Is Facebook out of control?

Today’s Facebook is becoming (too) prominent in our lives, and we have to ask ourselves this: is Facebook dangerous? 

With over 2 billion unique registered users, it is now the 3rd most used website after Google and Youtube
It has become the biggest social media of all, towering high above competitors such as twitter. Hundreds of millions of users log in each day to use messenger and share content on the website. From the beginning, Facebook was a social network dedicated to building your own stories and contents to share with your friends and private communities.


But lately, Facebook has taken an immense nosedive in content and quality.

From excessive politics to constant tagging in mediocre unfunny “memes” and now extremely intruding advertising, the once content-filled social network is starting to look like an ironic parody of its former self.

The politics (and memes) debacle

The biggest example of Facebook turning into a political mess was during the last US elections. On one hand, the website is indeed what it’s users make of it. But it is arguably Facebook’s responsibility to make sure that content shared within is legit.

And this wasn’t the case at that point in time. Not only did Clinton and trump throw a lot of (often false) accusations at each other, these also seeped into the website.

From obviously false to obnoxiously stupid, these discussions spread over everything. These turned the website into an unusable mess for anyone not willing to discuss these topics.

Pepe the Frog, an originally innocent meme, was turned into an "alt-right" symbol.
Pepe the Frog, an originally innocent meme, was turned into an “alt-right” symbol.

The same thing happened during every other major election after this one. It is believed that fake accounts were used to boost the popularity of certain candidates during many other elections as well. Let’s use the French elections as an example.

One of the threats to Macron and Le Pen’s campaigns was Jean-Luc Melenchon, and any post related to him were often massively discredited by people calling him a Stalinist or communist.

Likewise, Marine Le Pen voters were constantly called Nazis and fascists. François Fillon, one of the most unpopular runner-ups, was backed by thousands and thousands of fake twitter accounts, and it is possible that this happened on facebook as well.

These accusations and “fake news”  slowly took over critical thinking, and many people who fell for it now regret their vote. Either in the US or the French campaign.

The content draught

If you’ve been using Facebook for a long time now, you can probably see where this article is going. Back in 2008, when the website was still fresh, most of the content – in fact, all of it- was user created. Friends would share photos, statuses, blog posts, articles…

The average stupid "tag your friends!" picture on Facebook. As innocent as they are, they get really annoying.
The average stupid “tag your friends!” picture on Facebook. As innocent as they are, they get really annoying when you think they’re just there to get clicks.

Just think about it, honestly: when was the last time you saw a status? Or something that wasn’t a stupid meme video that barely made you smirk, at best? Or a hidden advertisement about why shopping at X place is better?

Most of the content now is either “tag your friend if they’re like this”
Almost everything that is posted is now targeted towards getting as many likes and reactions as possible. As such, a lot of original content gets stolen and rebranded by different pages.

This isn’t a “facebook” problem in itself, but the degrading quality of the website is sure to eventually have consequences for users.

And just as YouTube, a lot of content is now sponsored : big pages that reel in a lot of views start advertising brands more and more. Products are snuck in content to be advertised. And talking about advertisements…

Intrusive advertising

Facebook has been accused many times of selling user information. Although this is not entirely true, the way they bypass it resembles a sale of information. Instead of giving user information to companies, they offer “advertising branches”.

A picture of Facebook advertising.
Advertising has become more invasive on Facebook since 2014. (Copyright Forbes)

What these effectively do is target you as a potential audience for advertising and allows special ads to be shown to you.
It’s not as intrusive as selling your information, but the end result remains the same.

To top it off, the website is now being used for scamming. One such example that is prominent here in Ireland is the fake advertisements for housing. People steal identities and passport pictures and use these to promote scams.

These happen in every country and in many different sorts of markets and business. This goes to show how Facebook is losing control over its evergrowing user base. The numbers are simply too big for Facebook to control every user that registers. The lack of verification makes it easy to steal someone’s identity.

Zuckerberg’s megalomania

The scariest thing about Facebook is probably it’s owner. Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote a manifesto in which he explains he wants to turn Facebook into a global community.The entire essay reads like a comical dystopia.

Mark Zuckerberg walking among Virtual reality users
An unwillingly terrifying PR picture. (Copyright Mashable)

Zuckerberg sounds like he wants to turn the world into a new entity – with the help of Facebook. Although this is probably of good intentions, isn’t it creepy to think about this Big Brother watching everyone constantly? Like a massive database guiding our thoughts depending on what we like?

In times of severe globalization destroying cultures and the environment, isn’t it likely that this would have the same effect on a community?

With Instagram and Snapchat as part of the Facebook empire, it is now starting to take a lot of importance in many people’s lives. There is nothing we can do at the moment but sit and watch as events unfold. Any action taken to change things right now would be useless because all the content that is created is by – and for – the users.

But Facebook has long since stopped serving its purpose as a social network, and now feels more like a YouTube with more advertising and a messenger service. The difference is that Facebook tries to do more than it was meant to. So we ask ourselves this: is Facebook dangerous?

Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn into a global ideological messiah.

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