Facebook is an Addiction We Can Do Without

I keep asking myself: “Why am I doing what I am doing on Facebook?”

I am questioning  why I am on Facebook at all, having interminable conversations about ecology, climate, politics and economics that end up going around in circles and accomplishing nothing worth the effort?”

The essays I post on Facebook disappear in a matter of hours, having been read by around one hundred people, but not having convinced anyone of anything. I know this because the same people will have the same disagreements tomorrow that we had yesterday.

I am absolutely convinced that some people really believe that they are having an effect upon the world through their activities on Facebook. They are absolutely wrong. They aren’t affecting anything, because the people who read their articles are, for the most part, already in agreement with them, or so far apart that discussion won’t affect the consciousness of either party.

I am also convinced that most of the people I am “friends” with on Facebook are actually marketing something, their latest book, their lecture tour, their health theories, their version of the Course in Miracles. Regardless of what they are selling, the only way I can explain their continued presence here is that they are somehow making money off their Facebook posts.

I don’t exactly understand how they do this, but I have to apply the first rule of advertising to the habit of posting here: you know an advertisement is working if it keeps appearing over and over again.

I like to remind myself that Facebook was originally a dating site for Harvard University students and that it grew to its current prominence due to the infusion of a great deal of advertising money, very clever marketing, and excellent public relations. It was never designed for political or scientific conversations and doesn’t suit that role very well.

There is nothing intrinsic to Facebook that makes it any better than a thousand other websites out there, including some that I have built myself. The reason that everyone is here is simple: everyone else is here.

By everyone,I mean more than 30 percent of the total population of the planet, 2.37 billion users. In 2018, there were 176.3 million Facebook users in the United States alone, more than 53 percent of the population.

If misery loves company, I can tell you where to find a crowd of miserable people…on Facebook.

We all know by now how we get a shot of endorphins every time we get a like or a comment on our posts, or comments on our comments. It makes us feel important. It makes us feel heard.

But, why, exactly, should that matter to us.

On Facebook, I am in contact with high school classmates that I haven’t seen in a decade, and college classmates that I haven’t seen in more than 50 years. (Okay, I’m old. You already knew that. Get over it.) I am also in contact with a few relatives, as well as whole lot of people from Open Salon, and a lot of strangers I know nothing about and who know nothing about me.

Why should their opinions matter to me? Why should anyone else’s opinions about my opinions matter.

There are a number of motivators. Recognition, the sense that your existence is having an impact on another human being, Cognizance, the feeling that your opinions are being respected. Corroboration, which is not just approval, but confirmation that your theories have merit.

Lately, however, I have become more and more aware about how little original thinking appears on Facebook. Many of the posts I get are really just links to articles written by other people, and often the person who posted the link never did the research necessary to corroborate the facts in the articles to which they are referring us.

I’ve seen successive posts from the same Facebook members linking with articles that are in diametric opposition to each other, such as one telling us that there is no way to avoid the climate apocalypse while others tells us we can prevent the apocalypse by not eating meat, not using plastics, planting more trees, and using solar energy and wind farms, followed up by other articles explaining why none of those solutions are going to work.

So, what are we doing here?

We’re reposting articles we have read without knowing whether there is any basis in reality for the opinions expressed in those articles but, since the people who follow us believe we are honest information brokers, we tend to follow those links, only to discover that, sometimes, they lead you right into a marketing gimmick for somebody else’s newsletters, if not an actual product.

Back in the day, when newspapers were still important to society, there was an old saying in the newspaper business that fish and news both stink after three days. Yesterday’s news is only useful for wrapping fish and yet The New York Times often runs the same stories on its home page several days in a row, while featuring editorial columns by guest editors who are not members of the editorial board of the New York Times.

As a consequence, many of the opinions expressed in the EDITORIAL section of the NY Times are not, in fact, the opinions of the editorial board but are only the opinions of the authors, many of whom have what can only be described as questionable credentials.

In the meantime, much of what is being reported by news organizations today originates as press releases, which are often not even rewritten but appear exactly as they arrived. Others are based on questionable scientific reports published in questionable “pay-for-play” journals, which are not juried and are often only peer-reviewed by other scientists who are being published in the same pay-for-play journals.

So, what I am doing here, exposing my psyche to questionable information from questionable sources from people whose only motivation for being here appears to be to gather attention from other people who are only here to gather attention for themselves?

The answer, unfortunately, is nothing of any consequence. I have no applicable degrees to make my opinions worthy of anyone else’s attention, even though some of my detractors admit that I am more often right than wrong.

If my opinions are worthless, doesn’t that mean that I am worthless? Isn’t that the message that the internet conveys to us: you are only important if other people think that your opinions are important to other people?

I know that’s a convoluted sentence. It is deliberately convoluted. It was designed to get you to stop and actually think about what we are doing here.

What we are doing here is earning billions of dollars for Facebook’s shareholders, including its founder and his senior staff, who are busy selling our attention to advertisers while the are also inadvertently corrupting our political process (if, indeed, it is actually inadvertent, which it may not be.)

Facebook is an addiction we can do without. There are other nonprofit venues that are much more hospitable than the angry environment here…but I am still here, posting links to this article, because this is where all the eyeballs are.

The whole thing is circular. I’m on Facebook because you’re on Facebook, and you’re on Facebook because I’m on Facebook.

The worm Ouroborus, the mystical symbol for circular reasoning (and the law of eternal recurrence) sooner or later must get indigestion from digesting itself.

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