Over the past two days, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before Congress and answered questions about the company he built, the benefits of being connected, and the price we pay for that connection.
While it’s far easier for us to “tsk, tsk” him with the air of a condescending mother whose child would never get in that kind of trouble, I’m sorry to say that we’ve enabled this.
At this point, a lot of you will stop reading, go back to the browser tab that says “Facebook” and continue scrolling through content — much of which will simply make you angry yet you do it anyway. So I’m going to sacrifice the flow of this article to make a critical point:
Facebook violated its users’ trust, and as the CEO, the blame stops with Zuckerberg.
Now that that’s out of the way, I shall continue for those of you who have decided to hear my argument out instead of going back to feigning interest in people’s lives you probably haven’t seen in at least six months, six years, or even more.
As consumers, Facebook has an obligation to ensure that our information isn’t being used in nefarious ways, but as narcissists, we no longer have rights to the claim that privacy is this sacred concept that we hold dear.
What began as a forum to connect with college friends has turned into a public place where we practically shout every intimate detail of our lives through a megaphone. Well, almost every detail.
We post the details we believe will get us the most attention — the restaurants we’ve frequented, the trips we’ve taken, and the picture-perfect relationship we’ve finally discovered.
The warning that “nothing on the internet is private” was repeated hundreds of times. Yet the validity of those words known to both the people saying it and the people hearing it wasn’t enough to overcome the euphoric feeling of thinking people are jealous of you.
Seeing those likes amass has fed our awakened narcissism, and as we claim outrage over privacy violations, we continue to post every meal we eat, every thought we have, and practically every move we make.
Yes, there’s a difference between what a user chooses to share about themselves and what Facebook chooses to share about their users.
However, we’ve noticed ads following us around the internet, and some of us have even wondered what the cost of sharing the details of our lives is. But it’s usually followed up by a joke with friends over a drink and then a post about how great that happy hour was.
Even now with the Cambridge Analytica breach — are we going to delete our Facebooks? Are we going to turn off the Snapchat map and start reading the terms and conditions?
We know for a fact that Google Maps tracks where we go and how often, but are we going to pull the paper versions out of the glove compartment and rely on ourselves to navigate?
And if Mark Zuckerberg was to visit each of our homes personally and tell us to our faces that nothing we post is truly private, would it change anything?
The answer for most of us is that it wouldn’t — even if we want to say, hypothetically, that it would.
It’s because we like the feeling it brings us. We get the instant gratification of interpersonal relationships without having to put in any real work.
It’s easier to go to our family or friend’s Facebook page than to pick a weekend, take time out of our busy lives, and go visit them. It’s a charade that we all buy into, in which we see a lot of people but know very few.
We’ve turned into social media vampires that require likes to survive. Without them, we feel uneasy, and like any addict, it’s easier to indulge and blame someone else than do what we know is right and endure the withdrawal.
The issues brought to light by the Cambridge Analytica breach are completely valid, and Zuckerberg deserves to be taken to task over them.
However, there’s a simple answer for those who are claiming to be outraged: Delete your Facebook.
But most of us won’t change a single thing about how we use networking platforms because, after all, if you didn’t post it on social media, did it even happen?