Opposing Views of Facebook

created Jan 11, 2020

I axed my Facebook account in the summer of 2016. When I worked at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory from 2008 through 2012, I used Facebook to manage one of the org's pages. I also created and maintained one of the org's websites. I viewed the website as the main source of info, but I cross-posted info to the Facebook page. I stored many photos at both places.

After leaving the BSBO, I rarely used Facebook. Then Facebook itself seemed to engage in practices that I considered shady. I considered Facebook to be an advertising surveillance network. I knew that I did not need a Facebook account to live. I don't miss anything because I don't use Facebook.

But many friends and family members use Facebook for utility and entertainment. They see no reason to delete their Facebook account. For these people, Facebook's positives outweigh any negatives, probably by a big margin.

At least 70 percent of U.S. adults who have internet access have a Facebook account. I'm in a minority. I'm probably in a minority of a minority, since I don't use Twitter, Instagram, nor any of the "big" social media services. I store images at Flickr that embed in posts that I make here. I don't socialize on Flickr. I use Flickr Pro to store my images.

I lease a domain, sawv.org, that I use for the open internet.

My Gopher site is more for testing, but it works.

Doing the above implies privilege, I guess. I'm fortunate to have had a 30-plus year interest in computers, especially software programming. I learned about HTML and server-side web programming in 1996. I did web programming at my job even though I was a systems administrator. I have continued to do web programming ever since. I like the web. On mobile devices, I prefer the web over native apps.

I'm displeased, however, at the so-called "modern web design" which, in my opinion, is ruining the web by using overkill tech for document-based websites that are meant to be read.

For web apps, that's a different story. I use Fastmail, and I consider that to be an excellent web app. But the toledoblade.com is a wonderful example of the horrendous modern web design. The design is hostile toward readers, even subscribers.

But again, my views about web design for document-style websites probably puts me in the minority, although I have see many others who share my thoughts.

The horrendous new web designs of the 2010s led to Google creating Accelerated Mobile Pages, and the slow-loading, bloated websites may have encouraged web users to visit websites less often, especially if Facebook responded quickly within their native mobile apps.

Or maybe Facebook grew wildly in popularity in the 2010s because people around the world found the service useful.

My thoughts about web design for document-style websites will have no impact. I have yelling-at-cloud syndrome. Bloated, overkill tech will continue to be used. A 500-word post will require readers to download 5 megabytes of crapware.

The thoughts by media and tech people about Facebook being bad for society will also have no impact. Facebook's userbase continues to grow. As long as users find the service useful, then they will continue to use Facebook, despite the whining from others.

I check Mediagazer.com about everyday. And nearly everyday, I see at least one story that whines about Facebook. The media whining about Facebook has occurred for years, especially since November 2016, but Facebook continues to grow.

This whining story was at the top of Mediagazer today.

Facebook's corporate comms have felt combative and sloppy since late 2018, and now even rank and file employees are facing public vilification

Mediagazer link.

Open web advocate Dave Winer enjoys using Facebook, and he criticizes the media for criticizing Facebook. Dave makes many good points about Facebook's popularity for non-tech people.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/02.html#a142825

Journalism has some people believing that there's nothing good about online. That they should stay away from Facebook. It's not safe. But it's where people go now. Billions. I'm not happy about that, but it is what it is. Saying online is dangerous is like saying the subway is dangerous. But if you live in New York, you probably want to take the subway. Driving is dangerous. Everything is. Life itself isn't safe. It's a mix. You have to learn to discern. But most people are good, and most people are on Facebook. And it pisses me off that a few of my neighbors won't use Facebook, and when I ask why, they repeat the talking points of the journalists, almost verbatim.

I disagree with Winer's pissy-ness, regarding some of his neighbors CHOOSING not to use Facebook. We are not forced to use Facebook. We can live without social media. We can CHOOSE how WE want to use the web. We don't take orders from Dave nor anyone else.

And my negative views about Facebook definitely do not come from journalists. I arrived at my own conclusions. My experience was based somewhat on my technical background.

Non-tech people, however, would be influenced by reporting, and the negative aspects about Facebook are true, BTW. But most people choose to use Facebook anyway. If some people choose not to use Facebook because Facebook is a creepy, shady, advertising surveillance network, then that's a good choice. It's freedom of choice.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/03/214302.html?title=whenWeTalkAboutFacebook

According to journalism, Facebook is a bad place. Facebook is a place you don't want to go.

Actually at times, the deranged mob on Facebook attacks other Facebook users and businesses over trivia. That's a sad reality of all social media and the internet. But people continue to use Facebook regardless. It's not because it's a safe place. It's because users find utility and entertainment with Facebook. For me personally, I find nothing useful about Facebook.

My life is not Dave Winer's life. That's a master of the obvious statement. It's irritating when journalists and people like Winer project their lives onto others, meaning we should live and act like them. What works for them may be useless to the rest of us. And the opposite is true.

I could make an authoritarian statement that DW needs to spend one hour less per day connected to the internet and use that hour for knitting or crocheting because of physical and mental health benefits. It's healthier to knit or crochet than it is to post to Facebook. That's a fact according to me. It pisses me off that DW does not take time away from social media and devote it to knitting or crocheting. [eye-roll]

More from DW's above post:

The scale of Facebook is hard to imagine. To say Facebook is like a low-life bar (something one of my correspondents on Twitter said) would be like saying NYC is a low-life bar.

The irony in that paragraph is that someone used Twitter (the cesspool of the internet) to criticize Facebook.

The people who go to Facebook are not low-lifers, they're your friends and family, colleagues, classmates, people in power, retired people, rich and poor, from every continent. What is happening on Facebook? Does anyone have the slightest idea? Even the Facebook company probably only has a very aggregated view of what goes on there.

I have a hunch that Facebook is where journalism is rebooting. I know we're supposed to scoff at the idea of people doing it for themselves, helping each other get the info they need, but if there's going to be a local news desert, something has to fill the gap.

That's probably true. I still believe that local newspapers will not be a part of the future local media landscape because these "newspapers" are still stuck in 19th and 20th century thinking. I believe that the future local media orgs do not exist today. It's possible that these future local media orgs will not maintain their own domain names, like many small, local businesses that have opened in the past 10 years. They will maintain presences only on social media. I think that some small, local media orgs have started and operated that way in recent years.

The current media orgs rely on social media for referral traffic. All or nearly all media orgs display social media sharing icons/links on article pages, hosted at their own websites.

It's hilarious to read a news article that criticizes Facebook when the article page contains a sharing link for Facebook, and the author of the article displays a link to the author's Twitter page.

I would not question the media's intentions when the media criticizes Facebook if the media promoted the open web/IndieWeb.

Professional journalism does not respect online. Look at Farhad Manjoo's latest. What a trip. Some of my friends in Woodstock don't use Facebook for the reasons he outlines. Why? Because they heard it from him, or another NYT reporter or columnist, and believed it. My friends didn't find this out themselves, because if they looked, asked for pointers from friends (for example me), they would have found their people there.

Maybe his friends in Woodstock don't use Facebook because they don't need it. It could be a simple explanation.

And remember that Manjoo has reasons to want you not to like Facebook. His salary depends on it.

Manjoo's opinion contains some good nuggets of truth, but it also contains some whining and fear mongering.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/opinion/social-media-2020.html

I’ll be honest with you: I’m terrified. I spend a lot of my time looking for edifying ways of interacting with technology. In the last year, I’ve told you to meditate, to keep a digital journal, to chat with people on the phone and to never tweet. Still, I enter the new decade with a feeling of overwhelming dread. There’s a good chance the internet will help break the world this year, and I’m not confident we have the tools to stop it.

Obviously, he has not spent time around people who have REAL problems.

Manjoo continues:

Here are a few tips for improving the digital world in 2020.

I have one tip. Okay, maybe a couple. It's for journalists. Stop using Twitter and start posting to your own personal websites that are hosted on your own domain names. Embrace the open web. Actually, embrace the open internet, since email is a separation application from the web. Journalists could post to their own websites, accept comments via email, and follow others via feed readers. A return to about 20 years ago.

In my opinion, it could be argued successfully that Twitter is one of the worst things to happen to humanity over the past 10 years. It's the easiest way to assault people with words. It's the easiest and fastest way to spread lies. Journalists get lazy too and share stories without verifying them. If journalists quit Twitter, that would cause Twitter to make drastic changes to improve the service. But outrage on Twitter is engagement, and Twitter (along with Wall Street) want that engagement because it generates revenue. Indirectly and maybe directly, journalists help make Twitter a cesspool.

If journalists naively believe that they cannot live without Twitter, then they should at least study the ideas promoted by the IndieWeb. It would still mean maintaining their own personal websites, hosted at their own domain names, but they could interact with Twitter via their personal websites. And it means that others can follow the journalists not via Twitter but through the journalists' RSS/Atom feeds.

https://indieweb.org/IndieWeb

The IndieWeb is a community of individual personal websites, connected by simple standards, based on the principles of owning your domain, using it as your primary identity, to publish on your own site (optionally syndicate elsewhere), and own your data.

As information consumers, maybe we should distrust stories, written by journalists who do not maintain their own personal websites, especially if they use Twitter heavily.

Manjoo got something correct in his opinion:

In the 2010s, Twitter became the center of the political universe. In some ways this was for the better — Twitter is a haven for righteous activism against the global powers that be — but most times, it was for the worse. Twitter is a daily toxic nightmare of reflexive egotism and groupthink that will prompt you to question your priorities, not to mention your sanity.

Which is why, if you’re on Twitter and can’t muster the will to never tweet, you should at least consider it your duty in 2020 to resist the network’s worst impulses, for your sake and all of ours, too.

Or question if you need Twitter in any form.

The internet still abounds in lovely, wholesome niches — the fantasy sports circles, the YouTube and Instagram communities devoted to any kind of craft, the many subreddits where strangers come together to help one another out of real problems in life.

That's true. Some consider YouTube toxic, but I would guess that most of my TV viewing consists of watching YouTube videos on our Roku TV. We watch channels for crafters and makers, such as sewers, knitters, and crocheters. I don't experience YouTube's toxic behavior, described by others.

The same thing could apply to Twitter. Some people might manage to use Twitter in a way where they never see any of the toxic behavior that's described by others. And this could apply to some Facebook users too. People will use these services differently.

More from Manjoo:

What distinguishes the productive online communities from the disturbing ones? Often it’s something simple: content moderation. The best places online are bounded by clear, well-enforced community guidelines for participation.

And that's why my message board toledotalk.com that I operated for over 16 years contained mostly civil discussions because I enforced the site's posting guidelines. Toledo Talk was never a free speech zone. If people disagreed with how I moderated the site, then those users had the right and the freedom to leave.

Manjoo:

Twitter and Facebook are toxic because there are few rules and few penalties for flouting them. A Reddit community like r/relationships, meanwhile, is a haven of incredible, empathetic discussion because its hosts spend a lot of effort policing the discussion toward productive dialogue.

Penalty on Manjoo. My wife belongs to multiple Facebook groups where the group managers use an iron fist to moderate the communities. Some have a zero tolerance to troll-like or hate-filled behavior. One and done. And the other group users like this type of moderation. How does Manjoo think that this only exists with Reddit subreddits and not with Facebook Groups?

Facebook Groups are communities. When people act mean, the group owners ban those users. At least that's my wife's experience with the groups that she belongs too, and she appreciates group owners for creating and enforcing their strict posting guidelines.

Manjoo concludes with an obvious statement:

This gets at the plain truth of the internet: A better digital world takes work. It’s work all of us should do.

It has been that way on the internet, prior to 1990 when the web got started. Many media orgs ended their comment sections over the past 10 to 15 years. The media orgs gave weak-ass excuses for why they ended their comments. Some said asinine things like the discussions were occurring on Twitter. The media orgs said that since their comment sections became too toxic, they outsourced commenting to Twitter. ?!?!? Twitter might be synonymous with "toxic."

If media orgs had toxic comment sections, 100 percent of the blame belonged to the media orgs for not innovating ways to create civil discussions. The media failed to erect barriers that create worthwhile digital communities. Comments are not to blame. The media get the blame. It is possible to have civil comment discussions, but it takes work. And that's the reason why media orgs ended their comment sections and outsourced more of their brand to the silos: the media did not want to do the work required.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/03.html#a221312

I want to clear something up. I do not equate the net with Facebook. However a lot of people do. That's where you have to meet them. If you want to go forward with them, Facebook is where they are.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/08.html

A diverse thread on Twitter about judging Facebook. For me, a re-hash of the piece I wrote on January 3, about the scale of Facebook, and how the the story you hear most in journalism ignores the billion or so people who use Facebook and focuses on how they feel about the company. I've yet to see an act of journalism that didn't flaunt their conflict of interest. In the thread, Facebook has been compared to a supermarket, NBC and Times Square.

It is none of those things, it's much much bigger. It's a community of a billion or more users, and is as diverse as those people are. Most people in my experience have good intentions, and that's true on Facebook. Even the ones who aren't nice, are probably just struggling with something.

I'd like to see a few journalists adopt the point of view that Facebook is not a simple place, can't be reduced to good or evil, isn't a product of one or two peoples' personalities, that it's made up of an incomprehensibly huge group of people, from everywhere.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/09.html

Followup on recent threads re Facebook and journalism. Too much attention has been paid to Facebook the company, it's time to learn about the hundreds of millions of people who use Facebook, and what they're doing with it.

http://scripting.com/2020/01/10/140206.html?title=facebookIsNotBad

One of the nice things about the nightly email distribution of Scripting News is that I hear directly from readers. Most of the responses are thoughtful and informative, and that's great. But sometimes I receive responses that are neither thoughtful or informative, like the one I received yesterday (author's name withheld so it isn't personal), quoted below.

"Just because a billion people do something doesn’t mean the thing they do is good. Two examples: smoking tobacco and dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Facebook use is undercutting democracy around the world. It’s not getting better. We need something like Wikipedia but in the Facebook arena."

First, this was not written by a journalist, but it could have been. It's more or less the party line among journalists.

... the correspondent is indulging in a logical falacy. It's true some popular things are bad, but that doesn't mean all popular things are bad, nor are all bad things bad in all ways. His second example "dumping CO2 into the atmosphere" is bad, but driving cars is often good. An ambulance that saves someone's life is dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Later today I'm going to drive to get groceries. That's good. I use electricity to heat my house. On a cold night, where the temperature can go down into the teens, believe me that's good. And to get the heat I am dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

As someone who uses Facebook, let me testify that many of the things that happen there are good, unique, empowering and fun -- things I wouldn't want to live without. These things are certainly worth understanding before dismissing the whole medium. You can learn from something you don't like. A billion people doing something raises the question "What are they doing?" We should aspire to not dismiss before understanding, imho.

In my opinion, the journalists bash Facebook because Facebook earns billions of dollars through advertising. The media believe that Facebook and Google are stealing ad revenue from the media, and media want government to regulate Facebook and Google. And pathetically, the media still today blame Craigslist for stealing ad revenue from newspapers, which is false. Craigslist did not harm the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry harmed itself by not adapting to technological evolution.

More from DW:

A little unsolicited advice. Don't be so rigid. If someone you respect says something is worth doing, if you dismiss it with a generalization you can't prove, you're missing something, and probably not just in this area. Living a creative and interesting life imho requires considering possibilities you might have rejected without much consideration, stepping outside your comfort zone. Keep an open mind. Challenge your assumptions.

That's a nice thought, but DW shoud apply it to himself.

... it pisses me off that a few of my neighbors won't use Facebook, and when I ask why, they repeat the talking points of the journalists, almost verbatim.

That's because some of the negative, shady, and creepy aspects about Facebook reported by the media are TRUE. DW may have it wrong about his neighbors. Maybe the journalists are repeating the experiences of Winer's neighbors.

Why is Dave Winer closed-minded about the people who CHOOSE not to use Facebook? And who cares what the reason are for not using Facebook? DW needs to open his mind more about why people like me choose not to use Facebook and not use social media in any way that resembles most of society.

It's unfortunate that DW does not embrace the IndieWeb and combine the IndieWeb concepts with his social media usage. Instead of being angry at his neighbors who do not use Facebook, Winer should encourage his neighbors to maintain their own personal websites. DW could setup software for his neibhbors. He could introduce his neibhors to feeds and feed reading. He could help develop a community in the open web/internet that exists outside of the social media silos. A mini Woodstock, NY blogosphere.

And some interoperatability could exist with the silos via the IndieWeb concepts if desired. And if no IndieWeb embracing, no big deal. DW can continue to use his website and Facebook and Twitter while others can continue to use only the social media silos while a few only use their own personal websites and feeds.

DW criticizes journalists for not being open minded about Facebook users. Okay. But DW can be criticized for not being open minded about the people who choose not to use Facebook and maybe other silos. For an open web developer like DW, it's a golden opportunity to replace his anger with helping people to own their digital content, provided the users have an interest in posting to the web.

Some people have zero interest in creating content on the web. They have no interest in following content creators. Their lives might be full enough that spending time on the web is a waste.

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