Editorial: Facebook is Disney’s Ursula, Stealing Our Voice and Putting It in a Shell

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Image of Disney’s Ursula published for educational purposes pursuant to fair use doctrine.

 

(APN) ATLANTA — Remember Disney’s The Little Mermaid?  There was an evil sea monster named Ursula.

 

Ursula the sea monster convinces Ariel, the mermaid, to exchange her voice for legs to walk on land.  Ariel sings; and as she sings, her voice physically leaves her body and is transported into Ursula’s shell.

 

Well, Facebook, too, is Ursula, stealing our voice and putting in a shell.

 

It was accomplished so insidiously, in such a novel way, it’s hard to exactly pinpoint the moment when Facebook became so ubiquitous that we relied on their algorithm-driven platform to communicate with our friends, with our colleagues, with our family members.

 

There are at least three ways that Facebook is Ursula.

 

First, it’s important to think about how Facebook has replaced other forms of communication, especially interpersonal communication.

 

It’s been three weeks since I deleted my Facebook after over a decade of living my life on and through Facebook.  And I feel wonderful.

 

It has forced me to pick up the phone and call people.  It has forced me to think about who I want to communicate with especially, and about who I want to hear certain messages; and to spend time interacting with them in private communications, as opposed to in the public Thunderdome that is Facebook.

 

As a journalist, I felt like I needed to be on Facebook even more so, to be plugged into the news.  However, the reality is, the day APN runs out of things to cover because I’m not scrolling through Facebook, is the day we can address that issue.

 

Many of you are reading this Editorial on APN’s e-newsletter.  Because APN began in 2005, before the advent of Facebook’s ubiquity, we built up our e-newsletter email list as the best available way to communicate with people.

 

You know we are so lucky to have that asset that is independent of Facebook, because now it is so easy, when creating an organization, campaign, or business, to become completely reliant on Facebook to communicate with people – which means spending thousands of dollars in advertising on Facebook to collect followers, only to spend thousands more for them to see your posts.

 

So our voices that may have been heard through phone or email, were stolen by Facebook and put into a shell, especially when you consider the second point.

 

Second, Facebook picks and chooses who gets to see our posts.  Now, I have to say there are times that I posted things that I knew in my heart of hearts were worthy of more reactions than they received.

 

Facebook apparently sets its algorithm to promote its own profit, to show our posts to people when they believe the posts will get the most interactions because that is what advertisers want and that is what makes money for Facebook.

 

But first you become reliant on Facebook to communicate, because it’s so easy and everyone with whom you need to communicate is on there, but then, your posts end up in a shell.

 

The third way that Facebook is Ursula is now, of course, their censorship of the free exchange of ideas.

 

I entirely agree with those who contend that Facebook is no longer a platform but a creator of content.

 

Most recently, the last straw came when Facebook called themselves adding context to my post.  They posted a post on my post!  

 

I posted that 36 people had reported miscarriages to the adverse effects hotline after taking the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 vaccine.  Facebook added “context” that the vaccine was found to be safe by certain institutions.  

 

This is not the platform to which I subscribed.  Many other people have found their posts taken down, or have found themselves in “Facebook jail,” which is, essentially, a probationary period in which people are unable to post to the social media platform.

 

In one recent trend, I understand that Facebook red flags any post that attributes characteristics to all men, or all women.  I mean, it’s perfectly all right that we all appreciate the arbitrary constructedness of gender, but this type of cultural reprogramming is some 1984 language controlling propaganda that would make the good George Orwell blush.

 

Where does it end?

 

And we get it that the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution generally does not protect censorship by non-government entities (company towns are an exception, by the way).

 

But what requires an oppressive government in China to censor free speech, here they have accomplished with private corporations, through private contracts with us.  We’re basically Disney’s Ariel.  We’re just happy we get to walk on land.

 

Besides the way that Facebook steals our voice and puts it in a shell, Facebook also distorts our voice, like the spiraling, twisting spires of so many conchs.

 

People seem so emboldened to come onto people’s pages and post negative, non-constructive comments.  In short, Facebook turns us from gracious friends into vicious trolls – and their algorithm is programmed to do it to the extent that cruel bickering is highly interactive, and just perfect for a targeted ad placement.

 

In fact, when you decide you now hate your elementary school friend because you now have a political disagreement that you never would have had if not for Facebook, a new pair of sweatpants is right there waiting for you for only $89.99.  

 

We have got to get back to personal communication.  Some people are Zoom weary, but at least Zoom meetings have the virtue of being able to see people’s physical reactions, of being able to hear people’s voices.  

 

It’s amazing how respectful we can be of one another when Facebook doesn’t offer a way to be hateful that is so easy, quick, and somehow anonymous-feeling.

 

I’ve discovered so much time in my day that I can’t now spend it scrolling on Facebook.  

 

I’m no longer Facebook’s cash cow; previously, I was such a good consumer of the products Facebook marketed to me, I believe my account was probably worth tens of thousands of dollars to Facebook’s shareholders.

 

Remember there was a time without “social media”?  Remember there was a time without Facebook?

 

I’m here to tell you, another world is possible.  I not only got my time back, I got my voice.  Unlike Ariel’s contract with Ursula, our contract with Facebook has an exit clause.  It takes thirty days to delete an account.  You can download all your photos.  Stay strong.  There is life after Facebook.

 

(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)

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