The headline this week emblazoned across The Telegraph, one of the UK’s best newspapers, read: “Facebook is a ‘tool for evil’, says judge as mother trolled over fake claims she tried to kill a baby is found dead.”
The woman, a 23-year old warehouse worker, was actually arrested after one of her online enemies planted a false confession in her timeline. Eventually, the provocateur was arrested, but the target of the abuse killed herself with an alcohol overdose.
There is nothing good about this story or the many others where lives are ruined by the “fun” you can have with social media.
For years, we’ve heard about teen depression and various ailments caused by kids addicted to Facebook. There was an entire news special devoted to some girl http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/teens-obsess-100-club-likes-social-media-26480678″ tobsessed with getting 100 likes for her pictures she posted.arget=”_blank”>
I personally know many people who are glued to Facebook all day long. My wife and other friends are Facebook addicts. I always ask the same question and always get the same answer:
Question: “Why are you on Facebook incessantly?”
Answer: “It’s a great way to keep up with what my old friends and relatives are up to.”
I usually mutter to myself, “You never seemed to care about these people that much before Facebook existed. Why now?”
Luckily for many of these users, the results of the presidential election have caused a huge rift in society that is reflected in a negative way on all social media. It might be driving people away from these platforms.
A lot of people are tired of the pompous and amateurish pontifications others feel obliged to promote. It would be great if Facebook—and Twitter for that matter—were ruined by all the mean-spirited political discourse followed by personal attacks on those who do not agree.
Peer groups are extremely powerful personal forces that mold character. When all your peers think one way and you think another, you are generally hounded until you agree. I have kids who are millennials. Some of the stuff that entire generation takes as fact and best practices is sometimes astonishing.
For one thing, they always pay top dollar for branded products nobody has ever heard of. These are displayed as hip badges of honor. Anything claiming to be “artisan” or “small-batch” becomes part of this mystique.
It gets amplified within the online milieu in such a powerful way that users within these groups can be emotionally affected and harmed. Targeted hate, common on both Facebook and Twitter (as well as on hybrids such as Reddit), impact the person adversely (if the person is emotionally invested). But, if you use Facebook, Twitter, or even Reddit you are emotionally invested.
However, if you eschew these social systems or hardly use them, this is never the case. You’ll miss the attack. If you stay off Facebook there is no effect…unless someone is enraged enough to throw a brick through the window.
The human psyche cannot handle virtual gatherings where there are more people to interact with than would be normal in the real world. Facebook users have a slew of so-called Facebook friends who they would never have as friends in the real world. Mobs form easily. Charismatic online leaders can create havoc.
Why does anyone in their right mind want to subject themselves to any of this? To keep up with someone they knew in high school? Really?
I saw this negative cloud first appear on one of the original information utilities called The Source, which pre-dated CompuServe and AOL. On it, there was a subsystem called PARTICIPATE, or for short, PARTI. Here, various interactive communities evolved and devolved. It was reminiscent of the old Game of Life simulation.
Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Twitter, have taken this to a new level. A tool for evil indeed.