For about a year, I've sat with the efficacy (the ability to arrive at an intended result) of Facebook and Instagram as a means of communication, given the size, scope, and reach of its platform. I was hoping for leveling up rather than leveling down conversations that are connecting to what's behind the curtain of self that frankly for many is a projection... a kind of mask, that as the Narcotics Anonymous Basic-Text relates: “Although we often appeared attractive and confident on the outside, we were really hiding a shaky, insecure person on the inside. The masks have to go.” True is True.
FB and IG, from my perspective actually seemed to lend itself to a weird kind of exhaust pipe for people's randomness for what's going on in our heads. It was a lot like when my sponsor gave me a project to do something called "Morning Pages." You get as notebook, sit and write for 2 pages front and back whatever comes to mind, without reading it. I was supposed to do it for 30 days, and was extremely skeptical.
I told my sponsor, "I don't think I have that much going on in the mind, since I meditate so much on the daily." They said, "Thank's for the response. Lets test what you're saying out. Please do it anyway. Luke trust the Force!" I did as directed and guess what? The first 8 days, I wrote 4 to 5 pages of crap front and back. It was totally ridiculous and I was pretty shocked. I didn't realize so much was rumbling around my head. It was ideas... random thoughts... things that served as mental and emotional irritants... task lists... things that needed to be added, completed, deleted, deadlines, on and on and on. It was disconcerting, to see a clear cut example that despite 18 years of meditation at the time, there was so much going on beneath the skin of me, I lacked awareness of. Now imagine being placed on FB, IG, Twitter, TikTok, etc...
It's a toxic stew of crazy to be frank. There are people that I grew up with in recovery... thought thought thought I'd known them, only to find out that they're 180° away from the rules of the road that we are supposed to be abiding by in recovery. We're not like church people who are well dressed, and well behaved on Sunday, and then burning down the town with greed,, hatred, and delusion; Monday to Saturday, and then dressing up again. We're told not to jump into character defects, because we simply don't know when or how to stop on our own.
That said, Sunday I watched Frances Haugen... the former Facebook project manager on 60 Minutes. She's the one that copied out about 1,000 pages of research data, and internal communications from FB and IG, sharing it forward with the Security and Exchange Commission. Not only did they know they were contributing to all kinds of harm resulting in abuse, trauma, and in some cases widespread death in other countries, they are aware that their AI is surfacing content that's mostly hate based, because it maintains user interaction, which basically is like getting a dopamine hit, bonding people to their platforms.
In the 3.5 hour hearing in the Senate on Tuesday of this week... which was a remarkable instance with Republican's, Democrats, and Independents were in sync and had a 100% sane conversation. It was amazing... and staggering... and no mumbo-jumbo.
The above said, as Steve Jobs used to say... I have "One more thing." Over the years, I've written and shared a lot of myself, and experiences. The basic principle I apply is, "This is my experience, not my theory, or advice. This has been my life, as is. Its been a process of sharing the hard, difficult, vulnerable experiences most people are afraid to have.
Quite frankly it's been really hard. While I've definitely in my skin my entire life, that didn't mean that I had clarity on what I've lived through, and much less how to share about it in a coherent way. That's one of the unexpected gifts of having been in long-term recovery from addiction. As a predecessor once said, "My story hasn't really changed with regards to my history. What's changed through examination and time is the understanding of my own story." So what I've been sharing out on FB and IG is what I've learned, discovered, and the way I've healed, in mutual solidarity with others interested in doing so.
So here's FB and IG... We're writing and placing content on their platform. We're giving FB and IG, all the meaning that they have. They're the landlords... or some might say slumlords. We're paying rent, but what is the nature of the rent being paid? This has been my experience:
1) My user information. This includes things that I'm into. Where I grew up. Where I live now. Books, movies, political and spiritual views, on and on. They use and sell this information.
2) My content and what I've written. In-between what I've written, in our timelines they interspersed ads that are essentially nothing more than TV commercials, placed between what we're writing, reading, and commenting about. This is another way they monetize their platforms, and are worth a little more than 1 Trillion dollars.
3) In a predatory way, FB and IG are not only taking note of what users are clicking on. They're apps are two-way mirrors with computer algorithms watching on the other side. As someone with more than a little experience in Information Technology, they're able to note, scroll speed, where we stop, text and pictures we copy from the page, people that's we're connected with. That can connect information between Not only FB and IG, but their messenger applications.
In reading the terms of service (TOS) we actually give them permission to do all of that and.... Wait for it... retain the information... which they use to build psychological profiles on their users. This information is used to "Offer users more relevant ads." You mean what I told you about me isn't actually relevant? No it's not. What people say, can be very different than what we do. I myself often say, I tend to pay more attention to peoples behavior to understand how they feel about me rather than what they say, as it can oftentimes be in conflict.
Not only does FB and IG use that information for their own purposes. They can give other companies use of that information, trading and selling people's psychological profiles to other companies. In fairness, this is what's happened through Google Chrome and why Google is in a ton of hot water right now.
4) They gain our connections. I can't tell you how many people have said to me... "The only reason I actually stay on FB and IG is You. You're posting stuff that's helping me, so I stick and stay." That said, as an ordained theres' a tacit principle. We are not knowingly to be a source of a part of causes and conditions of harm, to the best of our ability.
FB and IG after watching the hearing don't offer me a way to stay in integrity with my values, because they're actually not trying to fix the problem. Like people who run a trap-house, they're trying to keep things going for their on profitability. Anything that happens inside that house, and are morally ambivalent. It's a lot like what I've heard from addicts when a bunch of people are getting high together and someone OD's. Rather than take the person to a hospital and get them help, they drag the body out of the car and keep rolling. That's what FB and IG do, and as Frances Haugen said repeatedly to the Senate subcommittee, 100% of the time, they trade the well-being of fellow humans for profit.
So on the flip side of that, I'll continue this process and practice, but do it from here. The day that I was ordained as a monk, I accepted the bodhisattva vows which are essentially pretty simple. To the best of your ability, help others, supporting them in taking responsibility, and genuine care of their body, heart, and mind. This is the everlasting principle of those called to manifest Buddha-nature... our Universal Identity of Loving Presence.
一May We Live and Die Without Regret