Twenty on Facebook: Dreams dashed, disappointments realised - Cafeqa

Twenty on Facebook: Dreams dashed, disappointments realised

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Facebook launched the social media boom twenty years ago. However, the excitement that started it all has faded, and people are starting to criticize the business more and more for its actions

The biggest social media network in the world, Facebook, has been around for 20 years. More over one-third of the world’s population uses Facebook at least once a month, totaling over 3 billion users. That’s very inspiring.

A hearing before the US Senate brought scathing criticism on Facebook creator and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, dampening any festive atmosphere just days before its 20th anniversary. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham yelled at Zuckerberg, saying, “You have blood on your hands.” “You have a product that’s killing people.”

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Issues about the inadequacy of prominent online platforms to safeguard children and youth were discussed at the January 31st session. The critique was summarized by Senate Judiciary Committee head and Democrat Dick Durbin.

“Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk,” he said at the beginning of his speech.

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People are starting to talk about the risks of social media. It is being implicated in a youth mental health epidemic in the United States.

On January 31, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the protection of children.Photo credit: AP/picture alliance/Susan Walsh
In an interview with DW, German psychologist and risk research expert Gerd Gigerenzer enumerated many negative impacts of social media. Not only that, but an increasing number of individuals are reporting that they have trouble focusing. “Some studies have shown an increase in insecurity, low self-esteem, depression and even suicidal thoughts,” according to him.

The fact that the suicide rate among Americans aged 10–25 climbed by 60% in the ten years from 2011–2021, for instance, could serve as an additional clue.

A promising beginning for online communities


But Facebook was so innocent when it first came out. In those early days of the internet’s promise of openness and involvement, the digital revolution was taking place. This new type of communication looked to provide greater freedom, involvement, and democracy, in contrast to conventional media that formerly functioned on the concept of one-to-many communication.

When it came to finding friends with similar interests, sharing vacation photographs, and keeping tabs on friends’ activities, Facebook was the social network to beat. “In the beginning, Facebook was seen as having a rather altruistic mission: people hoped that connecting people would make the world a better place,” remembered Germany-based media expert Martin Emmer.

Nevertheless, it evolved into a system with extensive ramifications. Consider the lofty expectations that the 2011 Arab Spring protests sparked. The network’s role in coordinating protests and resistance led to the term “Facebook revolution.”

Facebook, in particular with the rise of the smartphone, combined state-of-the-art technology with an age-old human desire. After all, “Humans are social creatures,” Emmer said. Even more impressive than any previous medium, these platforms have made it possible to engage with others on a variety of levels, each fine-tuned to suit the kind of friends we have. They make it possible for us to impact other people’s lives.

Caught in the middle of a power struggle


A user’s data and attention span are the two forms of currency that users may use to pay for access to the network’s infrastructure.

Marketers are eager to shell out cash in exchange for people’s undivided attention. The ability to send messages to prospective clients with pinpoint precision is a major benefit of using detailed personality profiles.

This is why platform providers are so eager to get user data; each like adds another piece of information. Furthermore, with in-depth understanding of users’ preferences, timelines may be inundated with information that will entice users to stay on the site for an extended period of time.

The people in charge of the platforms didn’t care about the consequences for people and society for a long time. There has been a correlation between Facebook and other platforms and the rising societal division, the viciousness of political debates, and the growth of the most outlandish conspiracy theories.

Political actors may also take use of social media because of the influence they have in the communication sphere. Claims that Russia manipulated the 2016 presidential election results using Facebook surfaced in 2016. The Cambridge Analytica controversy rocked Facebook two years down the road. The corporation has studied the information from some 50 million Facebook accounts in an effort to influence voting behavior via the deployment of highly tailored messages, mostly without the users’ awareness. In the 2020 US presidential election, Facebook groups such as “Stop the Steal” assisted former president Trump in spreading the falsehood of a stolen vote.

In 2024, there will be a big election, and artificial intelligence and social media may play a role. Voting will take place in countries where more than half of the global population resides, including the US, EU, Pakistan, and Russia, as well as India and Indonesia. American computer scientist and tech critic Jaron Lanier is also concerned.

The rise of deepfakes from AI and other new applications of technology to manipulate people are coming about, and I think many people will not be prepared for that,” DW said. The risks of social media were forewarned by Lanier in his 2018 book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”
On the bright side, Lanier thinks that more and more people are starting to realize that they are being influenced. “Whether the number of people who are is enough to make a difference, I don’t know,” stated the president.

Society has let data businesses define the rules for too long, believes Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, a network scientist based in Berlin. “For 20 years now, we have allowed Web 2.0, the internet in which everyone can share content, to develop into something that is almost entirely commercial,” according to him. “We have allowed this attention economy to proliferate.”

Government officials rushing to keep up with tech companies


Politicians, meantime, have been attempting to wake up and catch up to the internet titans. The Digital Services Act was enacted by the European Union in 2022. The goal is to get unlawful material, such hate speech, removed as quickly as possible. Freedom of expression is one of the basic user rights that it aims to better safeguard.

Researchers will also get access to data held by internet behemoths for the first time. “There’s progress being made toward transparency so that we can open up this black box a little and see how this machine works,” Lorenz-Spreen stated with joy.

It makes a ton of money whichever way you slice it. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, chose to pay dividends to its stockholders for the first time on its 20th anniversary since it generated so much money from advertising in the final quarter of 2023. Maybe there is cause for celebration after all, if only for them.

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