CAGAYAN DE ORO

Sia: On using Facebook – and being used by it

ONE book the politically aware, or those who fancy themselves as such, should be reading is Tucker Carlson’s Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution. While the book discusses how the American elite class of politicians, businesspeople, journalists, and others with power and influence are ramming their ship of state into the rocks by promoting mass immigration and squelching free speech among other things, it should interest us Filipinos for at least three reasons: 1) because we need to see that it’s not just our political system that’s plagued by corruption and nepotism; 2) because whatever happens in the United States affects the whole world and therefore the Philippines as well; and 3) because Carlson talks about Facebook, which as we all know has been our country’s favorite pastime for about a decade now.

Carlson numbers among the American elite Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has known only upper-class privilege for his entire life. It would appear that Zuckerberg’s background – growing up in an affluent New York suburb, having attended Exeter and Harvard, and having only others like him as friends and acquaintances – has only insulated him from ordinary people, whom a friend of his says he views with contempt.

Hence, it should be no surprise that Zuckerberg would callously tell Facebook users that the “social norm” of privacy no longer existed, or that he would shamelessly make a killing selling our personal information to companies. If you’re wondering how Shopee and Lazada know exactly what kinds of things you’re interested in, that’s because Facebook even keeps track of your search history, and passes that info along to online retailers.

But this wouldn’t be possible at all if Facebook wasn’t so strangely addictive. That’s because it was designed to be that way: Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker, told the news website Axios that Facebook was deliberately designed to be that way: “we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you... more likes and comments.”

Do those two things about Facebook – it’s knowing a lot about us and its addictive nature – make it evil and something to be avoided at all costs? I don’t think so. If Facebook knows so much about us by virtue of our using it to communicate, couldn’t we say the same things about telecommunications companies like Globe and PLDT, who process a vast amount of private calls, texts, and Internet activity every second? Should we stop using them? Could we totally avoid the government, to whom we willingly surrender our personal details in exchange for employability and the chance to go abroad? And what of food and beverage companies like Jollibee and Emperador, who perform extremely well precisely because they give their customers what they keep craving for in the first place?

If we absolutely don’t want to deal with any of this, we might as well quit the modern world completely and live as hermits in the hills. Or we could choose to live more consciously and be more responsible with our consumption habits as they apply to modern amenities such as food and social media.

But just as food can either nourish us and make us stronger in the right amount or fatten us up and make us weak and diseased in excess, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be either good or bad for us depending on how we use them. “If the Net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us, in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource,” says Pope Francis regarding social media.

Addiction to anything, including and particularly social media, is a perfectly understandable part of the human condition. However, I also believe that it is just as human to be able to rise above this, and to make social media, in spite of its allure and addictiveness, work for our personal benefit and for the good of all.

Lately, I’ve been reading this book titled Ship of Fools by American political commentator Tucker Carlson. I am aware that some of you know him from his show on the Fox News Channel, but please don’t let that stop you from reading his book, or the fact that it discusses the way things are in the United States but not in the rest of the world. After all, it’s very well-written and well-researched, and the truth of the matter is that whenever something big happens in America, it’s inevitable that one way or another, the whole world will be affected as well.

The book’s complete title is Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, and in it Carlson talks about the elites of America, who belong to exclusive fields such as politics, big business, mainstream journalism, and technology and as a result dominate everyone else.

One such member of the elite Carlson writes about is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Writes Carlson: “Zuckerberg grew up in an affluent New York suburb, the son of a dentist and a psychiatrist, and attended both Exeter and Harvard. From birth to the present day, Zuckerberg has never lived outside the elite culture that produced him.”


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