Regarding this week's whistleblower promotional campaign and congressional testimony: Look, Facebook is indefensible, particularly given their reactions toward political bad actors and mis/disinformation on their platform. Optimizing for anger is straight-up unethical!
I've been bearish on Facebook in this newsletter for a while, particularly since I noticed that both Facebook and Insta usage declined during Q4, during the holidays, in a pandemic, even when ad spending was up. Facebook in particular has been abandoned by most of my friends who made it a quality experience in the first place. Facebook hasn't been up front about its metrics or user data with investors and the general public, but neither are most mass media companies, so... I just see it all as part of the same capitalist mass content cycle.
The Facebook/Insta/WhatsApp outage this week was regrettable, but if it disrupted your business any more than giving your social planners a chance to take a long walk or get some reading done, you probably need a major shift in strategy. Whether you own your own platform or use another's, technical outages happen (says the woman whose website was down from DNS errors nearly all last weekend).
However, what seems to be getting more attention is Facebook's research on how Instagram affects teenage girls, specifically regarding body image. I read more than one friend assert something like, "It's hurting our girls" this week and I'm stuck between crying and laughing from frustration.
Instagram's focus on audience-engagement-first optimization props up idealized body images because throughout most of the 2010s, Instagram and other visual social networks replicated the patriarchal beauty standards from mass media of the 20th century. I came of age in the Kate Moss/heroin chic era, and it's long been the case that being two clicks away from anorexia content is to grow up in western culture.
I've written before about turning to the internet to escape 90s magazine monoculture; Anne Helen Petersen's essay about millennial beauty culture captures this era far more aptly. I wonder whether whistleblower Frances Haugen, who is around my age, remembers how bad it really was. Let's just say that we're all lucky if we found our way out of the 90s/aughts fairly unscathed by the untenable beauty standards of mass magazine culture. But back to this week:
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