Books: Zucked by Roger McNamee

Almost everyone I know is on Facebook. My friends, my family, the people I used to work with, people I went to school with, other authors I’ve met… In particular, if you’re an author, you’ve been told you simply must have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. presence. And I’ll admit that when I deleted my Facebook page a few months ago, and left pretty much every FB Group I’d been a member of, I saw my sales plummet. But I also so my general life satisfaction and happiness go up, so…

But this isn’t a book about how Facebook and other social media impacts your happiness; there are plenty of other books and studies that do that. Zucked is about how Facebook (and Google, and Twitter, etc.) undermines democracy and is generally dangerous to the population.

That’s right. Dangerous.

To be clear, though I deleted my author page on Facebook, I do still have a personal account. This is because I live far from where I grew up, far from family, and my friends are spread across the globe. It’s also because all my kids’ schools lean on Facebook to disseminate information. See, Facebook has made itself practically indispensable. And there’s no other platform like it because Facebook squashes or absorbs all competition. Unregulated, Facebook is pretty much a monopoly.

And while we all think it’s great that Facebook allows us to keep in touch with people—people who otherwise would never email, so you’d pretty much never hear from them again—and/or snoop on old friends and flames, we need to remember that it’s a business not a charity. Facebook connects people at a price. It’s free to join, but you pay with your personal information, which Facebook sells to anyone willing to make them rich for it.

At this point, I’m sorely tempted to delete my Facebook account, but the damage is done. I exist in their system, and my profile has surely been sold many times over. That data, once sent out, can’t ever be called back. Who knows how many copies of it exist?

But here’s the thing: I absolutely won’t let me kids sign up for Facebook. Or any other major social media platform. For their own safety (cyberbullying being a real issue) and so that they can hold on to their information until the day we have legislation and regulation to protect them.

If any enterprising startup would like to make an ethical site that connects people, or if such a thing exists, I’d love to hear about it. I’d much rather pay a monthly or annual fee to protect my data than sign up for a free site that sells me as their product.

Oh, but what about the book? This was one of the clearest explanations of how these platforms do business and how bad actors (like the Russians) are able to use those business models to their advantage. Points deducted for the “History of Silicon Valley” chapter, which gave me flashbacks to my college days when I had to take a bunch of history of media classes. That bit was mind-numbing, and I don’t think it contributed much to the overall case against these platforms. It was meant to give context, but… meh. I ended up skimming that bit.

Still, anyone who has Facebook, anyone who uses Google or Instagram or other major platforms, should read this book. McNamee has decades of experience and lays things out neatly. An enlightening read.

Away Again

Taking advantage of these last few weeks of summer before the kids go back to school. So I’ll be away from my computer again. I will be able to post on Twitter, my Facebook page, my Instagram, and I think Tumblr (which I’ve had for years but only just started making any use of). Probably won’t be posting any fic on Tumblr (which is what I’ve been doing, kind of), but might post some pictures. So if you hang out in any of those social media spaces, look me up. NYC, coming at you!

Bon Voyage!

Yes, that’s me wishing myself a good trip. I’m not taking my laptop, which I admit gives me a bit of anxiety. I can’t remember the last time I traveled without it . . . Probably never, at least not since first getting a laptop.

Anyway, this means I won’t be updating here for a week. However, thanks to the miracle of smartphones, I will be posting on Twitter, Facebook, and probably a bit of Instagram as well. So follow me on one or all of those sites to see, if not me, a bit of Paris. À toute à l’heure!

Take Your Ball and Go Home

Someone I know on a social media site asked for advice. Someone he knows (and I suspect that someone might be me) keeps posting political stuff that he doesn’t agree with. The offender is “one share away from being unfollowed.” But of course, the person asking for advice feels the need to air his grievance prior to said unfollowing.

Look, you don’t have to agree with everything you see or hear or read. And it’s your right to unfollow people on social media or whatever. But I’d caution against the echo chamber of only surrounding yourself with people whose opinions agree with yours, whether online or in person.

Our society is fracturing. No one wants to give ground, and everyone is sure they and their side is correct. This unwillingness to even see or hear the other side is part of the problem.

I definitely don’t agree with everything I see from some of my friends and family who post in various places. I know they don’t agree with me either. But closing people off isn’t a useful way of building bridges and finding common ground.

And maybe no one is going to change their minds. Maybe we’ve hit that wall. Blocking off people who have a different perspective is tantamount to saying, “I refuse to consider you or your point of view. I refuse to engage in any kind of conversation. I dismiss you.”

Look, it’s not your inalienable right to not have to hear or see or deal with things that you don’t like. Sorry, but that’s how free speech works. But it seems we’ve come to the place where we’re shouting over each other and just trying to be louder than everyone else rather than be productive in any way, shape, or form.

The person asking for advice says he doesn’t understand why we can’t just avoid talking about politics at all. Well, while for some that’s a “solution,” some others of us can’t ignore what’s going on around us and feel the need to speak out.

So I’ll continue to speak out in the way I see fit. This person will unfollow me in any case, and that’s a little sad, but that’s on him. If he’s not open to discussion and can’t tolerate opposition . . . He can take his ball and go home.

Off-Topic

(c) CLAMP/Dark Horse – a picture I took from my English translation of “Cardcaptor Sakura”

As long-time readers of my site know, I am fond of Cardcaptor Sakura, and in particular of Touya and Yukito, who are probably my favorite fictional couple. After almost twenty years, CCS is back in a new series called “Clear Card.” The above shot of Yue (Yukito’s alter ego) and Touya aired this past weekend. It was a lovely scene, but I did have one problem with it. Touya tells Yue that Yuki told him Yue’s name. But in the manga (and, I thought, also in the original animated series—though I could be misremembering), Yue tells Touya his name when they first meet. So someone failed to check the continuity.

That aside, it’s a lovely, tense scene. Though I’m not sure why Touya is being so cagey about his new powers. Is he worried Yue will want them, too?

IWSG: Spring Fever

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Still hammering away at Faebourne! Looking down the barrel at that August 7th pub date . . . Also nervous but excited to have started doing Facebook videos. So if you have any questions you’d like answered, ask away and I’ll answer in my next video!

Question of the Month: It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

Spring lights a fire under me in terms of writing because I realize that the kids will be out of school soon and my chances to write will become smaller. At the same time, I find myself wanting to be out in the warm weather (when we have it). Why not write outside? For whatever reason I find that nearly impossible. The glare on my screen or off the paper in particular makes it difficult for me. And I have to sit in the sun; for me, that’s the point of being outside to begin with. So writing in spring usually ends up being a kind of internal tug-of-war. A real need to sit down and get some work done versus a restlessness and desire to be out and about.