Should We Really Worry About Facebook's Dirty Laundry?

by Brian James Rawson & Raven Ariana
October 8, 2021

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Recently, Facebook rose again to the top of our real world newsfeeds. A Facebook employee broke with the company to become a whistleblower and shared with national news outlets pages and pages of internal documents from Facebook. These docs revealed numerous behaviors and decisions from Facebook, behaviors and decisions that run the range from questionable to problematic to (in our opinion) immoral.

In this episode of Empathy, Marketing, and You, Raven and Brian talk about their personal feelings and thoughts about Facebook and it’s revealed behaviors; about this news story’s effect on our society; and about our society’s reaction to these Facebook revelations.

To be clear neither Brian or Raven are political scientists, computer engineers, or sociologists. But they are marketing professionals and social advocates. So, their point of view comes from their professional experience and personal lived experience.

And this episode simply serves to start a conversation about the much larger moral and ethical aspects of how our social media impacts us and our personal relationships and, vice versa, how our actions and relationships shape our social media.

Raven is the founder of Nevermore Creative, an online magazine and community for creatives and professionals.

Watch the episode above. Read the transcript below.

Is The Facebook Whistleblower Revelations A Big Deal Or Not?

Raven: What’s up Brian!

Brian: Hey Raven, how are you?

Raven: I'm good. How are you today?

Brian: I'm doing great. I'm feeling great.

Raven: Yes! All right, so...I know you wanted to talk to me about all the bull crap that’s been  going on in the social media world. So let’s go. What do you have for me today?

Brian: Yeah, I know it's been a pretty crazy week and a lot of stuff poppin’ so I figured we'll switch gears a little bit and let's just have an open kind of, we don't have a roundtable maybe a round Zoom screen you know, just like chat about it, yeah know.

So, so Raven, I was thinking, you know, with all the Facebook whistleblower news that came out, and you were the one that was telling me this earlier that I guess Instagram and Facebook weren't working this, this past Monday, so I must be an old man and totally didn't even know that happened. Anyway, it's been a lot going on with Facebook. And I guess my first question is, do you think the Facebook whistleblower and all the news surrounding it and everything coming out, do you think it's a big deal or not?

I Don't Think It's A Big Deal And Here's Why

Raven: I don’t think it’s a big deal because people are going to use Facebook regardless. I think it has become this monster that people have been addicted to for awhile, that any news is just going to make them want to use the app more. And especially like with the shutdown that happened on Monday, there was a complete like six hour outage, and this was after the whole whistleblower thing came out. It was after.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: And then as soon as Facebook was up and running again, people are like, “Yes, we're back baby!” And I was just like, “Okay, no one's listening. No one cares. No one cares.”

What do you think? Do you think this is a big deal?

Does Anyone Even Use Facebook Anymore?

Brian: I have mixed feelings about it. So I don't know about you, but I know a lot of people and, like for myself personally, I haven't used Facebook in, I couldn't tell you when. I have a profile on there. And I joke that it's like's version of the Yellow Pages, like you need one just to let people know you exist and so they can find you. You know, that they look you up and yeah, I use Facebook Messenger for people that I haven't shared phone numbers with or something. So I actually use that more than I've logged into Facebook.

Raven: What about Instagram?

Brian: But that's the thing I use Instagram just about every day. Well, when I say use as in I'm the silent person in the party who only goes on the Instagram just to scroll the feed.

Raven: Creep! (Laugh out loud)

Brian: I haven't posted, silently watching, you know. But, but I don't post anything personally, and I really don't use it a lot personally. Even the scrolling part, I'm only on there for Owl Street and work and that's pretty much it.

But, I mean, do you know a lot of people personally that still, are still using Facebook?

Raven: Yeah, my mom is on it. My mom is on it.

Brian: Well, that's the thing. Well do you know? Okay, let me rephrase this, do you know anyone our age who's on it a lot?

Raven: No.

Brian: Yeah, that's, that's...I mean, I know lots of people that are on it still, but they're all, they're all older than me at least by a few years, if not more. I don’t know anyone my age. Do you know anyone younger than us?

Raven: Nope.

Brian: I mean, we're pretty young, but…no, just kidding (Laugh out loud) Yeah me neither.

Raven: No, there's no one younger than me that uses it. There's no one my age that uses it. No.  

Brian: So that's where like, that's why for me I have mixed feelings about this coming about Facebook because I feel it in some ways is not a big deal because like, “Dude!? Who uses Facebook anymore? Like who cares? No, we're already over it.

Isn't Facebook Just "Debate-Book" Now Anyway?

Raven: But...

Brian: Yeah, exactly.

Raven: But…

Brian: The “but”...

Raven: Not for nothing.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: When they were talking about how it incites hate and um, all of these like political messages that are pushed out and like blown up because it gets a reaction and stuff like that. I have seen that firsthand.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: Like, my mom thinks that she's Frederick Douglass. So...she goes on Facebook on purpose to start fights with Trump supporters.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: So it's like it almost

Brian: Gotcha.

Raven:...the platform that you use to like, I don’t know like, but like to debate on political issues!

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: Which I think, well, I honestly thought it was a good thing, because we're actually having conversations with people on the other side of the aisle. And, you know, it's giving us that forum to actually have those conversations, but I could see how we could go left with like groups and everything else on how, you know, everybody is coming together to like, make a plan to like, live out these thoughts, these hateful thoughts in real life.

So I don't know, I don't know. Like a fine line. It's like I like the fact that we're able to have conversations with different people. But at the same time, I don't like the fact that we can congregate and like, do harm to other people. So...?

I Think It's A Mixed Bag And Here's Why

Brian: Right. Well, I guess like're right. And I'm sorry, I’ve gotta keep myself laser focused on my own question to make sure I, I don't get too off track. So like the question of: is it, is Facebook good or not? Or, or this, just the idea of having a social media platform where you can share stories and something that's Facebook-eusqe, you know, whether that's good or not is a different question. But the question is, is the whistleblower stuff, is it a big deal or not?

And I think it’s a...I guess I’ll come down on, not exactly a hot take, but it's a mixed bag. That in some ways I think it is a big deal. Well, alright, I'll be a little cranky here. I think maybe it's a big deal for the public, but for me personally I’m like, “Idiots, duh!” Of course Facebook's been doing this to get money. Of course it's bad for your health. Of course, they are doing things to incentivize virality and clicks that are just at best, gossip brags and kind of like scandalous, you know, the National Enquirer of social media, and at worst political hate and, and well, I mean, we just have to say the date and everyone knows what we're talking about. Say January 6, like, “Oh, yeah, Facebook.” So, so part of me is like it’s not a big deal because like, “Duh.”

Raven: Yeah.

Brian: But maybe that's...maybe that’s me being cranky because I think for the maybe the bigger public, maybe it's not a, “Duh,” maybe it's like, “Oh!” a light bulb. So it’s a mixed bag there.

Raven: Right.

What's The Difference Between What Facebook's Is Doing And What CNN, Fox News, And Netflix Do Everyday?

Brian: I think it’s definitely, everything of the whistleblower that I think is, that does matter or is important, is I think brings up a lot of deep questions that maybe not everyone's been asking or thinking about deep philosophical questions like what you were, what you were saying before about, “Is this Facebook, or is it us?” And you know, I'm not, I'm not really pro Facebook or super against Facebook. I don't think it's, I do have the opinion that I don't think it's the healthiest. So I have, I'm not totally objective. So I have a little bias there. I don't think it's great.

But playing a little devil's advocate, we're asking about the content of if we prioritize good stuff versus bad stuff or hate versus generosity or things like that. I mean when you're saying that what I thought about was like, “Well, what do you find to be good?” Because, because I mean doesn't Facebook push a lot of puppy videos and, and like, you know, somebody got saved by a horse in a storm and, and you know, here's how we gave these children new backpacks in some third world country, I mean, there's I think it's more like they, I don't know if they prioritize hate or good, I think it's more that they’re just like, “Here's something really intensely emotional. We don't care what the emotion is.” You know, whether it's super intense happiness or cheesiness or…

But then I like, I don't want to say it's necessarily a slippery slope but I think it’s kinda like that because, you know, Facebook does this stuff (and I'm not defending Facebook) but it's also the same thing that cable news does to get people to watch. And it's the same thing like cable period does. I mean how can we have (well I guess people don't really watch cable as much. Now it's streaming sites, but you know the same thing) we can’t have 100 different channels or 500 channels or whatever without pushing stuff that people...this high intensity emotional stuff. No one would watch it if it's just...boring.

Raven: Right.

Brian: No one would watch anything.

Raven: I agree.

Brian: So, where do, where do you draw the lines? You know, between? I don't know.

Is This Facebook Or Is It Us?

Raven: I think the problem is that Facebook is way too big and way too overpopulated and like there's way too much going on.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: So...obviously, they're going to look out for them.

Brian: Yeah.

Raven: That's, that's obvious, but at the same time, I, I think it's just a reflection of our, our values. We're a capitalist society. We're a selfish, self absorbed, greedy, you know, people. Like the good people are like this much. You know what I mean? (Well, I'm not gonna say that. I'd say it's probably half.) And if you're really like a good person, you don't care about social media anyway, you're doing it from like the bottom of your heart. It's not performative, right? So you're not gonna necessarily be like, “I'm at the soup kitchen!”

Brian: Yeah, right, yeah.

Raven: So they don't have enough good content coming in, if you're really going to be a good person and just do stuff to do it. So...

Brian: But I mean, even that example though, I'm getting really maybe deep or splitting hairs here, but...if someone posts a picture of them at the soup kitchen, is it still good?

Raven: Should the world see more of that? Right. And I think it's all, it all boils down to intent. Right. So me on my personal side, I would never…

Brian: Yeah. take a picture and be like, like a selfie with a homeless man and be like, “Look at me!” You know, I would never do that. However, when I see those videos of those barbers that go out and like cut the homeless guy's hair and stuff like that, I'm just like, “Yo’ the world needs to see more of that!” And my social media manager side kicks in, and I'm just like, “Oh, yeah!” like, I eat that up. Like I'm just like, “Give me all the good stuff. Give me all the good stuff.” So I think that we as a people if we're going to try to like combat all of this negative messaging that's happening on Facebook, we do need to start kind of showing up in our goodness a little bit more and walking in our humanity.

Brian: Sure, sure.

Raven: And saying like, “Hey, like, I'm not trying to be boastful, but I am trying to overcome all of this negativity. That's all on the platform with better content.”

Brian: Yeah. Yeah.

Raven: So...maybe it does fall on us to really show up and show out and do more in the positive space.

--- End of the Episode ---

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