Just A Rant About Facebook by R.P. Lauer - Distant Web

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Just A Rant About Facebook
Just A Rant About Facebook by R.P. Lauer - Distant Web
R.P. Lauer
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10/18/2019
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Before I get into this, I want to make two things very clear right upfront. The first is that I am absolutely not trying to convince any Facebook user to go out and delete their accounts or even limit their activity on that site. The second thing is that I do think that every Facebook user should go out and delete their accounts, I'm just not trying to convince them of that. The fact is that nothing I say could possibly be more convincing that Facebook is not to be trusted than the plethora of preexisting information that even those living under rocks already knows about.

Plugins that allowed third party companies to access personal and private information from not only the accounts that installed those plugins, but also the friends of those who chose to install the apps as well. Turning a blind eye to the spread of misinformation to millions of users as long as the checks clear. Storing passwords of users in plain text files on servers for any employee to access for who knows how long. Possibly even contributing to genocide in 3rd world countries due to irresponsible practices all in the name of pushing the site as far as it can be pushed for ungodly amounts of money.

Yeah, there are already so many reasons to jump that ship, and any Facebook user that hasn't already done so probably won't no matter what comes to light. And honestly, it baffles me that anyone still goes there; but to each their own I guess?

So no, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything; I just want to vent my own frustrations based on my own personal experiences. So let's just dive right in, shall we?

I've never really liked Facebook, just like I've never really liked any form of 'Social Media', but I always saw it as a necessary evil. Its massive user base has made it almost impossible to not be able to do at least some networking both personally and professionally. Keeping up with friends, for example, was never as easy as it was with Facebook, and the same could be said for advertising anything you have going on in your life (again, personally or professionally). But there was always something odd about the idea that a site for social networking and keeping up with 'friends' was created by a complete misanthrope.

Have you ever heard that saying about how you should never trust a bald barber? It's a bit cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason.

Anyway, back in the day I would often see something odd as I scrolled through my 'feed' or 'wall' or whatever it's called; every so many posts there would be an ad shoved in. That's not the odd part, I expect ads on sites. What made the ads on Facebook so odd (to me) was not only how they went out of their way to look like anything BUT ads, but how they were always accompanied by a message that said someone (or multiple someones) from my friends list 'liked' the ad.

Actually, the way it was typically presented was along the lines of 'Joe Blow liked a page from [External Site]'.

For longer than I can explain, I really wondered if Mr. Blow (and the others) were actually 'liking' these pages, or if Facebook was just selecting random users from my friends list to match with the ads, thinking that their endorsement would somehow entice me to click. I really wanted to reach out and ask someone, but it always felt weird; not that many people on my friends list were actually 'friends' after all.

Then one day I kind of lucked out; it said my wife had 'liked' a page on Amazon, and my wife just happened to be in the room.

Now, before I move on, I just want to make a few things perfectly clear; my wife and I never shared a Facebook account ever, nor did we share a computer at that time. There was a time, from 1999 to 2003 where we did, but from 2004 on we always had our own computers. This was 2014 or 2015, so it had been some time. In fact Facebook hasn't even existed in our separated computer lives (it was January 2004 when we first had two computers and therefore stopped having to share).

So, back to the story. Facebook was telling me that my wife had 'liked' a page featuring a Star Wars related item on Amazon, and because she was right there in the same room I asked her about it.

In describing the item (having already asked if she 'liked' the page), her face turned sour and her voice was a little angry when she said "WHAT?". Basically, no, she did not 'like' any page on Amazon.com, but she did however view the item in question and added it to her Buy Later cart (whatever it's called). In fact it was intended to be a Christmas present for me that year; a present that was now ruined.

When describing this experience to others, many have basically said it's no big deal, equating it to browsing a site and seeing an ad for a product you previously viewed on another site (typically Amazon). However, this is absolutely not the case. Allow me to explain, and please pay attention because in my opinion, the difference is massively important.

Typically speaking, when you see ads on sites that reflect products you viewed elsewhere, this is what happens (again, typically speaking). You go to Amazon, and view Hemorrhoid Cream. Then you go to "Doug's Blog" and somewhere on the page, you see an Amazon ad for the same Hemorrhoid Cream.

Doug's site did not conjure up that ad. Doug has an Amazon plugin, a specific bit of HTML code, that connects directly with Amazon so that Amazon can try and entice visitors to reconsider purchasing a previously viewed product. Amazon is reading cookies that they placed on your computer, and then spitting it out to the plugin on Doug's site, but Doug is not being told that the Hemorrhoid Cream ad was displayed.

Now, maybe if you do then click that ad and purchase the product, maybe Doug will be told; I have no idea personally because though I did give Amazon's affiliate thing a try once, my site never generated a single purchase. So maybe Amazon will tell their affiliates what product a customer purchased from their site, but I kind of doubt it.

Again, for the cheap seats, Doug's Site is NOT choosing the product that gets displayed, Amazon is (assuming we are talking about Amazon because that's the example I chose).

So here is the difference between that type of situation and what Facebook does; You go to Amazon and view the Hemorrhoid Cream. Then, either Amazon tells Facebook willingly, or Facebook steals the information about your product view, and then Facebook tells your friends that you viewed that product, disguising it as a 'like'.

One version has a site spitting out your own viewing history back at you. The other version has a site telling everyone but you what you viewed.

If you are ok with that, then so be it. You really shouldn't be in my opinion, even if you are actually proud of your viewing habits. If a site is willing to breach privacy in that regard, that site probably has NO limits to what they will do for money.

And don't get me wrong; I am deeply disturbed by Amazon (or any other site for that matter) for willingly sharing that information with Facebook (because come on, you know Amazon did it willingly). But the fact is that Amazon (at least) provides products and services that are actually almost necessary; as brick and mortar stores are not only closing up in many cases, but also severely limiting their on shelf stock over all, many products are virtually unobtainable elsewhere. I almost have no choice but to use Amazon (but make no mistake, if I can get a product elsewhere, I will).

The second experience I'd like to share is what happened not long after finally deleting my account. I'm going to try and make this quick, as I have already rattled on long enough. And the fact is, this doesn't even come close to comparing with the other experience I shared, and that experience doesn't compare with the top scandals involving Facebook that hit the news all the time.

So early/mid 2018, I finally had enough and deleted my Facebook account. I'll be honest, the fallout was a little tougher than I expected. I had a page there for Distant Web, which unfortunately still exists. I transferred ownership to my wife with the hope of managing it sparingly from her account (that never happened). I also did loose contact with a lot of old friends who's numbers had apparently changed from what I had on my phone, and it was harder to really make potential business connections. That is what I hate most about Facebook having the power and influence it holds.

After a few months I had a thought; maybe I could make a kind of fake account for light networking, making sure not to fill it with anything important, and lock it down as securely as I could. I created a new email address through my site (my domain) and made an account with a 'version' of my name (basically I chose my middle name instead of my first name, something I have had to go by in the past). Right after setting it up and confirming the email address, I set everything I could to the strictest of settings I could, making sure not to give out more information than needed.

Once I was sure I had things setup well, I sent a friend request to my wife (the plan was to have her transfer my Distant Web page back to my new account) and then I logged out to go about my day.

Later in the day, I re-logged in to check things out, but Facebook told me there was a problem with my account. Facebook was now requiring me to add a cell number to my account. In absolutely no way was that going to happen! I didn't give them that information when I actually somewhat liked Facebook (ok, maybe liked is too strong a word. How about didn't outright loathe it).

My plan was to see if I could contact staff some how and explain that I didn't even have a cell phone to use (and I had not once been on with a mobile device), but there was no way to contact anyone. Any 'contact' link told me I had to login first, but trying to login would give a message saying that in order to login, I first had to provide a cell number.

Then I saw a link that said 'Report A Problem' on the error message (the one saying I needed to provide a cell number). This became the start of an endless loop; click the 'Report' link and get sent to a page saying that I had to login to use that feature. Try and login and get a message saying to provide a cell number, with a 'Report' link. Click the report link, be told to login. Click login, be told to give a cell number, with a 'Report' link. Round and Round we go.

Eventually I gave up and walked away. However, soon after, Facebook started sending emails offering suggestions on what I could do with my 'new account'.

Now adding to that endless loop was another entry; Facebook was acting as if I had an active account, sending me emails galore. Any link they contained, including 'Unsubscribe' links, required me to login (and I've already gone through that problem). And remember, I couldn't even delete this new account because in order to do that, YOU HAVE TO LOGIN FIRST! They provide no way to do anything if you can't login.

The only way to stop Facebook from emailing me was to delete the email address itself! Fortunately I only created the address to manage a Facebook account, so I just deleted it and moved on. But this did tell me that I would never again have a Facebook account, no matter what I could possibly miss out on as a consequence.

What really sucks though is that there is yet another endless loop that is created by Facebook's current level of influence and power, as well as people who just don't care about the shady stuff that Facebook gets away with; As long as Facebook retains its power and influence, a true competitor will probably never have a chance. Because as long as Facebook exists, not many people will even give a new site a shot since it will be automatically lacking in influence and reach. As long as no competitor exists (with equal influence and reach), no one will leave Facebook. As long as Facebook exists....

(Rinse and Repeat)

This kind of mentality (the bigger picture kind of mentality) is why nothing ever changes. Few people are ever willing to stand up and so 'No More'. Just like how all of the outrage over China and their influence on all areas of business will eventually blow over and everyone will move on as if no outrage ever happened in the first place, so shall Facebook stay as corrupt and power hungry as ever.

Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent there. But just to reiterate, I am really not trying to convince any Facebook users out there to delete their accounts, even though I do believe they should. But, truth be told, I am (at least kind of) judging them. And who knows? Maybe I'll end up being wrong in one way or another. Maybe, just maybe, Facebook will somehow see the light and reform their ways even without a mass exodus? Or maybe a true competitor to Facebook, with a better sense of what is and isn't ethical, will come to pass even without Facebook first losing its power?

One can dream, after all.

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