The 1953 Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451, has always been one of my favorites, not just for its frightening indictment of society’s fear of knowledge from books, but also for its indictment of vapid, interactive entertainment via wall screens—which didn’t even exist in 1953, but which now overrun our daily lives, with all the 50-inch or larger-screened smart TVs, not to mention the smartphones that we use for everything but talking to each other, or more realistically, that we use to talk so much that we don’t pay attention to our surroundings; or the “buddies” (Cortana, Siri, etc.) we rely on for everything from waking up to counting our heartbeats during exercise, to alerting us about the latest missing person in our neighborhood or about the impending tornado.
One of my favorite scenes from the book (and movie) is when Mildred, the wife of the main character, Montag, is called to from the wall screen to participate in the latest episode of some mindless TV show, and she cannot even summon up interesting dialogue to contribute to the scene.
Even as a child reader of the book, I thought this scene was so sad… and so telling! Who knew that 64 years after this book was published, I’d be sucked into following the antics of the CBS “reality” show, Big Brother, and would consider (for a hot minute) “participating” by texting in my vote for my favorite contestant?
Recently, I’ve found myself shying away from Facebook (FB), even as I continue to use it daily. Why? Well, it could be the increasing number of bogus clones of my friends’ accounts—and my own, all dutifully documented and reported to FB administrators.
But, no. Something even more wicked and insidious is “trending” in my FB experience: The Invasion of The Thought Police!
First, I began to notice that my newsfeed was becoming more narrowly tailored to my presumed interests—more political posts from my political-minded friends, more posts from history sites (which I don’t mind so much, as l love history), more posts from the music pages I belong to (which I also don’t mind because I love music), more religion-oriented posts (about which I have mixed feelings because I believe one’s religion should be personal and private), and more “Take this quiz” posts. But I also started noticing that I was seeing fewer personal posts from specific friends! Friends I care about deeply. Unless they happened to be posting about the abovementioned topics.
Then, I started seeing an awful lot of “suggestions” from the FB administrators: “Let us make a slideshow with music for you!” (which I did, as an experiment). Or, “Share how your day went!” This makes me cringe. (And it’s not limited to Facebook—Microsoft is also becoming creepily chummy, offering to arrange my photos into albums that make no logical sense to me and my life!)
The last straw was FB issuing me statistics on my usage of the site. As if I really care to catalog how many days in a row I’ve posted, or how many “likes” my posts have received, or who “liked” me the most. [To my Facebook Friends: My sincerest apologies to any of you whose identities are visible in this screenshot. I tried my best to crop this shot; further evidence of how much the media platforms control our content!]
And then I found a partial answer to the question that’s been screaming inside my head, “What the bleep is going on here???” The answer appeared in a tiny story from the Associated Press, buried on page 8 of The Baltimore Sun, on Friday June 23, 2017:
I really don’t think that “…shepherding them into online groups that bring together people with common passions, problems and ambitions” makes Facebook more “meaningful,” nor will it “encourage people to spend more time on Facebook”; in fact, I’d call this Mind Control or Social Engineering, and such moves should drive any sentient being with a brain, a heart, and even a modicum of creativity away from Facebook.
I thought (perhaps, naively) that Facebook was simply a platform for people to share their lives, interests, passions, etc., to keep up with old friends and family and to discover new ones. And, to be fair, it has been all those things for me over the last 8 years. But it’s a sad day for humanity when a simple platform starts to redefine you, box you into a corner, and encourages you to become addicted to it!
NEWSFLASH to All TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS and SERVICES: Your products are simply tools that I use to create and tell my own stories, share my own photo albums and music, and anything else I want to share with others, in my own way, and in my own time!
In my dreams…. We all know that I’ll be checking Facebook—and email—in an hour or so, to see who liked or commented on this post! Sigh….