Whether for unexpected outages or something else, Facebook has made the headlines a lot lately. Social media outlets like Facebook are used by many as tools for human connection. People can build links around the world, share articles, post events, and maintain long distance relationships. It can be used to find new resources and financially support those in need. But as the recent scandals around Facebook show, social media isn’t known only known for those positive features.
Social media is also used to prey on people. The people who design these systems make them like they make junk food, by figuring out what they can do to get us addicted. Using what they know about human psychology, they’ve gotten many of us hooked. And as more people become dependent, it’s become clear that they have many negative effects. It’s damaged young women’s self-esteem, fostered increasing social disconnection, allowed misinformation to spread like wildfire, stripped away privacy, and created an unprecedented culture of sexualization of young people. All the while developing increasingly invasive ways to track and advertise to us.
What have Mark Zuckerberg or other industry big wigs done about any of this? Nothing, even though they’ve been aware of the problem. In fact, this is one of the reasons Facebook, which also runs WhatsApp and Instagram, has been making headlines. Documents were leaked proving they’ve known about the disastrous effects they’ve had on young girls’ mental health, misinformation, and other nefarious things. They’ve known, yet done nothing.
Should we be surprised? As long as they can get us to make the next click, to post the next picture, to feed them data and be fed marketing, they rake in the profits. Social media run for a profit has preyed on young people, attacked our self-esteem, isolated us, and fed us lies. But the problem isn’t what people usually say it is: that social media itself is the issue. The problem is that it is run by the rich, for the rich. It’s run to make money off of us, and those who make billions from it are concerned with only that. It doesn’t matter to them if people are getting abused or becoming depressed – as long as the profits keep coming.
If we want a truly social media, we can’t let these people keep running it to profit off of us.