Randi Kreiss

Don’t know my platform from my algorithm

Posted

Have you seen the Esurance commercial with the two white-haired older women? One suggests the other doesn’t “get” Facebook, and the insulted woman says, “I unfriend you.” Pretty good — and pretty significant. The lighthearted spot points to the fact that Facebook has not only arrived, set down deep roots in our society and prospered, but has also changed the way we live, including the language we use.

How you feel about FB depends, in part, on how old you are. For some teens, it’s already dated and irrelevant. For most post-boomers, it isn’t wildly popular. But in between, there are billions of users around the world who embrace the FB life, posting their thoughts, their fears, their family events, their personal habits and their “likes,” from the mundane to the profound.

Many of us grew up with filters. My dad told me not to write anything on paper that I wouldn’t want to see published in a newspaper. Funny, right, since I share my thoughts with many thousands of readers every week. Still, I don’t share all my thoughts. And even though I use Facebook, I do so very carefully.

Initially, I was just a FB observer. Eventually I started posting photos or experiences that I thought my circle of FB friends would want to share. So, overall, it has been a mostly positive, benign addition to my communications. I did have to unfriend a couple of crazy relatives, but mostly it’s been a fun ride.

That all changed with the revelation that millions, and maybe billions, of us have had our personal information compromised by real evil-doers who may use that information for financial or political gain. Is Vladimir Putin reading my posts about my trip to Boulder, Colo., with my kids? Probably not, but somewhere, someone is using heaps of privileged data without permission and with the malicious intention to sway elections.

I don’t understand the technology that turns the wheels at Facebook. But I do understand what should be a sacred trust between me and any business that asks for my name, address, opinions and affiliations. I thought there was a firewall between Facebook and outside agencies that troll for information they can use for their own purposes. I was wrong, but apparently I’m not alone in my naiveté.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that enemies of America used Facebook data to influence the 2016 presidential election. That’s a chilling lapse for a company that boasts some of the best and brightest brainiacs in technology. Someone left the backdoor open. Donald Trump got elected, and the arc of history was changed forever.

Facebook brings joy to many of us who get to see what our kids are up to, find old friends, join groups that advocate for Chihuahuas or living in yurts or running with bulls.

As someone who went to Number Three School in Cedarhurst, then Lawrence High School, I’ve reunited with dozens of former classmates. What fun! The Facebook experience has opened the world for users with curiosity and imagination.

On the other hand, it has become another addictive online destination for too many people who live vicariously on its pages rather than opening the front door and getting a bit of fresh air and exercise.

Teenagers who grow up with Facebook may not appreciate the rights and necessities of personal privacy and how easily they can be compromised. Many teens are posting stuff that may come back to bite them when they interview for jobs in 10 or 20 years.

The most alarming news is that Facebook has become weaponized by agents dedicated to overthrowing our Democratic way of life. Who would have imagined?

I think Mark Zuckerberg and friends should have imagined. They were the brilliant upstarts determined to change the world. They were the Dr. Frankensteins of the technology revolution, giving life to a creature they ultimately couldn’t control.

Mr. Z is saying now that Facebook will make changes, become more transparent, put all the cats back in the bag. He says his company will fix the problems. I’m skeptical. I don’t know how he can get the bad guys to un-know what they’ve learned or un-gather all the information they stole.

The hubris of Facebook and its originators may have caused irreparable damage. The words Mary Shelly put into her monster’s mouth were, “I am fearless and therefore powerful.”

If only Zuckerberg and his creature had been a bit more fearful.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.