Before she died, my mother spent a lot of time on Facebook. As her ability for physical interactions with others declined, she delighted in the virtual connections Facebook brought her. Photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren delighted her. She loved to remember birthdays and other special occasions, although she did it on her own timeline, which became a running family joke. Now that she’s gone, she lives on in our hearts…and on her Facebook page, which we could “memorialize” but not take down. This is one of the many reasons I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.
I get why Facebook can be a good thing. Like my mother, I love seeing photos of folks I know (although not so much their food). It’s fun to discover an old friend and learn about the latest news from a friend or relative I don't see very often. It is an interesting diversion as well as a way for me to get my blog posts out to folks who want to read them. But in the run-up to the 2016 election and after, Facebook has become something else: a place to spew hatred and divisiveness.
I get why Facebook can be a good thing. Like my mother, I love seeing photos of folks I know (although not so much their food). It’s fun to discover an old friend and learn about the latest news from a friend or relative I don’t see very often. It is an interesting diversion as well as a way for me to get my blog posts out to folks who want to read them. But in the run-up to the 2016 election and after, Facebook has become something else: a place to spew hatred and divisiveness.
After the election, I actually unfriended some folks. They were “friends”, but not really. Clearly, we were polar opposites politically. I had tolerated many of their mean-spirited posts by simply ignoring them. No more. After going through the most bitter and vile election in my lifetime, the candidate I supported lost.. I understood that this made some folks happy. If my candidate had won, no doubt I would have shared some things on Facebook that would have upset Trump supporters. But here’s the thing. I would never have done high-fives over defeating the beliefs and way of life of others. I would never have posted things on anyone’s timeline that I knew would be hurtful to them and those they love. And I was through with letting them do that to me. For these reasons, a few “friends” bit the dust.
And then things got worse. I have a Facebook fan/business page for all of my blog posts on various media. Facebook often sends me a message that for a small sum ($3 to $10), I should “boost” one of my posts that is “performing well” so I can reach more people. Occasionally, I have done this, so when I was told to boost my post about Mr. Rogers and the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I thought why not? I wanted to get the word out that folks should see this movie as an antidote to all of the cruelty of this administration’s zero-tolerance, family-separating immigration policy. I contrasted the way Mr. Rogers understood, respected, and loved young children with the way the Trump administration had separated over 2,500 children from their parents who had crossed the border into Texas, housing them in facilities all over the country without a plan as to how to reunite them. Somehow, this was too political, yet Trump is permitted to buy tons of Facebook ads. And don’t get me started about the Russians. But my ad, that Facebook solicited for my post, was rejected as being too political.
I understand that Facebook is trying to get rid of Russian hackers and fake news posts. According to the new Facebook ads running on television, the hope is to get back to family pictures, photos of food, and cat videos. And while I enjoy seeing those things, I guess they don’t want to promote a “political” post by a 72-year-old American grandmother who wants to share her opinions about a great movie and a terrible policy that hurts young children.
Facebook stock and Mark Zuckerberg’s reputation are in free fall these days. By the end of July, the stock closed down 19%, erasing all the of the company’s 2018 gains. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg continues to try simultaneously to defend the first amendment and balance that against allowing fake news and Russian bots to create hatred and division. Thus, he thinks it is permissible to allow Holocaust deniers to post their lies as long as they don’t attack people directly or threaten real harm. Even though he is Jewish, Zuckerberg defends these posts saying,
“I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong…often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”
Kind of like the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun? Maybe we should stop those bad guys from getting guns, or posting hurtful and divisive lies on Facebook. So, I love the connections Facebook facilitates but hate the false and mean-spirited posts.
About those posts from my friends that I love to see, where have they gone? Facebook is always messing around with its algorithm, deciding what posts and ads will pop up when I look at my feed. If I look at something online but decide not to buy it, Facebook ads for that item haunt me forever. Things I would enjoy seeing are so far down on the page that I have neither the time nor patience to get to them. Annoying.
Then there’s the occasional need for technical support. Good luck with that. When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004, I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of people my age and older using it. Zuckerberg realized the Internet was the future and created a vehicle to connect with “friends” that has become increasingly popular with older folks. Many of us need a way to direct our silly questions to actual humans. Not only would tech support staff get a few good laughs, but also, many of us would be happy to pay for this service. Instead of receiving support, I have been banned from Facebook’s “help community.” Apparently, I was excluded for asking a dumb question. What was my sin? I have only posted there twice. The first time I asked how to remove my father’s Facebook page after he died. I learned that I couldn’t, so every year my brothers and I receive reminders that it is his birthday and we should write on his timeline. A bit painful.
My second posting asked what I thought was a reasonable question. I guess not, because that’s when I was banished from the “community.” The apparently offensive question was my effort to understand an email I received from “Facebook developers.” It began with a friendly “Hi Laurie,” but went on to say that my Facebook fan page had committed an offense that I could not begin to comprehend. I have to admit this email alarmed me. Was this a legitimate email? I knew enough about phishing scams to avoid clicking on any of the links in it. I looked for a way to contact Facebook to ask about the strange email. I googled for an hour, looking for a phone number, email contact, or online chat option for technical support that could lead me to a human being. No such thing. The only resource I could find was the help center. So I posted my question about the email there. I have no idea what I asked that might have been so offensive to Facebook. Now when I go to the “help community” it says the post was hidden because it was identified as spam. But it wasn’t my spam. Someone sent it to me and I needed to know what to do. I don’t know if I am still banned from the help page, but that probably doesn’t matter. Unless I can communicate with a human being, I am more likely to google until I find something that relates to my problem.
Unlike some folks I know, I have not dropped Facebook yet. When I post something, like most people who continue to use it, I still enjoy those “likes.” If those of us still using Facebook are honest, we want our friends to “like” our photos of vacations or pets or kids’ birthday parties. Lots of “likes” or cute emojis under a picture of a new baby make us smile. It’s just human nature, I guess, that as social beings, we care about others’ opinions of us and of the things we value.
Right now, I still love enough about Facebook to balance out the things I hate. If my ambivalence tilts more toward the hate side, I’d better leave before I die. Otherwise, once I am gone, I will be stuck there forever like my parents.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.