Facebook: Still Not Evil Enough to Drop

The lousy privacy settlement, the intrusive ads, the minute-by-minute dissatisfaction — so what? I’d feel less connected — and less professional — without it.

OK, let me add my own resounding yes to the cacophony of outrage over the injustice of the recent Facebook privacy settlement. YES! It is unjust that, though FB lost, none of the claimants may receive cash money, and if they did it would be only $10 at most. And YES! YES! YES! It’s just gross that FB made $234 million from sponsored stories between January 2011 and August 2012.

Am I going to rant to anyone but you about any of this? Probs not. I am going to drop FB? Def not.

I like to think I pick my battles. FB, like cable, cell phones, cell phone providers, laptops, PSE&G, and the federal government, give us plenty to rant and rave about, but they are necessary evils. At least, our culture has deemed them so.

FB is Google and People Finder and the Daily News, and people use it to send wedding invitations, birth announcements, and R.I.P. pages. I have been “found” on FB and solicited for writing, to speak in classes, and to consult with new literary magazines. Having a FB account does in fact take time away from my professional life, but I would feel less professional without it.

So. When everyone slaps hands to cheeks, again, when they hear the news that FB is in fact going to start presenting video ads as early as this fall, I will be just as angry as everyone else, but I’ll chalk it up to the evil part. The embedded videos are really not such a leap from sponsored stories and targeted ads on the left and right columns. I will zone them out. These ads will be 15 seconds long or less, so … send someone a text while it plays.

NPR released a brand-new study that reports that FB causes a “decline in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction.” Certain TV makes me feel bad too. Real bad. In fact, Breaking Bad was so anxiety-inducing for me I just couldn’t watch it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t “use” TV.

And when the commercials come on, I talk to whomever I’m watching TV with or reply to a text, or flip through the day’s mail or newspapers. We learned to ignore them, even though of course some part of them gets stuck in our collective consciousness. (When you’ve got Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s, on the table, table, table …)

It’s not all as innocuous as insidious jingles — of course TV was and is used for self-aggrandizement, general insanity, and ego-boosting air time for sociopaths. That’s why we barely blink when we hear of FB bullying causing suicide. We aren’t completely shocked when, as earlier this month, a man killed his wife and then posted a photo of her dead body and confessed online. Why aren’t we surprised? Because of the rapes, death threats, public shaming and requests for hit men that have already appeared. By no means am I calling for a celebration for the worst of what FB has to give; I a merely saying what it presents is not actually that new, and it really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

A common cocktail-party conversation is people trying to out-outrageous-FB-moment each other:

“I know someone who found out her father died via FB.”

“Well, I know two people who found out their husband was cheating via Facebook.”

“Well, I know someone who found out her husband was MARRIED to someone else.”

Three million deceased people have memorial pages and/or active profile pages. What does that mean? Public mourning takes all forms, too. Some pages still receive daily posts as loved ones write on their deceased’s walls, prayers and thoughts and simple messages of love and loss and “I miss you.” Yes. It’s weird. It’s weird as all hell, but it’s happening.

Even the FB haters admit it’s a great way to spread information and invite people to parties and events. When I throw Painted Bride Quarterly events and see fresh faces, I do an informal poll to find out how they heard about us. (The informal poll consists of me walking around the bar and asking people, “So, how’d you hear about us?”) Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is Facebook.

My bestie just moved to Abu Dhabi. We’re Face Timing and emailing and photo-streaming. Though she’s long had an FB account, she hardly ever used it, but now, from Abu Dhabi, she checks in, sees how America is doing, smiles at familiar faces, and feels connected to her old world’s every day minutae. FB doesn’t have to be all evil.