Facebook Sucks … Kinda/Maybe

OMG, the sky is falling!  Citizens, run for your lives!  SAVE YOURSELVES!

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This moment of panic was brought to you by Mark Zuckerberg and the good folks down at Facebook.  Apparently, those fun-loving scamps in Menlo Park, CA have been slackin’ off in the I’ve-Got-Your-Back department and allowed another company, Cambridge Analytica, to harvest personal data from a bunch of unsuspecting Facebook users.  Actually, “a bunch” is a bit of an understatement; the real numbers are north of 50 million.  Wow!  This is a serious no-no, and I have the feeling “my bad!” isn’t going to cover it.  (Although it looks like Zuckerberg is giving it the good ol’ Harvard try.)

I’ll grant you that this sordid bit of business looks remarkably like some faceless corporate somebody is peeking in the bedroom window, but let’s not get all lynch mob crazy just yet.  There are a few things we have to consider.

One — Unless you’ve been living on one of the moons of Uranus for the last 30 years, you know that the Internet is kinda like Santa Claus:
It sees you when you’re sleeping
It knows when you’re awake
It knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Cyberspace is not a vacuum, and every computer click that happens there is going somewhere.  Only children and the hopelessly uniformed believe the Internet is a private party.

Two — The people who are suddenly swimming in a sea of indignation over their invaded private parts are the same ones who’ve been posting their lives away on social media.  Honestly, if you’re telling the entire world everything about yourself — from your college Beer Pong championship to what you had for lunch at Olive Garden — you don’t have a lot of room to complain.  There’s such a thing as due diligence.

Three — Right now, Facebook might be the Big Bogeyman (Bogeyperson?) but they’re not the only ones collecting your private information.  Literally everything, in the 21st century, is selling you out to Cyberspace — from your Smart phone and its GPS tracker to that Rewards Card in your wallet that offers up your buying habits every time you swipe it.  At any given moment, some Internet minion somewhere can probably pull up a profile and tell you what size underwear you’re wearing and where and when you bought it.

But finally — So what?  Like it or not, we all know privacy has always been a movable feast.  Anybody who grew up in a small town will tell you that.  Personally, I’m not too pleased my preference in intimate apparel is getting harvested by 1,001 data management companies across the world, but my alternatives are limited.  I can a) sit around and bitch about it or b) pull the plug on my digital world and walk away.

So far, I’m not prepared to do either one.

What You Miss When You’re Cyber-blind

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I have a friend who is cyber-blind.  He doesn’t have a computer; he doesn’t have a tablet; he doesn’t have a cell phone.  In fact, he barely has cable TV (and no PVR!)  But he isn’t one of those pompous asses who’s constantly reminding the world that he lives on a higher plane of consciousness because he’s transcended technology.  No, he’s just a regular guy.  And as he tells it, “I missed the beginning of the digital revolution, and now the learning curve is too steep for me to catch up.”  He’s perfectly content, BTW, but the obvious question is: how does he function, on a daily basis, in a world that can’t go to the toilet without tweeting the results?

Here are just a few things my friend is missing:

1,612 Instagram Photos of Food — One of the requirements of an Instagram account is that you must eat at least 9 meals a day.  And I’m certain nobody under 30 knows what hot food tastes like because, by the time they’ve produced the photographic evidence, it’s cold.

16,120 Useless Email Messages — Aside from being cursed at birth, there is no earthly reason why my email account overflows every couple of days and I have to spend at least a half an hour, cleaning up the crap.  Who the hell even uses email anymore?

161,204 YouTube Videos — You start off, in the early evening, clicking on a 3-minute video about how to stuff a Cornish Hen and end up — somewhere south of midnight — watching “Best Of Drunk Girl Fails 2014,” posted by a Ukrainian named Nemski.  Don’t deny it!  You’ve done it, too!

1,612,047 Facebook Homilies — What is it about Facebook that attracts idiot clichés?  Facebook could be one of the greatest forums for intelligent discussion in history, but what do we get?  Cute kitten memes that tell us to “Value your friends, cuz true friendship is purrfect!”

16,120,479 Twitter Trolls — I don’t care how you slice the pie, Twitter is Lord of the Flies with Wifi!  It’s as if Jack the Ripper’s evil twin built a digital playground for all his nasty little friends and then turned them loose on the world.

But the very worst thing in the digital universe is:

161 Passwords — Every time you turn around in cyberspace, you need a new password.  I’m absolutely convinced that Websites demand that these weirdo afflictions have at least 8 characters, 2 prime numbers, 1 capital, 1 lower case, 3 symbols, an emoji, a hieroglyphic, a quadratic equation, a Greek letter, a Cyrillic letter and the first three letters of your great-aunt’s maiden name because they want to see just how obedient we are to our computer overlords!

Casualties Of The Internet (Part Two)

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I love the Internet, but here are a few casualties of our increasing dependence on technology — Part Two.

Memory — Remember Algebra?  Neither do I.  It’s not important to me.  Nor do I remember the atomic number of zinc, how to spell concieve (conceive?) or the names of some of those odd little countries that used to be the Soviet Union.  I don’t remember any of that stuff.   But the Internet does.  It remembers everything.  Unfortunately, because of that, I don’t remember my Aunt Vera’s mailing address either, or my sister’s telephone number, or most of my friends’ birthdays — and these things are important to me.  My point is, for most of human history, people remembered things.  In fact, when stuff was really, really important, they carved it into stone — just in case.  However, since the Internet, we don’t remember much of anything — important or not.  We let the Internet do it for us and trust that some evil little hacker from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan doesn’t get pissed off, one rainy winter evening, and wipe it all out.

Bricks and Mortar Stores — When I was a kid, the butcher used to call my mother “Mrs. Fyfe.”  My sisters used to flirt with the checkout clerks at the grocery store.  My dad knew the guys at the lumberyard — by name.  And, once, the girl at the bookstore hid the last copy of Welcome To The Monkey House under the counter for me.  These were not unusual occurrences.  Everybody my age has similar experiences.  These days, however, I haven’t been to a bookstore since I discovered Amazon because there aren’t any left in my neighbourhood.  (I’m not sure which happened first.)  I just bought a Roomba and the first time I saw it was when I opened the box.  I shop at a grocery store that’s so large it needs its own GPS and find myself envying people in England who can shop at Tesco from the privacy of their own pajamas.  We are the last generation of touch-and-feel retail.

Blood and Bones People — I have nieces and nephews I haven’t seen since they were children, but I recognize their husbands and wives.  I’ve seen their homes, know what they eat for dinner, where they go on vacation and what they do for fun.  I’ve had conversations (and arguments) with people I don’t even know.  Strangers compliment me every day.  I play games with people who don’t have names and might very well be figments of a digital imagination.  And I have no idea where many of my friends live because I’ve never met them. The truth is, even though we might not want to admit it, in the 21st century, most of us have just as much human contact online as we do face-to-face.  The problem is electronic people might LOL but they don’t laugh; they can emoji, but they can’t cry.  They don’t spill their wine, ruin your makeup, squeeze your hand, slurp their soup, or kiss you goodbye.  And it is this indisputable fact — more than what and how we remember, or where and when we shop — that’s changing our society more radically and rapidly than ever before in human history.