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Ron Martz: Why I took this face off Facebook for good
Anger over politics, a lack of civility and privacy invasion make the social media beast one to avoid
06032018 FACEBOOK

Even before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s weasel-like testimony before Congress in April, I had dumped my account with his dorm-room creation.

Ron_Martz
It was the last of my personal social media accounts and I must say that more than two months after unfriending 2.2 billion people, I don’t miss Facebook — or any of the others I’ve jettisoned or ignored — in the slightest.

I tried a few other social media platforms, but never was comfortable with any of them because of their intrusiveness into my personal life and divisiveness on social, political and religious issues.

Yet people continue to flock to these sites, largely, I am guessing, because they provide some sense of self-worth to those without it.

“I am on social media, therefore I am somebody.”

The influence of social media on today’s culture reminds me a bit of the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in which alien creatures take over the bodies of normal humans and render them void of any emotion.

With social media, it is more like Invasion of the Mind Snatchers, in which alien apps take over the minds of normal humans and render them raving lunatics.

On social media — particularly Facebook — everyone is an expert on everything and everyone is right about everything and everyone is morally superior to everyone else.

Be gone damned civility, and never show your face again.

It’s not that I am embracing Luddism by ridding myself of all social media. New technology is a marvel. The internet is an amazing research assistant that works quite cheaply. E-mail and text messaging are great ways to stay in contact with people I don’t actually want to talk to on the telephone.

The technology enables me to use my phone or computer to watch news and sports in real time, read newspapers and magazines digitally and listen to news on the radio through my phone while I’m out walking my dogs.

But with social media there is a strange duality. Social media post are ephemeral at the same time they are permanent; whatever appears on them, if only briefly, never dies.

What is popular or “viral” one moment is forgotten the next. But it is never gone. What happens on the internet stays on the internet.

Social media users have the attention span of a 6-year-old hopped up on Pixie Stix. They flit from one crisis, one outrage, to the next without ever stopping to think about what it is they are saying or how they are saying it.

Such is the case this past week with Roseanne Barr, who stupidly posted a racial slur on Twitter before actually thinking about what it was she was saying. The outrage that followed was predictable.

Yet, it far exceeded the outrage after a tweet in April by a California State University-Fresno professor who cheered the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, calling her an “amazing racist” and telling the world “I’m happy the witch is dead.”

Roseanne lost her job over her tweet, but the Cal State professor did not because while both tweets are protected free speech, the individual’s employer — not the government — can decide what is appropriate on social media and what is not and can take whatever personnel action it desires against the individual.

My guess is that professor’s tweet eventually will come back to haunt her because the real danger of social media postings is that they can remain forever inscribed on the digital record and later dredged up and used against their authors by virtually anyone.

Those “gotcha” games played by so many on Facebook and Twitter are another reason I decided to eliminate social media from my life.

They remind me of a gaggle of teenage girls huddling together in the hallway to bully some poor “not with it” girl. They are an electronic and often anonymous form of bullying.

I am under no delusion that my absence from social media — especially Facebook — will have any impact on any of them.

There seems to be very little that has much of a negative impact on Facebook.

After Zuckerberg was called before Congress to explain the company’s privacy policy in the wake of Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected 87 million Facebook users, the company announced that its first-quarter 2018 revenue increased by 49 percent, to $12 billion, with a 65 percent increase in net profit to $4.9 billion.

No wonder the median salary at Facebook is more than $240,000.

During that testimony, Zuckerberg attempted to weasel out of responsibility for Cambridge Analytica gathering information from Facebook users that supposedly was later used by the Donald Trump campaign, even though Facebook officials had been promoting the site as a way for political campaigns to reach out to voters

Zuckerberg also failed to mention that the Barack Obama campaign did the same thing in 2012 and was widely praised for it.

As Investor’s Business Daily wrote in an editorial in March, “When Obama was exploiting Facebook users to help win re-election, it was an act of political genius. When Trump attempted something similar, with unclear results, it’s a travesty of democracy and further evidence that somehow he stole the election.” 

Zuckerberg now seems to want Facebook to be everybody’s friend.

The company has been running a TV ad trying to convince Facebook users that the platform is still what Zuckerberg claims he originally intended it to be.

Over photos of a diverse group of smiling people we hear a voice say, “We’re committed to doing more to keep you safe and protect your privacy. So that we can all get back to what made Facebook good in the first place: friends. Because when this place does what it was built for, we all get a little closer.”

Maybe that is what it was intended to be, but that is not what it is now, nor will it ever be again.

Facebook has become an out-of-control creature that escaped from its creator’s test tube and is wreaking havoc on relationships and rational civil discourse around the world.

I am done with that.

Now that I am Facebookless, I no longer spend an inordinate amount of time reading about someone somewhere who was offended by something or someone and decided the whole world needed to know about it.

Without Facebook, I have more time to read, write and, dare I say this, think without having my phone buzzing every few seconds to alert me to the latest outrage.

Ron Martz is Marine Corps veteran (1965-68), journalist and former educator. He lives in Northeast Georgia. His columns appear monthly.

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