Some of the more excitable online commentators online describe Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) as a dystopian nightmare. Others call the massive social media outlet as the Orwellian nightmare predicted in “1984.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard we are on the cusp of 1984. I would be as wealthy as the boyish-looking founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg.
In a rush toward fatalism, many are overlooking the good that Facebook is doing every day.
Founded while a student at Harvard, the original idea behind Facebook was a service for his fellow students to speak to communicate about the goings-on at school. Harvard admits smart kids to their institution, and Mr. Zuckerburg is nothing short of a genius.
Facebook started as an electronic way of sharing local information about the school, parties, and campus romance and has morphed into a media giant that is redefining nations. Electing Presidents, and toppling opponents are part of their daily routine.
There is a vast market for conspiracy theories in the world, so adding a few targeting Facebook was inevitable. Listening to my friends on the left, the fact that Hillary Clinton ran a horrible campaign, and was attacked by James Comey of the FBI with false allegations which hurt her campaign.
Her missteps, Comey’s bizarre press conference, not to mention Bernie supporters staying home or voting for Trump, were far more significant factors in the election than Russian collusion.
Russians are smart people, and they exploited this new technology for cyber warfare. Facebook is as much a victim of Russian misdeeds as Hillary Clinton. Social media is a relatively new technology, and it is going to take Facebook a while to figure out where the vulnerabilities of the system rest.
Facebook is a useful service. Lost in the din about Russians and our privacy are the good stories about how Facebook is making positive changes in communities and peoples lives on a daily basis. Here are a couple of instances, where Facebook is becoming the local citizen-run newspaper.
I grew up in a small city south of Chicago, Kankakee, Illinois. I left for the big city, with its bright lights and greater opportunities. My hometown fell on hard times. It went from a corrupt, but prosperous small town to a corrupt and impoverished place. Industry left, and urban decay replaced the manicured homes of a thriving middle class.
The economic health quickly declined once factories closed. The reaction of the corrupt local officials was not to mount an effort to replace the industries that departed, like Kankakee County’s neighbors did. There was no blueprint for recapturing prosperity, and there is not one to this day.
In corrupt Illinois, taxpayers are often the targets for those looking to make a fast buck, and they use local government as their vehicle of choice to do the task. As the once pristine and crowded downtown became seedy, a local developer purchased and tore down a large chunk of the central business district to build an office building. The building opened, and he sold it, then repurchased it, and sold it again using a rent-to-own scheme to sell the building to the cash-strapped city. The total of the payments is three times the value of the office building.
Is it illegal? No, it is legal. However, is it wise for a decaying city to pay such a hefty premium? The voters sure did not think so. The local newspaper has fallen on hard times too. They did not take up the cause for the taxpayers of the city. Facebook took it up.
Taxpayers are mad at the financial shenanigans. The local politicians armed with the support of the local newspaper were no match for local Facebook groups who rallied voters to action. Challengers love Facebook, incumbents try to attack the activists at every turn. An empowered constituency is not good for business as usual.
It is not just politics that are being changed by Facebook. I run one of the groups for my hometown. We have thousands of members, and the statistics provided by Facebook tell me 78% of our members are active members.
In an impoverished community, there are many people in need. Yesterday, a single Mother who starts chemotherapy reached out, and the group is responding and giving her help as she battles the disease.
People who suffer horrible tragedies are a click away from being helped. During a flood earlier this year, Facebook became the prime source for information on where to receive help. Let down by the County Emergency Services, and kept in the dark about the extent of the flooding, Facebook groups stepped in and helped people during the flood.
I could list many, many, many stories where people at the end of their ropes turned to our Facebook group and got the help, and the hope they need to solve looming problems.
Let the conspiracy mongers rage about Mark Zuckerburg and world domination all they want. It is as accurate as a particular President is a Kenyan or any other of the wild-eyed conspiracies that seem to be part of the American landscape.
Facebook is a good, and valuable service that is making positive changes in society. It is what we make it, so how will you use social media?
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