Mo’ Meta Blues

Facebook, or the company formerly known as Facebook and would like you to forget it ever was Facebook, has tried to go the Prince route.

Like his Royal Badness, they still have a bunch of asses like we have always seen. And the ride…and the ride…ain’t so smooth.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under fire on several fronts, including ignoring research on the effect of its sister app Instagram on younger users, the attitude of profit over proper moderation of hate speech and content that promoted sex trafficking, and willfully ignoring foreign-driven and allowing purposely misleading chatter during the recent U.S. elections in order to pad their financials.

When whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations were revealed to the public, the backlash was palpable. Shortly thereafter, Zuckerberg announced the change to the Meta name, ostensibly as an effort to focus on the somewhat hard-to-define “metaverse” and evolve beyond the current status quo.

Yes, I see the name Meta whenever I click on the apps on my mobile phone and laptop computer, but I’m not inclined to call Facebook and Instagram anything but what they had been traditionally called.

Another thing that was bandied about the time of the announcement was a protest of sorts – three days without logging onto Metinstafaceagram at all starting November 10th. Initially, there seemed to be strong support for the idea, and I thought why the heck not? I could avoid checking on things for three days in a row, right?

Well, could I? And would anyone else log off as well?

Son of a bitch
Give it a click
One more night
This can't be me
Son of a bitch
If I can't get clean
I'm gonna post my life away
“S.O.B. (Special Metamix)” - Not Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

First Day: I realized early on this was going to be hard.

Despite seeing my reminder not to logon to Facebook and Instagram, a birthday reminder brought forth an almost automated link click to the corresponding personal page. My mind went full Edvard Munch as I shut down the app ASAP.

I thought hard – should I wish this someone a happy birthday? Would that be cheating in this mini-challenge, or was the mini-challenge not so important versus a happy birthday greeting?

After some thought, I said no. I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t a slave to an app. So, for those folks who didn’t get a birthday greeting from Nov. 10 – Nov. 12 this year, you know why. And yes, I do hope you had a wonderfully great birthday day.

But, you know what they say about old habits. I clocked on the Instagram app (and occasionally, Facebook) a LOT during this first day, followed by a silent “No!!!!” Quick views of accounts I follow regularly flashed into my vision with a thought of “well, it would be okay to just send a Like, right?”

I was tempted, yes. For 0.68 seconds. For an android, that is nearly an eternity (thank you Data of Star Trek for that inspiration.)

As the day wore on, though, I found it got easier. The habitual clicks on the Facebook and Instagram apps grew less and less frequent. Slowly but surely, I was starting to break what had become pretty much automatic.

“Don't take your likes away from me
Don't you leave my heart in misery
If I don’t click then I'll be blue
'Cause breaking up is hard to do

Remember when I held my phone so tight
And then you kept me up through the night
Think of all you put me through
And yet breaking up is hard to do”
Kneel Sedaka - “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

Day Two went a lot easier: granted, we were on a short road trip (more on that in a future post), so for a few hours, my focus was strictly omon keeping the car on the road. But when we did have some downtime during meals or at our hotel room, I felt little need to click on either app. Yes, I did go automaton on occasion and clicked, but by the end of the night, a pause had been built into my mind. I felt like I was turning the corner of sorts.

“It's always tease tease tease
You're happy when I'm on my knees
Yesterday was fine but now it’s black
Will I get info if I don’t go back
Well come on and let me know
Should I click or should I go?”
The Key-lash: “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

Day Three of my Meta avoidance made me realize a hard truth: many businesses use either Facebook and Instagram as part of their customer outreach. In fact, I had done some pre-trip research and had asked a question regarding potential allergens.

On this point, I conceded I needed to break my informal boycott – I clicked onto Instagram to find the Direct Message exchange to confirm their food would be AOK with us.

In fact, this is perhaps the best uses of platforms like Facebook and Instagram. While most businesses would do far better with a legitimate, in tandem, old-school hosted website, things like daily specials, unexpected operational problems, and similar are perfectly tailored for social media. I conceded in my mind that for these businesses, logging off for any period of time just to prove a point would be impractical.

Of course, for us ordinary users, that’s not a concern at all, and I’ve learned something from this three day unplugging. I did learn how much of a habit this had become, but I also learned that it’s a habit that I can control a lot better.

For many, however, what is now Meta has become a virtual heroin of sorts. Likes and shares only exacerbate something I’ve noticed in a lot of people, especially after the previous presidential term and pandemic happenings: admitting one is wrong is more abhorrent and less desirable than dying while believing you were right. Social media platforms like Meta allow folks to basically form their own choirs and suck up that respective choir’s praise.

The level of how correct your beliefs are is irrelevant compared to hanging with folks who believe in the same things. Personal attacks and cries of “fake news” are common responses to maintaining this facade of being right.

There’s a scene in the original Matrix movies where Keanu Reeves’ character Neo essentially wakes up from his imposed reality and spies hundreds if not thousands of other humans sequestered in pods who were still plugged in to that reality.

Meta is happy to feed into that reality no matter what you believe, and no matter how right or wrong you may be, just as long as you’re helping to pad Mark Zuckerberg’s substantial financial coffers

Just call it the Meta-trix, I guess.

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