Three years ago, an app on Facebook called thisisyourdigitallife took a personality test for a bunch of Facebook users. Although it was a paid test, thousands registered for it, and took the test, not realising that in the bargain, they gave away all the digital information about them and their friends and friends of friends to the company that created the App.
On Friday, 16 March, Facebook made an announcement that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica (CA), the firm where the information sourced from the personality test ultimately went.
After harvesting the data of millions of Facebook users, CA orchestrated the biggest digital coup ever witnessed in the history of internet – the US Presidential elections and Brexit (though CA continues to deny this).
Understandably, it has made Facebook sceptics of many. Will you now be wary of clicking on that test lurking in the corner margins of Facebook when you log in?
The latest indication that Facebook may be experiencing an existential crisis comes from none other than Facebook itself – it greeted some users with this message when they signed in:
‘Is Facebook good for the world?’
1) Strongly Agree
3) Neither agree nor disagree
5) Strongly Disagree
So, Facebook, here’s how I think you’re ‘good for the world’:
You Use My Information to Show Me ‘Things You’ll Like’ on My Timeline
Last week, a friend remarked, ‘How is it that people have a problem with the latest Facebook controversy? Didn’t all of us sign up for this ten years ago when we decided to be on Facebook?’
I don’t disagree with my friend, because when as a teenager and signed up, I knew I would be giving away all my information to a social media website that would later go on misuse my data to influence democratic elections.
You’re ALWAYS Listening to Me
Dear Facebook, it’s good that you act like proxy parents to me when my parents are not around. You sense what I am thinking by analysing my internet behaviour and the kind of people I am friends with, and suggest things to me that I am likely to visit, eat, read, or think. You help me take my next move even before I can formulate it myself! With you around, I feel I am constantly being watched by a Big Brother. It is just like being at home, seriously.
You Inundate Me with Shopping Options
You have a great way of making shopping easier for a lot of us: you spoil us with excessive options. You instinctively know what I am likely to buy based on my previous hovering behaviour. Your inventory evolves with time, which goes to show that you let other market players have access to information about me as a buyer and in return give me an even larger pool to choose from!
So, thank you for establishing this harmless barter, it truly shows that you care.
You Help Me Keep an Eye on Everyone
Facebook, you have helped me hone my investigation skills – being an investigator comes naturally to a person born in India. We Indians are interested in the others’ dirty laundry in a big way. We can go to any extent to excavate information on it – but the way you have enabled me to cyberstalk people has taken my urge to another level. I evolved as you evolved; you opened the floodgates for data mining, and I developed new ways of unearthing information about others – a trickle-down effect, if you will. So, thank you.
You Make Me Feel Nice About My 1,000+ Friends
I have been a recluse all my life. I have two best friends who know everything about me. But my online presence depicts me in a different light. I have 1,000 Facebook friends, most of whom I’ve either met once or never met. But, we comment on each other’s posts, ‘heart’ photographs and argue whether beef should or should not be banned in India. At times it is tough for me to reconcile with my online image. At times it hides my insecurities, at other times, it accentuates them. But one thing’s for sure... it makes me look popular among my ‘friends’! Forever grateful.
So, to answer your question Facebook, I say you have done more ‘good’ to the world than harm. You let me do things I never would have expected... and we do ‘like’ each other a lot.