The social media site Facebook has demonstrated its dangerous goal of a radical conforming public through its argument of the benefits that ensue the exposure of the intimate details of those who utilize its services and the abomination of free will. In his book World without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, Franklin Foer unveils Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to achieve this goal of destroying the public’s free will and how he and his company use manipulation as a means to reach their goals.
The free will of those who use Facebook and is also at stake with the alarming manipulation of millions of unkowledgable internet users. While it is the duty of Facebook users to be aware of how their information is being used, millions of users know nothing or very little about the dishonesty and the deceit Facebook engages in, which in turn is dangerous to our society and our free will to live our lives the way we want to.
Zuckerberg’s company Facebook argues that the sharing of their users’ private information with other companies will help improve society by making those people who share their lives online fearful by threatening their reputations by bringing to the light the things they do when they are away from co-workers, friends (etc.). The false sense of security that Facebook users are being told protects their data is just to draw attention from the fact that their intimate and personal details are at risk because “the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins”(Foer 60) and with the threat of their ‘true identities’ being exposed, people will be live better lives because there is virtue in living our lives truthfully.
become less judgmental of those people they see on the internet making fools of themselves while engaged in embarrassing actions because they know that at anytime someone can easily share their photos information online and then would be in the same position as those they see on Facebook.
Facebook is striving to make those who use its services feel threatened because Zuckerberg’s company believes in the idea that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”(Foer 61) or to be put simply, having the choice to restrict intimate details to those who are deserving of them is something to be ashamed of. Foer also presents Facebook’s belief that the “sunshine of sharing our intimate details” (Foer 60) will liberate us and cleanse our lives that are stained by non virtuous actions such as having two identities. Many users of Facebook do not realize that every time they sign into to Facebook, they are unwittingly allowing it to remove our control over our information.
Facebook’s clandestine use of algorithms to recommend items and services to its uses is a prime example of the misuse of information that they conduct on a daily basis. The algorithm, according to Foer, is “a cold, pulseless ruler”(Foer 72) in which make decisions about us in our behalf. Sometimes algorithms can reflect the thoughts of its creators such as when they recommend services based on racial stereotypes as Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney discovered when she conducted a study and found that “users with African-American names were often targeted with Google ads that bluntly suggested that they had arrest records in need of expunging”(Foer 71) revealing how emotionless and blunt algorithms can be when it comes to.
While the creators of the algorithms and websites probably did not intend for these kind of recommendations to happen, these systems were developed to be devoid of any sort of bias, emotion, intuition, and forgiveness. Algorithms also serve as the backbone of sites such as Amazon and Netflix where algorithms were “One-third of purchases on Amazon come from these recommendations”(Foer 70) which removes the free will of the people by making them believe that is was their idea to purchase certain item. Although we can sense their presence, algorithms are technically ‘invisible’ which is why “many users – 60 percent, according to the best research – are completely unaware of their existence”(Foer 73) which indicates that a considerate amount of people accept services presented to them by the media without knowing to exactly what they are.
It is the responsibility of those who use social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and in this case Facebook to understand how their information is used and processed while also being aware of how these sites can influence them. While influence is generally positive, it can be detrimental when it is done in secretive manner and undermines the free will of the human person. Our ability to make decisions that will affect our future is typically associated with our free will. So Mark Zuckerberg Facebook using their psychological tactics to get us to participate in thing that we have normally not participated in is reprehensible and dishonest. Zuckerberg’s company has and continues to manipulate its users and has even bragged “about how it increase voter turnout [and organ donation] by subtly amping up the social pressures that compel virtuous behavior”(Foer 75) such as when they conducted an experiment to see whether emotions are contagious by removing negative or positive words from news articles without their knowledge to see how people would react.
Foer reveals how Facebook likes to boast of the fact that they were able to conduct an experiment without their test subjects knowing more than the actual details of the experiments themselves. The omnipotent Facebook also has the power “to change what its users see and read. It make our friends’ photos more or less ubiquitous: it can punish posts filled with self congratulatory and banish what it deems to be hoaxes”(Foer 74). Facebook’s actions are a prime example of how they undermine the free will of not only the people of the United States but also the people of the world. Facebook believes that it has ”unlocked social psychology and acquired a deeper understanding of its users than they possess of themselves”(Foer 75) which as frightening as it may sound, happens to be the truth for many people. When using Facebook people pour their information into the site and although they don’t intend to, allow Facebook to store their data to in which the use to profile them.
According to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, using social media would be more beneficial if everyone was more open and transparent with one another and allowed Facebook to detoxify our lives so that we can be free and live happy and healthy lives. We are losing our free will more and more everyday when Facebook conducts their experiments on us without our knowledge or consent. It is also through the subtle use of algorithms that Facebook is attempting to rule the lives of the users by making the intellectual process redundant when they make decisions for us or a to and also exposing their information in as a way of stripping them of any sense of individuality that they had left. It is our moral responsibility to preserve our free will and prevent Facebook’s manipulation of us to the best of our ability. We are truly in a frightening situation where we are being used in experiments without our knowledge, manipulated in order to alter the results of events such as increasing voter turnout in national elections and also making people more inclined to organ donation.
It truly is baffling to ponder the reasons why people continue to use Facebook. Is connecting with friends or trying to gather as many online friends as possible really worth the risk of manipulation and swindling that Facebook and its creators bring upon its users? We need to realize how our ignorance can lead to us being taken advantage of. People need to arm themselves with the knowledge that is necessary to combat Facebook and its deception. It should be everyone’s priority to know as much as they possibly can about the ulterior motives that social media sites have. The free will that we all possess is under attack and who is to say that it will stop here, if Facebook can undermine our free will and exploit us now and get away with it, it is only a matter of time before we will lose full control over our free will and individuality. We are slowly and ignorantly falling victim to Facebook’s plan for a radically conforming public.
Costigan, Sean S. “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (Franklin Foer).” Publishing Research Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 3, 2018, pp. 473–475., doi:10.1007/s12109-018-9598-8.