Facebook founder CEO and original friend Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. There is sure to be — as always — plenty of grandstanding by the senators, especially when the TV cameras are on them so that they can perform some of their favorite acting routines.
This is all about privacy, of course. These senators are set to pretend they care about your privacy. Of course, we all know better than that. What are we supposed to believe next? That Scott Pruitt cares about the environment? That Betsy DeVos cares about education? That Sylvester cares about Tweety? C’mon, man!
It’s all a performance. It’s a stage for senators to put together highlight reels for their next campaigns. The senators know it. Zuckerberg knows it. We all know it. If you’re unfamiliar with how these hearings work, here’s a preview of what you will see tomorrow:
The senator feigning outrage: Depending upon the seriousness of the issue, this can be anything from mere gnashing of the teeth to pounding on the desk.
The eye-rolling senator: This is an expression of disbelief when Zuckerberg explains that people knowingly allow their personal information to be used when they take quizzes like “Which ‘Friends’ character are you?” or “Only a person with an IQ of 180 can answer these questions about turnips.”
And the confused senator: This will be the oldest white male senator, who will ask things like, “So, when people get poked by the Russians while buying cows on the Farmville, can they add that smiley face thingy when they tag you? And when the quiz said I’m Phoebe, is that accurate?”
There are, however, some real problems with Facebook — and some other social media — that need to be addressed. Privacy doesn’t even crack the top 10 of the problem. That’s like believing that the worst thing about Scott Pruitt is that he can be bought and not that he thinks protecting the environment is an overrated concept — especially with several other planets we can move to someday.
Granted, other social media platforms have their issues. Twitter has turned into an insult machine for the grammatically challenged. LinkedIn reminds us that some folks have a loose interpretation of the word “skill.” And I assume InstaGram is for women who are about to have grandchildren.
But Facebook is far and away the most used social media platform. It has its good points. It reminds you — and 687 others — that today is Gladys’ birthday, and she is going to feel so special that you all remembered it. It allows us to reconnect with everyone from high school, like Big Eddie, who handcuffed you to the flagpole your freshman year and now is a preacher with an anti-bullying ministry.
However, it also has its bad side. It creates a huge self-esteem crisis for kids who judge themselves by likes on a selfie and for adults who judge their success against that of folks who seem to post nothing but pictures from exotic vacations and fancy restaurants.
Worst of all, it preys upon the ignorant. The kind of people who believe David Hogg is a crisis actor, that President Obama was born in Kenya or that George Soros was a Nazi soldier have proven particularly useful as pawns for spreading disinformation. These also are the same people who most loudly cry “Fake news!” at the truth.
I guess the biggest problem is that we’re all stupid enough to think our privacy is safe on a public platform where we tell everyone where we are, where we’re from, where we work, where we eat, what we watch, what we eat, who we vote for and what kind of folks are our friends.
Oh, and I turns out I’m Chander, by the way.