Facebook No Mindbender

BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN

I don’t like Facebook. I don’t like the insidious way it has crept into every aspect of our social lives, I don’t like that it has succeeded in turning invite into a noun and inbox into a verb and I don’t like the way it has democratised stupidity.  hun x

Yet with all the shabby hypocrisy of an A-list celebrity preaching about the environment, I use it myself. A lot. As this causes occasional bouts of self-loathing, I tell myself I am doing it for work reasons. In a valiant, though failing, effort to combat impecuniosity, I write news articles for one or two local papers. This necessitates membership of several neighbourhood pages – little autonomous republics existing within the Facebook world. I don’t like these either. One in particular is filled with an irony-proof bunch who spend half the time reassuring one another how delightful their community is and the other half tearing lumps out of each other over car parking, the latest hapless small business to have upset a customer or whose dog shat where and when. Oh, and someone posts pretty much the exact same photograph of their garden wildlife. Every. Bleeding. Day.

But I still log on and look; I still have the ‘app’ on my phone. I might tell myself I’m doing it for work reasons, but I’m lying. The truth is, I’m nosey. I can’t resist that little peek into the lives of others provided by Zuckerberg’s unmanageable monster. I’m addicted to ensuring that the mundaneness of existence is not mine to bear all alone.

So, when Channel 4 News breathlessly reported that a hitherto unknown company called Cambridge Analytica had been manipulating data harvested from millions of Facebook’s members, did I join in with the outrage?

Nope.

It seems people are surprised that their data is bought and sold. Really? Have you seen the price of Facebook stock? Do you honestly think there is value in all those first-day-at-school photos, pictures of dinner and tawdry uplifting quotes printed alongside the sun rising over a photogenic pier? Good grief, next you’ll be telling us politicians lie.

There are claims that this data was used in an effort to influence electoral outcomes; Channel 4 News has implicated the 2016 Trump Campaign. Here’s the thing, though: political parties of every stripe have been crunching data and targeting their advertising for decades. The question is, does it really matter? While we might be swayed by adverts for washing machines, SUVs or beer, we’re hardly too stupid to choose our Governments according to the latest nonsense we’ve seen on the internet.

Personally, I’m fed up with seeing extremist political posts, be they from the Britain Firsters or the equally barking Corbyn crew. I used to try and counter this crap with inconvenient facts, but when I saw a load of people getting righteously angry about the 2008 Tory bank bailout ahead of our (UK) last election, I realised it was as pointless as pissing into the wind. People are going to believe what they want to believe. Nobody ever had their mind changed by a Facebook post. These days I tend to ignore them – and I’ll bet I’m not on my own.

I am not, for one minute, suggesting that I like the idea that my personal information is traded so freely, but I long ago accepted it’s the price I have to pay to join the internet age. Facebook doesn’t charge a fee. Nobody is compelled to become a member. That state agencies such as the DVLA are allowed to sell our data is a far, far bigger scandal.

Am I going to #deletefacebook anytime soon? Probably not, no.

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