Ah ... Facebook! Love it or hate it. Maybe a bit of both?
It’s had a rough time recently, what with the Cambridge Analytica hoo-ha and then Mark Zuckerberg’s reluctance to talk to politicians. And then some plonker suggesting that it didn’t really matter if a Facebook post prompted someone to take a life (their own or someone else’s) as long as they continued to connect more people.
Does all this matter? I suppose it depends on your perspective. I can’t say I enjoy pottering about on Facebook, but I have books to sell and it’s part of being a public person (and that’s essential to the whole marketing process, were told). But it’s a great way to keep up with friends who are now far away - I can’t see us picking up the phone as often as we cross Facebook paths. And, when I’m away, it’s how I keep in touch with everyone back home.
So useful. So innocuous. Except while I’m there I might like a post or two, click on a link that takes me somewhere unexpected - and instantly I’ve given away information about myself, my interests, my political leanings, to someone who might, months down the line, tease me with propaganda or advertising.
Harmless? If we are kept informed about what they are doing, possibly. So if I get message that reads something along the lines of ‘we noticed you like that, have you thought about this ...’ the origin of their information is clear and I can accept or reject it, depending on my whims at the time. But they don’t do that - rather they weasel ideas into my timeline and I’ve no idea where they’ve come from.
Does it matter - yes it does. Local elections loom, and the propaganda machine will be gearing up to bombard us with guff in the last few days. So much guff that some undecideds will lose the will to think for themselves and vote like automata. So yes, it matters. Whoever wins, it matters. It matters because we live in a democracy that is predicated on voters thinking for themselves and not being manipulated by social media.
And if Facebook is doing it, I’ll be astonished it Twitter isn’t. And all those other platforms that we love and hate.