With the recent Facebook privacy scandals, there’s been a growing movement to #DeleteFacebook, to leave the social network.
(Despite that, the most recent stats — as of late April — shows that Facebook usage is not declining, but actually growing.)
In this post I offer my thoughts on 3 top concerns people have about Facebook:
- Facebook Addiction
- Facebook Ads manipulating users
- Facebook private data breach
Every social media platform, when it gets large enough — i.e. when it becomes a truly useful platform for reaching the whole world — will eventually have such issues.
We can either live in fear, and drop out… or stay in, and be wiser about how we use it.
Staying in Facebook allows you the opportunity to keep sharing your truth with the world, at the lowest cost possible.
Here’s what I think about each of the major issues…
Do You Have Digital Addiction?
Every media company engineers their product so that users keep using. Every delightful thing in our lives can become addicting. This is nothing new.
It’s unfair to compare Facebook to cigarettes or alcohol, which are bad no matter how little you take.
Facebook, by contrast, can do a whole lot of good, until you overdo it.
It’s like blaming a computer. You can use it for many purposes — entertainment, productivity, connection. Or you can be mindless in your use, and become addicted to video games or pornography, or give your attention to fearful news and violent media and spiral into darkness.
Similarly, Facebook is designed to give you more of want you want. It keeps customizing its news feed based on your behavior.
So take some responsibility for how you’re spending your attention.
At least, Facebook has the integrity to lead their industry in talking about user well-being and matching it up with changes that purposefully declined the total user time on their website. (More info)
I see Facebook as one of many mindfulness tools we have easy access to today. Each time I get triggered to want to check Facebook, it is a reminder to breathe, to become mindful of my purpose and being.
Even just 2 mindful breaths is good practice.
The temptation or “addiction” to Facebook is a reminder to take those few breaths.
Instead of lamenting about Facebook’s addictiveness, you can use Facebook productively, as I do — to build your business, to spread your cause, to connect to kindred spirits, to learn new and interesting things, to keep up with friends and family.
For example, I have a practice that I call social media caring, a healthy boundary in how I use the FB news feed. I only pay attention to the posts of the people that within my care right now.
As you use Facebook productively, it will give you more of what you want — more information that helps you thrive in your field, more opportunity to care for your friends.
Are Advertisers Manipulating You?
Another reason people are leaving Facebook is that advertisers are “manipulating” people. What is manipulation in this case? They have data about your interests (based on the things you “like” on Facebook) and are therefore targeting specific ads towards you that you’ll more likely respond to.
Isn’t that what advertising and politics have been doing for thousands of years?
Human beings have always been subject to clever marketers who work hard to understand their psychology, then creates messages that influence them.
This is nothing new.
Further, people complain about political campaigns using psychological data to spread disinformation.
Also nothing new — governments and those in power have been harvesting information about people for hundreds of years before Facebook, and creating propaganda to influence societal behavior.
Again, a Mindfulness Tool
The consumer has always had the responsibility to be mindful of what advertising messages they’re consuming.
When I look at advertisements, I ask myself: Will this product/service allow me to live a more purposeful life… or is it a distraction?
Practicing this question helps me continually stay in touch with my deeper purpose, rather than being swept up by the marketing.
Advertising is supposed to show you things you’d be glad to know about.
As Facebook’s advertising platform observes your interests — based on what content you interact with — it will show you more of the Ads that you might care about. That’s what it does supremely well, better than any other media platform. Therefore, some people call it manipulation.
Advertising — when done skillfully — is intended to pair people up with the products and services for which they would say “I’m so glad I discovered this!”
The messages and products you don’t care about? Advertisers don’t want to spend their money showing it to you. It’s bad for their business!
Yes, there will always be bad actors who use advertising to create distrust, or sow deception or negativity — but remember this:
Nobody is forcing you to consume ads. You are ultimately responsible for where your attention goes.
Nobody has to be victim. In fact, with Facebook, everyone is given an easy opportunity to be an advertiser.
For $20 your ad can usually reach at least 1,000 people on Facebook — people who don’t know you, yet are likely to enjoy your content, thanks to the algorithm pairing your message with their interests.
A Savior for Small Businesses
Never has it been this cheap or easy for small businesses to reach millions of people who are likely to be interested in our products, services, and messages.
Facebook Advertising has been a saving grace for small business owners — including me and my clients — who know how to use the platform skillfully.
Yes, it is also being used by bad actors like Cambridge Analytica to spread fake news and incendiary messages.
But doesn’t that further give us — conscious businesses — the imperative to spread messages of truth, to shift the global consciousness in the direction of positive change?
Facebook Advertising is the lowest-cost way to reach your kindred spirits, your ideal audience.
It’s much easier than trying to do SEO effectively, trying to show up on top of Google search reliably.
For the numbers of targeted people we can reach, Facebook is cheaper than any other online media platform.
You think you have digital privacy?
I grew up using computers, and am very comfortable online. Yet, I always had a distrust for internet privacy. There was always the feeling that whatever I put online might eventually be shared publicly.
I decided years ago that I would only use social media for public reasons… not to share private thoughts.
This is why on my Facebook personal profile, I post everything as “public” rather than “friends only”. Because I know that anything can eventually be shared public.
This simple rule has saved me from fearing the lack of digital privacy.
I recommend it to you as well:
Starting today, just assume that everything you post on your Facebook profile could be made public.
Use it for sharing positive articles and videos, as well as any personal news that you wouldn’t mind the whole world knowing...
The types of data that Cambridge Analytica got access to
If you’re wondering what the Facebook data “breach” was all about, here’s your info that was “leaked”… you can click on the links below to change what might be leaked in the future…
The “About” section of your profile which includes the various subsections there:
- Work & education
- Places you’ve lived (that you intentionally put onto your profile)
- Your contact info (that you shared with friends)
- Your relationship status and details (that you shared with friends)
- Your “life events” (that you shared with friends)
Info in the “More” section of your profile. You might want to check:
Your events (that you said you’re interested in, or attended)
Your notes (if any)
Once you edit the above, now let’s put this in context…
More Serious Other Data Breaches
Let’s compare it with to other data breaches that have probably affected you, or someone you know:
- Credit bureaus have been hacked that led to more than 143 million Americans’ sensitive credit information
- Every single Yahoo account was hacked in 2013 — all 3 billion email accounts!
- A few years ago at least 40 million credit & debit card numbers of Target shoppers were breached.
- See the 17 biggest data breaches of this century (as of Jan. 2018.)
- Even gmail has been breached.
That certainly helps to put into context the Facebook “data breach”… No one got access to your private messages. They just collected the various Pages you liked, and your profile information that your FB friends have access to.
With the much more serious breaches of credit card and email accounts, we need to be mindful…
- Pay to your credit card and bank statements
- Pay attention to your credit report (I access one of my free credit reports every 6 months)
- Pay attention to your email’s “sent” box to see if anyone is using your email address
Similarly, we need to pay attention to our social media profiles. Are we doing things that we don’t mind being leaked?
Transparency is good for accountability
Can we reframe the lack of digital privacy — which is really the situation we have today — as a tool for accountability?
Anything we share on social media — the posts we make on Facebook, the comments we make, the pages we “like” — is probably being harvested in some way, either legitimately by advertisers, or by hackers.
You are left with this essential question:
What is the picture you are creating about yourself online? Are you consciously shaping it?
Every single one of us has an online persona, built by all the activity we do online. If we practice mindfulness of our actions, we shape a personal brand that we can be proud of.
The loss of digital privacy — the fact of transparency for everyone — creates accountability.
Facebook as a tool for consciousness shift
Never has it been easier for you, a Facebook user, to influence the thoughts of people in your network. And if they like, comment, o share your content, you influence the people in their network as well.
Furthermore, with Facebook’s Advertising platform, it is now possible for you to influence the consciousness of any group of people you don’t know, through the use of targeted ads.
It’s your opportunity, and responsibility, to use it wisely. Being able to do this is a unique gift of modern technology.
What message would you like to share with the world?
How would you like to sow hope, understanding, wisdom?
How can you contribute to positive growth and meaningful transformation?
With nothing else — no other social media platform — do you have this kind of ease of opportunity and low costs for reaching so many people, to contribute to a positive global shift.
Your Facebook content and ads can be a ministry.
Wisely used, Facebook can be this for you:
- Facebook can be a mindfulness tool. Each time you want to check it, take 2 mindful breaths. (Then you can use FB mindfully if you still want to.) In other words, each temptation to look at Facebook is a reminder for your mindfulness practice.
- Facebook gives you the content you want. Pay attention to what you likes, comment on, share, and post, because the algorithm is trying to serve you content that is more perfectly tailored for you.
- Facebook can be an accountability tool. Assuming that all your activity on Facebook can be made public — use Facebook wisely, to intentionally direct your actions into creating a persona (a personal brand of you) that you would be proud of.
- Facebook is a global consciousness tool. By sharing good content (and learning to use the Facebook Ads platform) you have an historic opportunity to shape the thoughts and feelings of your network or any group of people you want to influence.
It’s up to you. Do you want to be used by Facebook… or will you use it wisely for positive change, in your life and everyone you can reach?
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