Giving up Facebook for the Lenten Season showed me how manipulative it has become.
Go ahead, I DARE you – avoid logging onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever your social media platform of choice is for six weeks. This is one way to gain perspective on what a total time suck, and how manipulative these global monsters have become. This is not a rant about Facebook and their apparent disregard for protecting their users private information, there’s enough of that going around already, but rather a reflection on distancing myself a seemingly innocuous part of my daily routine.
My six weeks of reckoning started on Ash Wednesday.
Feeling the Catholic guilt can run strong at our house at times. (Full disclosure – our sons are graduates of Catholic schools; my wife is a director at a Catholic hospital and I Iike the section in the Eucharistic Prayer about granting peace for my soul.) The day after Fat Tuesday is a time for taking stock of what’s going on in our lives. It’s also the time for Catholic guilt to kick in, hence the abstaining from social media platforms I’m connected to as the object of sacrificed self-control for the next 40 days.
But allow me to backtrack for a moment. I’ve been a proponent of B-to-B social media for some time now. I posted my first blog on February 28, 2012. This was a response to what was happening to the advertising business. Print media was in decline, agencies were going belly up, the great recession was in full swing and the new siren song was Social Media. There was no playbook for social media. Facebook was in its infancy, Twitter was a spammy, fragmented platform (and still is) and most B-to-B marketers had little understanding of how any of this was going to work.
Now fast forward six years. As I compose this blog — #151 — I’ve seen both success and failure attributed to the use of social media. I’m also taken back by its metamorphosis into an unregulated global advertising channel.
At first, abstaining from something that seems so innocuous for the last six years seems like a small sacrifice. Only from its absence can you start to see the insidious ways the creators of these platforms have devised to keep you connected to the mothership feed. Emails about your “friends” postings, birthday wishes, new photos, catching up on comments – all intended to appear as if you are part of a big happy community. In reality, the intent of these platforms is to keep your eyeballs focused on the screen. When your attention is with them, behavioral micro-targeting takes place where advertisers can ply you with sponsored posts and the likes to hawk their goods and services or sway your opinion in countless ways.
Only upon absence can you gain clarity of thought, much like an alcoholic returning to sobriety, and the true mission of the platforms becomes apparent. We the users supply the product that makes the platforms successful. All the while, based on the content we post, our profiles are being sold to the highest bidder. The problem with Facebook is a fundamental flaw in the way it was designed: users supply their personal information which is sold to marketers for access to a free service. No matter how many internal editorial efforts are directed toward policing self-published content, it’s still an open platform that makes its money off of our personal information.
I do not proclaim to have a solution to cure the ills of Facebook. I am simply suggesting that we the users, who supply our content for free, should have a voice in the way our content is aggregated and a right to protect our privacy. And I would highly recommend a break from social media to gain a fresh perspective!