Facebook Failbook?

I decided that I have been taking Facebook too seriously and have been spending too much time on it. It’s easy to do. You open the page, you scroll down your news feed (which goes on forever), you click a picture that leads you to click on someone’s profile, which leads you to click on something else. Suddenly, you are lost in the Facebook world, and it can be extremely difficult to get out of it.

I think one reason the vortex pulls me in is because it is like a trance. You scroll, you click, you go around in circles, and you become hypnotized. Instead of getting up and doing the dishes or calling people back or feeding your pets, you click around Facebook for hours. You start to forget about time and about what is important in your life around you.

Facebook is a tool. At least, it should be. It can be very useful for communication with others, especially in groups that share your same interests, or for coordinating events. And people do share entertaining things, as well as insightful things, creating a chain of awareness and entertainment. There is nothing wrong with these things. But when it starts to replace human, face-to-face (or even phone) interaction, there’s a problem. Facebook also perpetuates the instant gratification phenomenon in our society, something one of my wonderful yoga teachers calls “fast food Facebook philosophy.”  That’s just it: Fast food. We want validation, we want attention, we want information, and we want it NOW.

There’s also a song about that concept by the Black Eyed Peas. I think it’s sarcastic, but I could be wrong:

Instant gratification aside, Facebook seems to have a skewed version about what is allowed on their site and what is not. They say only certain things are allowed, but when things are posted that are outside of those boundaries, they are slow to take them down, or they won’t take them down at all.

Lately, this has been bothering me in particular about Facebook. I have had a personal experience with this recently when reporting a picture I found not only offensive, but disturbing. It actually traumatized me for a few days after seeing it unexpectedly on my news feed without warning. I won’t go into details about the picture, because it was really horrible. Suffice it to say, animal cruelty was involved, and photographed.

I reported the picture as graphic violence, though it could have fit into a few other categories (Facebook’s community standards have the following categories:  violence & threats, self-harm, bullying & harassment, hate speech, graphic content, nudity & pornography, identity & privacy, intellectual property, phishing & spam, security). The response I got was that it did not violate the terms of service and it would not be taken down from the site. I was livid, and I wrote back a very nasty response. And not only is animal cruelty allowed, there are hundreds of groups centering on violence against women, pro-bullying, rape…All you have to do is a simple search for these terms on Facebook and you will find groups that should most certainly be taken down. In the case of Amanda Todd, the teenager in British Columbia who killed herself after being bullied online and in person, there were insulting posts made about her, as well as uploads of pictures of bleach with the words “it’s to die for.” This is in reference to Amanda Todd attempting to kill herself by drinking bleach. I do not know if that picture has since been taken down, but I’m willing to bet that it has not, since it doesn’t directly violate any of the “community standards” outlined by Facebook.

Not only is Facebook something that is sucking our souls out, but it is a place where the worst parts of human interaction can lurk – or hide in plain sight. I don’t think we should shelter our children completely and censor everything by any means, but when tasteful nudity (or a picture of someone body painted so they are naked, but there are no genitals or breasts obvious to see) is taken down, but a picture of animal cruelty is left for the public to see, you have to question where their priorities lie.

I still use Facebook on a daily basis, but I have resolved to not post as much as I did. We’ve all heard horror stories of potential or current employers finding your Facebook profile and not hiring you, or firing you, because they didn’t like what they see. That in and of itself is scary – and I post things with very strict security settings. You also can’t find me by searching my name. I am not saying we should stop using Facebook, but I am saying we should think about who is running the platforms we frequent, what their biases are, and whether they make our lives better or worse.

I think Facebook has the potential to do good and bad. Let’s try to stick with the good.

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