The View From Here: Facebook follies and frustrations

Volodymyr Kish.

For many of us, Facebook has become an essential accompaniment to our daily routines, even more so since COVID-19 interrupted our normal lives and restricted our socializing to the virtual domain. I don’t know about you, but I usually spend several hours every day both perusing the endless stream of Facebook posts on my screen, as well as creating my own, hopefully interesting contributions to this social and communications media. Facebook is a useful tool, and used properly can significantly enrich our contact with our fellow man, and the sharing of news, knowledge, pictures, ideas and opinions.

However, Facebook can also be a source of great frustration, a vehicle for fraud, as well as a colossal waste of time, if we are not judicious about how we use it. I have seen it evolve over the years from a relatively innocent source of social media fun, to a gigantic commercial entity increasingly bent on insidiously collecting the most minute details about our likes, biases, preferences and interests, in order to flog goods and services at us in the most effective way possible. It has become a marketing colossus that many fear is beyond regulation or control.

I have of late become increasingly frustrated and impatient with some of the manipulative foolishness that I encounter every day on Facebook. Chief of these are hoax postings that encourage people to distribute false facts to all their friends. The two most common are “Facebook has a new algorithm that restricts you to seeing the posts of the same 25 people…” and “Don’t forget that starting tomorrow a new policy comes into effect that means everything you have posted becomes public…”. These hoaxes have been circulating for years, and have been debunked countless times, yet people just keep reposting without researching whether they are true or not. Before reposting something like this, check the debunking site to verify whether they are true, or ask someone who is knowledgeable about the Internet and social media. The amount of credulity and naivete on Facebook is incredible. The golden rule is – if you haven’t researched and verified the factuality of a post, don’t distribute it. There is enough fake news and BS being circulated already; don’t add to it.

Not a day goes by that I don’t shudder when I see a post from one of my Facebook friends that goes something like “I have decided to participate in an experiment called “xxxxxxx”. I would like you to post a one word comment on how we met…”. Another pet peeve is quiz posts that ask you a bunch of questions to determine “Which celebrity/historical figure/flower/cat etc… you are.” First, I don’t care, and secondly, these are vehicles for obtaining personal data about you that can be used for identity theft or fraud.

Another type of posting that drives me nuts is of the type “In the most difficult moments of life, you realise who your true friends are…” They are typically followed by entreaties for you to copy and paste some message and forward the post to all your friends. The implication is if you don’t copy and paste, you are not a “true friend”. If that is what you really think, then don’t bother posting such things, just strike me off your friend list.

A variation on this theme is “I bet I won’t even get one share…” Well you are right, you won’t get it from me. I also am no fan of cute pictures of kittens, puppies, cats or dogs. If you are going to post pictures, post pictures that you actually took. Those I am interested in, because I am interested in anything that my friends create. It does not have to be professional or perfect, so long as it reflects something about them and their likes or tastes. By the same token, what I would like to see in my Facebook friends’ posts, are not words copied and pasted from somebody else posts, but something that are genuine words direct from them. It doesn’t have to be brilliant, or fancy, or elaborate – it just has be the genuine them.

In a more general vein, I am becoming more and more dismayed with the amount of advertising that is being jammed into my Facebook stream. What is more distressing is that Facebook seems to know what I may be susceptible or interested in buying. I have noticed that if I do an internet search for a particular product or service, within hours my Facebook stream will be full of ads for the product or service I was searching. Be aware that everything you do on the Internet is being tracked in detailed and will be used to target you to buy something.

The Internet and Facebook in particular, are not the innocent, fun social media platforms that we think they are. User beware.