October 13, 2021
I’m deleting the Happy Coding Facebook page.
I’m doing this for a few reasons, but it boils down to this: Facebook makes the world a worse place, and I no longer want to support it.
I don’t think that the loss of my whopping 468 likes is going to convince Facebook to stop spreading misinformation and misery, but maybe this makes it 1% easier for somebody else to quit Facebook, which will make it 5% easier for the next person.
Smarter people than me have written about the evils of Facebook, so I won’t turn this into that kind of rant. But I will say that the thing that frustrates me is that Facebook could be an overwhelming force for making the world a better place, but instead they choose to chase shallow engagement at the cost of very real happiness.
Social media deepens the fault lines of society:— Tristan Harris (@tristanharris) August 30, 2021
Are you Pro-vaxx?
-> see overwhelming evidence of vaccines working & un-vaxxed people dying.
Are you Anti-vaxx?
-> see overwhelming evidence of "breakthrough" cases for vaccinated people, CDC/FDA corruption & safety issues.
The internet could (should?) connect people to each other. We can meet people we never would have met otherwise. We can experience new art, music, and ideas that our IRL social circles wouldn’t have shown us. We can learn about literally anything. Maybe that’s utopian, but I can’t help but imagine a world where we got social media right.
Instead, we’re shown bottom-of-the-barrel clickbait that has an explicit goal of making us angry, outraged, or scared. That’s what gets the clicks, which is what advertisers pay for, which is what gets tech employees promoted. But it comes at the cost of radicalizing people by appealing to their worst biases, which divides us and even causes real physical harm.
What would the world look like if instead of optimizing for clicks, companies like Facebook optimized for happiness? I get that we have to pay the bills, although I would argue that a lot of these problems come from the need to make more money every year, because what really matters is the ever-increasing stock price. But in a world where every brand hires a social media manager to make sure they appear socially conscious and quirky, why are we stuck with the business model of making people feel bad so they click more things?
I've been talking about this a lot lately. I keep hearing that the problems of misinformation and exploitation are too big or difficult to solve.— Kevin Workman (@TheKevinWorkman) September 4, 2021
But that's only true because we let tech companies get that big. And now they (we?) won't spend the money / time to fix it. https://t.co/73nETt299u
I want to believe that somebody will figure this out, that it’s possible to connect people without exploiting our lizard brains. That’s a big part of why I’m so interested in education, and a big part of Happy Coding. The more diversity we have in the rooms where these platforms are built, the better our chances of finding a way out of the hole we’ve been digging.
But I also know that monstrously large companies like Facebook can just buy out any competition that comes up with a new idea. So from now on I’m voting for people and policies that regulate these issues and break up these companies.
We need some fresh thinking on how to incorporate communication technologies into our social lives in a way that doesn't incentivize anger, radicalize the vulnerable, and turn every issue into tribal war. Nerdesse oblige on the part of the current players is not going to cut it.— Pinboard (@Pinboard) September 19, 2021
I don’t think that Facebook is the only company that’s guilty of these things. Twitter, Google, and pretty much every other tech company has its own share of blame. And don’t get me started on modern “news” media. But I do think that Facebook is one of the more egregious examples of the exploitation of the worst parts of us just to get more clicks.
I started Happy Coding with the goal of educating and connecting people. This feels like a step in the right direction.
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