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An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Hi Mark, how’s it going? How’s that Facebook thing turning out? Good? Well, there’s something we have to talk about.

A lot of people are mad at you right now, and I suppose that’s somewhat justified. You’ve established the most widely accessed information exchange on the fucking planet, and you’ve essentially said that people should be allowed to post whatever they want on it, even if it’s a detrimental lie. The main argument in your favor is that old battle cry of “FREE SPEECH,” and that’s not exactly a great argument when it comes to private businesses. Both you and I know that. You can essentially do what you want as long as it doesn’t violate any laws or cross any ethical lines egregiously. That being said, both you and I know that you’re rich enough to have anyone killed and permanently erased from history, so the decision to be an ethical human being is truly up to you.

And that’s where people have gotten pissed in recent days. You control the greatest river of information exchange, and you’re essentially throwing your hands in the air, screaming (well, not screaming…you’re saying it in that uncomfortably robotic tone of yours) that it’s a free market of information, and you don’t see any reason to regulate it. The argument against this is simple and funny, and it’s summarized in the following meme I’ve shared on all my social media accounts.

Feel free to save and share this picture. It’s the truth* after all.

You’ve washed your hands, Pontius Pilate. It’s a free-for-all on Facebook now. And that’s the way it shall be. It’s your company, after all, and if that’s how it’s gonna run, then dag gummit, that’s how it’s gonna run. A ton of people are pissed at you right now, and perhaps rightfully so, at least, as far as their current line of thinking goes. But I have another take on it.

Here’s the deal: I’m on your side.

You probably didn’t get into Facebook thinking you wanted to regulate information, create a fact-checking conglomerate, and generally become the main hub responsible for people’s opinions on, well, anything in life at all. You wanted to make money from ads. You wanted to give people reason after reason after reason to use your website so you could watch the dollars roll in. It was and still is a good plan, as, well, holy shit you have a ton of money. Like, you have enough money that it would take at least 27 people over 94 years of life without a moment’s break counting one dollar per second to actually tally the amount you’re currently worth. I mean, that’s a truly fucked up amount of money.

You could essentially shut down Facebook today and multiple generations of your family would be set for life without having to work a single day. Yet, you don’t. Why? I assume it’s because you still have a passion for your company, and that passion does not include fact-checking information, no matter how obviously detrimental the lies are at times.

I mean, I understand why people don’t like you. But you and me, we’re cool.

Why? Because if people are looking for the truth, the simplest form is always the best. It’s not an easy task to take every single article and website shared by every single political figure and celebrity and fact-check them in order to establish some “lie-free” environment that won’t sway any elections, opinions, or political movements in the wrong direction. When we ask you to fact check, we’re asking you to be the beacon of honesty. We’re pointing the finger at you and saying, “If only HE would do his job, the world would be more fair!”

That’s complicated as hell. Let’s simplify. Here’s the truth, whether we like it or not…

It’s us, the users of Facebook, who are the problem. We are the awful ones. It is us who actually believes stricter regulations and checks on facts through Facebook will make a difference right now.

There’s been a handful of days when Facebook has struggled for a few minutes, or even an hour. No Facebook! Panic set in almost immediately each time.

FACEBOOK IS DOWN! suddenly streams across the news stations. There is panic. There is confusion. There is worry. And in these situations, there are basically two types of people: 1) People who are freaking out about it, and 2) People excited that the whole thing might be over…finally. My argument is that we all should be in group 2, whether we continue to use Facebook or not.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there will be tons of people who, if they read this, will say, “BUT FACEBOOK HAS BROUGHT US TOGETHER! I HAVE THIS SPECIFIC INSTANCE/COMPANY/CAUSE/FAMILY MEMBER THAT WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT IT!” And sure, they’d be right. But truly, what these people are saying is that their specific instance/company/cause/family relationship is truly fragile and relies upon a lack of work to, well, work.

Because Facebook is laziness. It is social laziness. It is laziness in information collection. It is laziness in relationships. It is laziness in opinions. There isn’t any work in Facebook; it’s an excuse not to work. And demanding that Facebook checks facts for all its users is just another step toward even more laziness. Do you have access to facts that the rest of us do not? Nope. Not at all. And most of your users are so saturated in their points of view (i.e., intellectually lazy) that they wouldn’t care if you presented a mountain of evidence that contradicted their world views. We don’t want to be challenged; we want to be stimulated.

And oh boy oh boy is Facebook stimulation. Actually, that’s all it is. But you knew that.

Stimulation is what gets users. Users get interaction. Interaction gets ad revenue. Rinse, repeat. You are an engine for getting people to come to your website, and nothing more. You don’t want to cross the line into a grand regulator of fact. Why would you? Who wants that job, anyhow? We all don’t, I know that. We would rather read and regurgitate things that support our worldview. Nothing more, nothing less. Hell, we enjoy our rage against those who disagree with us. We love the fight. And those who are for you fact-checking actually believe your taking this action will end the fights. No way. It will not.

People want facts, though. They want fair elections. They want peace. They want the world to be the way they see it functioning best. And somehow, they believe that all these things, in some way or another, rely upon the actions of your company.

So, if your company isn’t supposed to fact check, then what is the public in general to do about all the lies and crap circulating around your website with reckless abandon?

Well, once again, the solution is simple: they should either stop taking Facebook seriously and/or leave it altogether.

I’ve taken some personal inventory as of late, and I’ve realized that I don’t get facts from Facebook anyway. I get feelings. When an article shared by a friend supports my beliefs, I feel good. When an article shared by a friend goes against my beliefs, I feel bad. Hell, I even question the friendship. I share things from my life, not so much to simply share, if I’m being honest. I share stuff to feel good about the stuff I’m sharing. I want to be supported and encouraged. I want to have my “friends” reinforce what I already do, think, feel, say, and know. Rarely do I want to be challenged, if I’m also being honest, because who really does want to be challenged by their friends? It used to be a good, general rule not to talk religion or politics at the table, yet we bring it into the room on Facebook like that one asshole in the group who just wants to see people squirm.

Sure, there’s funny stuff, kindness, old connections made, and other benefits to Facebook, but what are the costs exchanged for those benefits? And why do we think we can’t receive these benefits elsewhere?

The younger generations have already caught on, and this pains you, I’m sure. They can duck and weave with the new platforms and closing ones, and you try to as well. You buy things that are emerging as competitors, challenging monopoly laws. You laugh as people say, “Fuck Facebook! Instagram is better anyhow!” Because you know damn well you own Instagram, too. Hell, most of the people saying this know it; they just don’t care. But the youth, who older people have enjoyed picking on since the dawn of time, can see the online platforms as temporary and invest accordingly. Hell, Snapchat was born from things not being permanent. Vine died, then TikTok was born. It will continue and wax and wane. And let’s face it; Facebook is dying, too.

If the younger generations don’t use Facebook, then it’s a resource that isn’t sustainable. It will go away. And then your focus will undoubtedly shift to the other companies you own that are doing better. And since Facebook is a sinking ship, who really cares about fact checking? Let Twitter be those heroes.

So, what is a person to do when they see Facebook ignoring ethical decisions and allowing false information to proliferate? What should they do if they see that Facebook’s influence and reach is actually making a difference in the real world? Should they truly rely upon you and/or demand that you run your company differently? That would be crazy, right? If they thought you were an ethical platform, they’d be more concerned about how much personal information you sell, not which news stories you tag as false.

If this were the real world, and if Facebook were a brick and mortar business, people who are complaining would simply stop using your business. But since the users are the product, people find it difficult to leave. Yet, they can. And if they leave, Facebook will go away faster than you already see it sinking. Right now, you’re relying upon that first group, the group that panics on the rare occasion when Facebook goes down, to keep you around for ages to come. If only they hung on, you’d still be a multi-billionaire. Hell, we both know you’ll die a multi-billionaire no matter what happens. So, why would you care to be ethical? That’s too much work. That’s too much to do. And it wouldn’t have much of an impact anyhow.

The solution is staring us all in the face when we look in the mirror. We need to stop allowing Facebook to be the arteries of facts and news if there is any hope for truth. It’s on us. There are ethical companies that provide a social network experience, fact check, and don’t sell our information out there, but we reject them because we don’t want to start over. We’ve invested in Facebook emotionally. You know this and exploit it. This is also why the younger generations don’t care about Facebook. They have no investment and can see it for the bullshit it is.

So, I support your inaction, Mark. I don’t see why you should do anything differently. It’s not like you’ll see any reward from changing how things operate. It’s us, the users, who would see rewards from taking closer looks at ourselves and making greater efforts to connect with each other, like using our phones to actually make calls. It’s us who can seek out the news we need. It’s us who can fact check at any time.

There’s a great quote attributed to one of America’s favorite presidents of all time that is apropos here:

Those are strong words that should be compelling to you, Mark. Mostly because there’s no solid proof Lincoln ever said them. Yet, CNN published the quote. CNN, a news organization, totally fucked that one up. And it’s not the first time. Hell, all news organizations screw up all the time, either intentionally or unintentionally. I have no problem with news outlets, just so you know. But it’s kind of their business to check facts. They aren’t social media giants; they’re gathering their own stories and reporting on them, and even they can’t check all the facts.

Facebook is an opinion factory. You know this. It’s a popularity machine. It’s a place for everyone to put themselves out there in a strictly filtered way. I mean, I know I only post the pictures that I like of myself. And I’ll delete things when I find out I was mistaken. If I were being factual with all my posts, I wouldn’t filter them. Hell, people put the hashtag #NoFilter on their own pictures even when there was an obvious filter in place. All of your users lie on a regular basis, typically by exaggeration or omission.

So what do we want from you, really?

You know that the answer to this questions is a constantly moving target, so why start shooting now? The answer is the same as it always was. If we don’t like Facebook, we should leave. We think we can sway you to change because that’s easier than changing ourselves. Plus, we’re hooked. You did one hell of a job sinking that hook into us. We honestly believe that if we exit Facebook that we will miss out on everyone’s lives. That we are not going to care about each other as much. You did this intentionally. You got us here. You created the algorithms. You sold the information. You got us the perfect ads. And now we can’t leave. And it’s all up to you, we claim, to set the world right. To check our facts for us. To only allow the good in and to put the bad in Facebook jail. Because life without Facebook is a punishment now.

Well done.

When we are spending so much time on your platform that we can’t even be bothered to leave it to check our own facts, you know you have us. Bravo. Don’t change a thing, Mark.

Me? Well, I guess I’m taking a break, though. Another alternative to fact-checking is changing your source of information. And it’s laughably easy for all of us to agree that Facebook isn’t a great source of information. So, off I go. Where? Well, probably outside, mostly. I’m going to play with my kids, write some of my own thoughts down, play some music…hell, maybe use my phone to call people directly. Who knows? All I know is that this whole thing is getting a bit out of hand, this Facebook business. And if there’s one amazing historical figure I can count on to have been attributed with saying something apropos that he did not, in fact, say, it’s Einstein. He put it best when he never said:

Well, that’s all for now. And I hope that “for now” is perhaps a long while. Take care, Mark. And I wish you the best in doing nothing for anyone other than yourself.

Love and kisses,

Michael

PS — You’re a piece of shit.