There’s not just one white-hot scandal regarding trillion-dollar Internet-monolith Facebook and its founder at the moment… Instead, it’s more a collection of cultural tumors, all metastasizing since 2004.
And that bit of cancer now encompasses nearly three billion active users – home to a motley mix of racial hostility, Russian interference in our elections, breeding grounds for Capitol siege QAnon loyalists, and your mom.
If (when) the Big Tech plutocrats 3D print a Mount Rushmore of themselves, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s unblinking glassy eyes will be eerily front, back, and center.
Or let’s try to imagine the Silicon elites cast in a streaming family sitcom… Jack Dorsey’s the absentee wayward, wanderlust hipster son, Jeff Bezos is the delusional, midlife-crisis-ravaged dad, and Zuck’s the unassuming bad-seed child (Elon Musk pops in every few scenes as the eccentric neighbor, à la Kramer.)
Twitter, land of 280 characters but no real character, has its issues. Bezos won the game of capitalism and now busies himself shooting William Shatner into space. And Elon continues to revel in Internet trolling and giving autism a grating name.
But when you make a Prime order, you’re at least receiving something at your door (a signed copy of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom). And you can stroll off a Tesla lot with a smug smile and a new Model S.
What exactly are you getting out of Facebook’s newsfeed?
If quaint 20th-century TV was the opiate of the masses, social media is the Fentanyl. With Facebook or its sister company Instagram, you are the product – they’re using you for data to regurgitate targeted ads (more than $50 billion worth in 2021 alone).
When you log on, you’re mere grist for the algorithm as they mine your minds, all curdling into a glorified cesspool of hate, humblebrags, and ALL CAPS idiocy.
At its start, the seed of Facebook was cachet – in the words of the Winklevoss Twins, harvard.edu: a network dripping with exclusivity and an invite-only protocol.
Unfurling from the Ivys, the original social media app crept from campus to campus, moving then to its egalitarian rollout for plebians until everyone and their dead grandmother were posting away.
And maybe for a moment in the late ’00s, Facebook offered a semblance of synthetic connection, be it hate-scrolling an ex or stalking your high school class from ’75.
But now? It’s about world domination.
And its Muppet savant overlord makes no bones about his vision: “Company over country.”
The Atlantic has noted that the company is now a country with billions of citizens, borders that know no bounds, and a burgeoning crypto, Diem.
Its judicial system includes an Oversight Board and Integrity Committee, both plucked right out of the novel 1984.
And just like floating around international waters, it seems you can get away with anything on Facebook – sex trafficking, domestic terrorism, and an obscene amount of unsolicited labradoodle pics. Everything goes, and nothing comes out of it.
It’s gluten-free bread and a viral circus, with little Zuckerberg self-cast as Augustus Caesar (complete with a janky version of the haircut).
Welcome to the Zuck
The Wall Street Journal recently dropped a thorough investigative report dubbed The Facebook Files, a Pentagon or Afghanistan Papers for the tech set.
Along with whistleblower Frances Haugen’s damning testimony on Capitol Hill, it uncovers how fully aware Facebook’s top executives are of the ill psychological effects that Facebook has on its users (particularly children) and how unwilling they are to address or improve these (deliberate) flaws.
This biopsy includes how the platform muffled pro-vaccination efforts, how they know that Instagram is toxic for teens’ mental health, and how rage is essential for reshares.
The coup de grâce is the confessional from Haugen, a former product manager, who notes that her ex-employer may flag disturbing content but fails to follow up and take action.
In short, Facebook operates with the following ethos: ethics be damned, all at the unholy altar of engagement.
Big Tech comprises a fleet of digital narco peddlers, pushing dime-bag dopamine spikes of followers and clicks for profit – all under the soiled veil of community and connecting.
Big Tobacco had the same reckoning decades ago… With cigarette sales up in smoke now, it’s clear our smartphones have risen as the replacement addictive accessory du jour (we kept the filters). But at least drags of Marlboros would give you hits of relief before they eventually killed you.
Did you ever leave a Facebook or Instagram session thinking, I feel better about myself and the world now? No. It’s enough to make you take up smoking.
But once the causality of cancer from cigarettes was indisputable, the market reflected the consumers’ choice. And once the link between mental illness and Facebook is too undeniable to ignore, poor Mark may lose some (or all) of his fake friends.
A new system shows which stocks could soon rise 100% thanks to a Connecticut couple’s catastrophic 401(k) loss.
The Broken Rules of Engagement
But it appears the universe isn’t without a wicked sense of humor.
On October 5, Facebook went dark. All the company’s flagship products went offline, a beautifully karmic kiss-off leaving Zuck to lose $6 billion in mere hours. Coupled with the whistleblower revelations, the platform’s hemorrhaging money, with its stock in freefall.
Zuckerberg has now dropped below Bill Gates on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. How. Will. He. Survive?
As an awkward kid on the Harvard quads, Zuckerberg didn’t love the world around him… So, he coded himself a new one. That’s laudable. But two decades later, his descent into social media despot now threatens the mental health of a generation and the very DNA of our democracy.
So kindly, Mark – the world would like to unfriend you now (but don’t worry, you won’t get a notification).