old friends who otherwise would have been completely lost. That’s incredibly powerful, and has brought tremendous joy to my life. ¡Bravo!
I noticed the creeping addiction of posting things and then eagerly watching to see how many “likes” I earned… but that seemed relatively harmless.
I also noticed how whenever my content had comments, I’d dutifully react to every one (and often engage strangers in time-consuming discussion threads). Even if more urgent email was still waiting in my box. But, hey, in an office people talk around the “water cooler” about non-work subjects, so again it seemed like no big deal.
We all knew that Zuck was selling our data. (The service is free, so how did you think it was being paid for?)
But when Facebook started asking me to pay for my own family to see my content, it crossed a serious line.
Then, by 2016, I didn’t even want to read the content from my own friends because it was filled with inflammatory propaganda. Even when I agreed with the content and believed it to be true, it could ruin my concentration for hours.
And we all knew those inflammatory photo-memes were full of lies. (The stats about violence, the lists of politicians’ achievements and failures, the quotes that make your blood boil.) Some were true; many were not.
Facebook knew all these negative things, but actually assigned staff to help paying customers to optimize content that was known to be false, solely to maximize time spent online.
This conduct is more than just ‘a free website fueled by ad revenue’; it’s morally bankrupt.
The latest Cambridge Analytica news is a bit of a snooze to me. Though it did freshly remind me how many of my best-educated and most open-minded friends can be duped by the “outrage-du-jour”, when it’s presented as a square picture with overlaid text that supports a narrative they want to hear.
“It’s not so much that I’m angry … a much bigger problem is that I find the whole thing to be a fucking waste of time.
The algo blocks my favorite content, and shows what’s most likely to upset me.
Plus the dopamine rush of seeing my posts ‘liked’ doesn’t even happen any more, because fb wants me to pay to ‘promote’ posts to my own friends and family.”
For more than a year now, Facebook has yielded very little net value.
All the time I spent sharing my photography has resulted in $0 sales. (I’ve sold a bunch of work, but for reasons totally unrelated to Facebook). So there’s a thousand hours of labor basically down the toilet.
All the time I spent sharing my expertise in startups, venture capital, and business development has also resulted in $0 sales. (I’ve developed a comfortable consultancy over the past 7 years or so, but again, none of it from Facebook).
All the time I spent debating politics, I was arguing with friends and strangers who had been tricked by foreign propaganda. Facebook knowingly sold access to a very high level of personal data, and assisted in its use for the purpose of creating manipulative content. And Facebook adjusted its algorithms to prioritize that content above the things I actually care about, such as find out what’s going on in my friends’ lives.
I doubt any of those debates changed a single vote… but they did ruin many days that might otherwise have been productive for me. BTW, people have been duped badly on both sides of the aisle; this isn’t about “red” or “blue” politics.
While I’m grateful for reconnecting with some very old friends of mine, those connections have been made. I’m in touch again. I have their email addresses. I’m not going to discover new “old friends”, so this once-in-a-lifetime goal has been achieved.
So, thank you Mr. Zuckerberg, for creating the platform that helped me to reconnect with all those folks from my childhood. Please accept as payment the thousands of hours of free content generation I gave your website.
Facebook, your services are no longer required.