This Cambridge Analytica brouhaha is finally waking some people up to the idea that Facebook, in its current form, is probably a Bad Thing. This realization is GOOD, but I don’t think the assumed follow-up of: “delete my Facebook/shut Facebook down” is the best possible one. I say this because, whether or not anyone admits it, there ARE things people like about Facebook. Let’s tally them up:
- Staying in touch with friends, family (many of whom we otherwise wouldn’t keep up with at all)
- Getting the news (well, that it gets people to read news who otherwise wouldn’t at all is a good thing. The KIND of news they’re reading is mostly bad; more on that later)
- Seeing funny videos (let’s be honest; this is what most of us are on the platform for, and that’s a fine END but FB as its constituted today is a terrible MEANS for this purpose. That can be changed; more on that later as well)
- The dopamine hit of getting likes on our own posted content (we’re all whores for the likes, and I don’t expect anyone to apologize for or bemoan that fact)
What’s bad about FB:
- The ads (some are useful, most aren’t, and it leads to the following bullet, which is much, MUCH worse)
- The invasion of privacy that leads to our FB activity being turned into a ridiculously micro-tuned and precise profile of who we are and what we like that is then sold off to advertisers in a fashion we, the end user, have absolutely no visibility into, much less control over (and the stated protections FB takes on our behalf, allegedly, are routinely violated without penalty, as seen in, again, the current Cambridge Analytica mess)
- Their algorithms are essentially designed to drive you to look at ever-more extreme versions of the shit you actually like (YouTube has this problem as well, but way worse). So, if you’re mildly in favor of gun ownership and click on and engage with every post that supports gun ownership, eventually your feed will be filled with people demanding that any gun control advocates be gassed in camps. This isn’t ideal.
- They’re destroying every media outlet in existence by forcing them to pay to reach their users on Facebook even though FB does nothing to create the content that people actually want to see. Why the fuck should The Onion, for example, have to pay FB to promote its own posts when FB users clearly want to share The Onion’s posts on their own on a wide scale, for example? It’s not the Facebook part people want, it’s The Onion’s content. Yet the only person making any money on that transaction is Facebook. Fucking ghouls.
The vaunted Market offers no solution here, as it demands constant growth and Facebook is running out of new conquests to gain. Effectively every American who’s willing to use the service already is. So they have to up the average user’s engagement instead. Which they do through increasingly shitty ways. Sure, there’s still a few billion Third Worlders who can be enticed to join FB but they don’t really have any money to spend so they’re not that valuable to FB’s actual customers, who are the advertisers, so the engagement thing has to take precedence. Why on Earth FB can’t just hit a stable state of making billions of dollars reliably every year instead of being forced to grow by the insatiable maw of Mammon is something Capitalism pimps will tell you Is Just Because That’s The Way It Has To Be, but whatever, it’s going to lead to FB’s utter destruction the way things are currently going.
So: What can be done here? Some options:
- Facebook charges users so it can rely less on advertisers
- This ain’t gonna happen; FB still gets waves of its dumber users reposting terribly artifacted GIF memes claiming FB is gonna starting charging $5.95/mo. or something for access and THEY AINT GONNA PAY FOR THIS NO WAYS NO HOW and, well: I believe them. So FB knows this is a non-starter; one of the most-impossible acts in business is to start charging for something you originally gave away for free, so this idea is stillborn.
- Facebook offers a Pro tier so that those of us who really can’t stand the ads can opt out of them
- Yeah, no. FB makes more off of the ad profiles than it could ever charge even from ALL of its users, much less just a willing subset. And those of us with the disposable income and the willingness to pay for an ad-free Facebook are precisely the people Facebook’s advertising overlords most want to reach. So this, too, is a non-starter.
- Facebook gets increasingly user-hostile to the point that people just stop using the service. Remember mySpace? Yeah, me, neither. It can happen, but again, that’s not the goal I want. I want FB to be friendly and usable for its original purpose, not destroyed entirely.
The answer that comes to me to square all of these circles is: Nationalize Facebook. Facebook can serve a social good in providing communication channels for people who would otherwise be isolated. This is an increasingly huge health issue in the United States (and all developed nations), so the government providing an easy way for people to stay in better contact with each other would be a Good Thing.
The nationalized Facebook can also have all of the ads, tracking, etc., stripped right the fuck out of it. Fund the infrastructure and support costs out of taxes, like all necessary social services should be funded. Brands can fuck off, nobody ever signed up for Facebook out of a burning desire to have eight different Internet Mattress companies badger you six dozen times a day to buy a new bed.
But what about all those awesome cat videos and recipe smashups that you so joyfully consume all day on your feed now, how would you get them? Good news! It’ll happen the old-fashioned way (by “old-fashioned”, I mean the way it worked like a whopping five years ago); people will see shit on the greater, open Internet that engages them enough to want to share it. They can put a link in their feed on public Facebook that doesn’t containerize that content WITHIN FB itself, to where only FB can monetize it, but gasp instead you’ll click the link and it’ll take you to the ACTUAL CONTENT CREATOR’S WEBSITE. Where they can choose to monetize with ads, a paywall, or not, as their choice decides.
What a fucking idea, eh? Solves the current, vicious problem of Facebook cannibalizing the business of every company that actually makes the shit that people want to see, saving the media industry from its continuing consolidation into bland, cross-marketed mush for like four different companies. Would allow all the great indies that made the early/mid-00’s Internet a real fun place to be and do things on. A win-win.
“But… but… without the algorithm, I might run out of stuff to look at! What if my friends are being kind of quiet one day?!?!?!”
That would be good for you. Staring at a feed all day isn’t healthy; oh, there’s nothing new or interesting in your government Facebook feed? Great! Go do something else instead! It’s an opportunity! Come back tomorrow!
You’d have an easy place to go to see what all of your friends are up to and even engage with them if you so choose! I’m ambivalent about letting brands be part of it at all; if someone truly wants to see what, I dunno, Wendy’s or the Los Angeles Clippers have going on, sure, let them have a strictly opt-in-only gov’t FB account that people can choose to like and follow if their lives are sad enough. What they WON’T be able to do is pay in any fashion to promote their content into the feed of anyone who didn’t explicitly choose to see their shit. And we would make them pay heavily for the option, which would also help pay for the system’s upkeep.
I mean, we REALLY need to find a way to rollback advertising’s influence on our lives and choices. Everybody thinks they’re impervious to advertising, but the science proves: you aren’t. This shit affects everybody. It’s disfiguring the synapses of a whole new generation of children right now in ways we’re not even gonna realize for another decade. So, a government-owned Facebook would allow us to strip that horrible aspect of it right out of the system entirely or, in a begrudging nod to America’ raison d’etre (selling shit nobody needs to people who can’t afford it), we allow them to participate, but at a high-cost, strictly-regulated way. If it’s not worth it for them, great, they can fuck off and nobody gets hurt. If it’s worth it to them, they can pony the fuck up.
Think back to the mid-aughts when FB broke out of its .edu ghetto and really became mainstream: If you’re old enough, you remember that people signed up for Facebook long before it became the algorithmically-controlled, ad-laden cesspool it is today. I genuinely liked it when it was new-ish and its primary purpose was to show me a chronological list of what my friends were posting, with some static ads at the side of the feed that were obviously ads and separated as such and therefore basically ignorable. And, wow, that year or two where I reconnected with folks from my past, many of whom I had genuinely wondered about and wished I could reach out to in the years before Facebook, those were downright magical (I know this isn’t going to make any sense in like 30-40 years when everybody will have been used to being able to stay in touch with everybody at all times with ease from birth but man, it was really something for those of us who didn’t grow up that way). There’s no reason, other than capitalism, that it can’t go back to that and just be a modern version of the USPS, used by people to just stay in contact and maintain those human connections necessary for people to be healthy and happy.
We’ve got to get internet-enabled algorithmic advertising the fuck under control, it’s murdering us, and it’s making everything the Internet makes that could be cool actually suck. Since FB is the dominant single-point of entry for everybody’s use of the Internet these days AND the vector for the worst of the advertising malevolence, nationalizing the former so we can eradicate the latter seems to me to be the wisest course.
Plus, who doesn’t want to see Zuckerberg dance at the end of a noose?
Read that. Note the number of WOW lines such as:
This is just ONE pull quote from an article chock-fuckin’ full of ’em. I don’t know how anybody with a functioning mind can read this profile of Peter Thiel and NOT come away with the impression that he’s anything but a weapons-grade moron.
Can we PLEASE, as a society, stop assuming that, just because already-advantaged and connected and privileged dudes guessed lucky ONCE in their lives and made it super-rich that they have any expertise in anything else whatsoever, or even in their chosen field?
This guy’s a fucking idiot. It takes idiocy to think that Trump not disrupting things enough is the biggest risk we’re facing from his presidency. Only a completely super-loaded sociopathic jagoff can ignore the fact that tens of millions of Americans don’t have the resources to survive “disruption” like he can. This prick bankrupted a whole company and put a lot of already fairly-brokedick journalists out of work out of sheer spite because they dared to report, accurately, that he likes kissing boys. Fuck him.
If there’s a weakness to the American psyche, it’s the assumption that, if one is wealthy, one is inherently smarter and better than those who are not. It’s often nothing more than compounded generational privilege multiplied by luck that leads to the creation of hyper-wealthy creatures like Thiel and Trump, and they always seem to think that their position in life is the result of nothing more than their own personal hard work and grit. It never is; they are just narcissistically incapable of acknowledging the many factors outside of their control that tilted the playing field in their favor.
They’re no better than you or I. Let’s stop treating them like they are.
Welp. Here we are. Explaining to children and loved ones that the guy who’s going to be President very soon may have paid pretty ladies to pee on each other and/or him so that he can have fun times with his puberty parts.
I don’t even care if it’s accurate or 100% true or whatever; the fact that almost every single person thinks it COULD be says everything we need to know about the guy that we’re tossing the keys to in a few weeks.
I’d like to think that the President’s office is overblown in its importance, that there’s a limit to the damage any occupant of it can do… but our last two presidents have spent the last 16 years expanding that office’s role to where it is now, at least while the occupant is still in power, a Presidency so Imperial that Nixon’s corpse would get a boner that would blot out the sun, could he just imagine it.
And now picture that power in the hands of this… this gross incompetent. This walking temper tantrum. This schoolyard bully from the right side of the tracks who only crosses them to pick on people weaker and poorer than he.
This is who we’re about to give ourselves over to, and I’m struggling to accept it. I don’t want to live in the Kingdom of Piss, ruled by the bad man in the gold-plated tower.
You can see the balls on the TSA from Mars, trying to pass this bullshit off as an explanation/excuse… lemme ask you this:
What is more likely?
That, all of a sudden, there has been, for no apparent reason, a MASSIVE increase in the percentage of passengers who try to bring “forbidden” items through the security lines…
OR that the TSA’s recent 10% cut in screener staffing, decided upon as a tactic via which to force more people to pay for TSA Pre or Global Entry (aka, The Rich People Security Shortcut Aisles), has NOT resulted in more revenue but instead is just fucking up the regular security lines more than usual?
I know, I know… one’s instinct is to assume that YES, more people are MORE STUPIDER now, but that’s not actually how it works.
This is criminal. The TSA’s #1 Job is to “Make Air Travel Safe”. Cutting screeners and letting crowds of hundreds or thousands of people build up in unsecured lines open to the entire world does the opposite of that. Either fucking fund it to where they don’t need to perform bullshit stunts like this to try and drive people (most of whom can barely afford the plane ticket to begin with) to pay extra to get through the sometimes-available Elitist Express Lanes or have to spend 4 hours in a fucking airport to make a 45-minute flight to Cleveland, OR do the smart thing, realize that this hideously expensive security theater is just that, theater, and tell the senators who own the companies that sell the nudie x-ray scanners to piss off and SHUT IT ALL DOWN.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For years, my standard response to complaints about what or how much I post on Facebook has been “Fuck you if you don’t like it, you CHOSE to see my shit. Feel free to unfriend and/or block me because I literally do not give any fucks either way”. And, to be very clear, I still absolutely feel that way. There’s just a part of me, though, that misses the pre-social media days, the good ol’ Web2.0 when people who wanted to write had their own blogs and owned and controlled their own content instead of just generating it for behemoth aggregators like FB and Twitter for free… therefore, some of the longer stuff, I’ll post here instead and just link to this on FB rather than dump the whole thing there. My FB friends, I’m sure, will appreciate the option to ignore this shit when it scrolls through their feed. I’ll appreciate having my own goddamned writings controlled on my own site when the Zuckerberg Tax of 2024 is enacted and Facebook is allowed to retroactively charge us all a dollar for every update we’ve ever posted to his fuckin’ tar pit of a website. Anywho, on with the actual post…
Fuckin’ hell. One of my sisters is getting married this coming weekend so we have a lot to get done to make sure we’re ready for it; y’know, reserve the hotel, make sure the suit is back from the cleaners, get a haircut…
For the latter, I didn’t want to have that “totally just got a haircut” look going so the plan was for me to take care of that this past weekend so I’m not stressing it this week nor looking entirely like an alcoholic hobo at my beloved sibling’s special day.
This past weekend was overbooked, but I had a window of like 1.5 hours to get it taken care of on Saturday, which, given that I don’t patronize some “schedule it a month in advance and bring a credit check” salon NOR an off-the-books old ‘hood joint where somebody’s slightly palsied auntie will take a weed-whacker to your lid for a ten spot, should’ve made this doable.
So, of course, there was an hour-plus wait.
Now… it’s bad enough that I pay $23 for a haircut to begin with since, when you have as little hair left as I do, you’re basically paying for the memory of actually needing a haircut more than you are the stylist’s time. It’s a lil’ bit of anachronistic vanity, y’know, “whooaaaa the ol’ golden locks are gettin’ a litttttttle TOO flow-y right now, better have Delilah trim back Samson’s magic power source here or panties are gonna be flyin’ at me from every direction, amirite, ladies?”.
I’m dumb and nostalgic enough for my old thick long hair to pay $23 once in a while to be reminded of that feeling.
I’m NOT dumb enough to wait a goddamned hour for it.
So color me pleasantly surprised when, a mere five hours later than I was _planning_ to take my lunch break today (thanks, workplace! You’re #1!), I’m fighting rush hour traffic through the north side to the joint, which, miraculously, not only DOESN’T have a wait at the moment, but has a barber (they don’t call themselves that, they’re stylists, of course, but I already typed that word once a few paragraphs ago and I _STILL_ feel douche-y about it) waiting for a customer. Boom. Walk right in, don’t even have to turn on the Kindle because Mr. Important gets to slide right into a chair.
BEST is this… I don’t care who cuts my hair. Truly, I don’t. As mentioned, I don’t have much left, so it’s not like giving me a high’n’tight would stress even a first-semester at University of Phoenix’s Bachelors of Liberal & Beauty Arts program student’s chops. So, whichever barber is available, I’ll take.
EXCEPT this Bulgarian lady who works there. She’s a tiny thing, extreme amounts of makeup, extremely high hair, extreme aggression. I lost the “Next Available” lottery to this fuckin’ scissors-wielding nightmare once.
And only once.
There’s no other way to describe it other than… she beat THE SHIT out of my head. She worked the clippers like they were divorce papers and my head was the abusive American slob who ordered her off of “slavicbrides.com” ten years ago. She said NOTHING to me beyond “what you want for hair?”. And, man, I am a pleasant goddamned customer. I loathe fuckers who are dicks to service industry people. I am “Hi, how are you?”, a smile on my face, charge me for the shampoo but we’ll be skipping that part because EW, weird, and you can quickly cram another paying customer into your chair here because I will smilingly be on my way in about four minutes, because giving me a haircut is the dictionary picture of Easy Money.
Seriously. I have no idea what her damage was.
I swear my head was bruised and had like three nicks that itched while they healed on it after she was done.
“But why didn’t you tell her to knock it off, smr?!?!?! Why put up with that?”
Yeah, you go spend your childhood growing up in a Slavic neighborhood having mean small old Polish ladies scare the shit out of you in the neighborhood all the time and then having mean, small but beautiful Polish girls attract and terrify you throughout your teenaged years and THEN tell me that that accent coming out of a stern blonde face doesn’t reduce you to mute submission every time.
So yeah, I consoled myself by getting the fuck out of there afterwards and telling the hostess every time since “I’ll take next available but, um… not the little one” if she’s working when I walk in.
Now, imagine my joy when I walk in today and she’s there but NOT the free barber. Instead, I get the nice Filipino dude who does a fast, great job every time.
And my pissy Bulgarian tormentor? She’s stuck giving a long, careful haircut to Captain Actually instead. I’m telling you… you haven’t enjoyed life until you’ve gotten to witness a tiny Bulgarian witch-barber that you HATE have to listen to a m’lady-ing Fedora Farmer mansplain to her about how cash money and checks are not even going to exist in ten more years because Bitcoin.
It was DELICIOUS. This fuckin’ guy actually had the stones to tell her “they don’t even USE checks in Europe anymore at all!”. Yes, this dipshit Brony actually said this to a woman who’s PAINFULLY AND OBVIOUSLY FROM FUCKING EUROPE. I mean, she’s got an accent so thick that you can physically cut a slice of it out of the air in front of her mouth when she talks, but nope, this guy’s gonna tell her how things REALLY are back in her homeland that the sum total of HIS knowledge of comes from a Reddit sub-thread on how to buy child-themed sex animes online without getting caught.
Hell, I _almost_ rooted for her a little bit when she replied, quite stonily, “Huh. I just back in Bulgaria last summer. Used checks”. Which, of course, the fuckin’ greasy manga fan in her chair obliviously failed to hear and/or let derail in the _slightest_ his ongoing man-ologue about The Future of Money.
I can only imagine, by the time she was done, that he was actually missing entire chunks of his scalp.
So, thanks, haircut place! Yeah, I spent too much time and money getting my bald spots shaped again, but I left there with a spring in my step and a smile on my face, and can you really put a price on that?