Dan Beeston is

Brushing Off Invisible Spiders

Big Blue F

2nd September 2020

I loved Facebook when I first found it. FindMyFriends was so limiting unless you were paying for an account. But this was the Internet. Information, I was assured, was meant to be free.

Facebook provided a nostalgic connection for no cost. I invited everyone I knew, mapping my social circle like a bag full of magnets. People got poked. Graffiti got drawn. Birthdays got celebrated. Mondays got acknowledged.

I’m a big fan of using technology to make things easier. Facebook seemed like a gift. Certainly when you were trying to promote the various creative endeavours you were working on it was a boon. Free advertising. And the joy of returning from a performance to see your friends light up the feed with ‘What a great night out. Dan was hilarious’.

Of course, they needed to make money somehow. Advertising had appeared for years but then the show promotions started to cost actual cash. The first hit was free. People stopped simply remarking on their life and only really went to it when they were impassioned. Words were said. Caps were locked. Rifts occurred.

I’ve seen terrible division occur on the web. I learned all my hard lessons in online forums in the nineties. But now the everyman was learning it all once. And some people are not fast learners.

I still found it compelling. I was getting better and better at communicating my thoughts without triggering other people’s hot buttons. I was also getting better at recognising my own. Organising events was a breeze. Remembering birthdays had become a no-brainer. I could see that some people were becoming politically divided but that seemed like growing pains.

Then Trump got in.

Russia had used social media to play the left against the right. It was genius. Awful, awful genius. Misinformation in a world where the truth was always one unlikely click away. And Facebook were the carpet-baggers. Raking in literal billions of dollars by tuning their software to make people upset with each other.

It was a devil’s contract.

With my valuable time I would create the content for free. I’d share it and this made the site worth coming to. Facebook would be nothing without the user generated content. At the same time I’d scorn the people in power destroying democracy for profit. I realised…

They had created a trap for the democracy unicorn. They’d armed it. They’d set up a buyer for unicorn flesh. The unicorn had wandered in and SNAP. Unicorn steaks.

It was monstrous. I called out ‘Shame'. We all did. But we were the ones who baited the trap. The trap doesn’t work unless we play our part. And our calls of condemnation just called in more unicorns.

Facebook has great tech, and there are people who work there doing amazing stuff for the right reasons. But for now, it is guided by the hand of capitalism and their algorithm that can only measure success by the almighty dollar.

The cost of Facebook used to be tears, but now it’s blood. So I’m out.

I hear so many other people say ‘I'd leave too except…'

I had reasons to stay. But that’s how they get you.

There is RSS, and email, and telegram. Life doesn’t have to be beholden to the big blue F. We can all do this together. I invite you.