Data breach is probably this year’s new phrase like fake news was last year. Facebook’s role in the latest iteration of campaign meddling and user- info-loot-bag-free-for-all has people making declarations all over various platforms regarding whether they will deactivate their account or keep their account but delete all extraneous apps etc. or that they are outraged that a free marketing online business used their data. Really? I think I’ve had maybe a hundred conversations online regarding the fact that no, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend, he’s a rich technocrat who is using your activity on Facebook to boost its stock price and create ad money – and I’ve had these conversations now for five or six years. Being shocked by such revelations I am not.
My only thought or reaction to this data breach is what my brother Matthew said this past fall when he was showing me the dozen six hundred-page tomes he was reading, that nature is ordered, has systems, and humans are chaotic and consistently cause chaos. Raised Catholic and taught that man had dominion over everything, I always thought the opposite. That humans brought order and systems to the chaos of the natural world. But now that I think about it the opposite is far truer and far more helpful. What the f*%k are we doing exactly?
The thing about spending most of one’s time contemplating and creating art is that you can open yourself to the idea that everything is absurd and trying to find sense in anything people do is a waste of time. Some people are helpful, others are not. It can actually be this simple. The older one gets the easier it is to believe this too.
Facebook users have now exposed this ‘people are chaos’ theory to be pretty accurate. While many people on Facebook just want to see their grandchildren or show off their pets/cooking/travel/renos/work/popularity, there are a large amount of users who are on an outrage campaign, believing everything they hear, open to all sorts of conspiracy theories and generally ruining it for the rest of us. I said to someone this morning, it’s like what we used to say in theatre, a show is only as good as its weakest link. This current chaos is sewn by people who are using the platform to extol their own uncertainty and fear – it’s a digital Lord of the Flies if you will.
Ridiculousness abounds on the internet because the people who share it are not thinking, they are in a state of confused chaos, they don’t stop and reflect. It is all about reaction and then the exponential impact of reaction. Auto correct and the fact that people can’t spell or sometimes write exacerbates an already heated melee. I’m lucky, I’ve had very little trolling and many of the discussions I’ve participated in since the early days on Facebook have been friendly albeit not always in agreement but friendly nonetheless. I don’t hate Facebook for turning the other way while Cambridge Analytics went to town on mining user info; I feel oddly complicit. I’m there to begin with so what the f*%k am I doing?
I think instead of freaking out over the data breach it may be time people started thinking about every post they make. I actually do this. I manage social media accounts for an environmental advocacy group; I have to comply with their mandate and protect their brand. I am careful about what I post. This has bled into my personal postings as well. Everyone I know that does this kind of work is very careful online. It is a form of digital literacy; we’ve learned how to use the platforms and how to protect ourselves on them. Everyone should do this.
But I have spoken in this blog about digital literacy before and I continue to do so into what seems is a void. People hate social media for it’s negativity, trolls and general sense that the world is a vacuous place full of miscreants. But people love social media for how it projects how they think they are perceived and in my feed some people are constantly fabulous, brilliant, brainy, gorgeous, hilarious, popular, in the know, fit, successful, do yoga all the time, travel and treat their dogs like humans. Or they like to tell me what I don’t know or how I have things wrong. It’s like people are normal and then become Ayn Rand online. I gravitate toward those who think that life is less than perfect which I realize says more about me….
The best use of social media and the best way to calm the ills of our world is to be helpful and share helpfulness. This has always been the case with humans and it always will be – because humans create chaos regardless of them being online or not. Chaos is what we do so why not help each other drag ourselves out of darkness with usefulness. Or at the very least if you can’t say something nice….