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Metacrisis

Facebook has this week revealed a corporate name change to Meta, which I am sure is going to solve all its problems. A creepy video was released, where Mark Zuckerberg tried to convince the world that he’s just a normal guy and his organisation definitely doesn’t have any sinister intentions about new ways to manipulate people. I mean, a site that was reportedly invented with the sole purpose to stalk girls at American colleges could never do anything weird or disturbing.

I joined Facebook in December 2006. Admittedly, it was reluctantly. I was quite happy on MySpace, for the most part. But while Tom’s and his Space quickly vanished beneath the waves of time, Facebook flourished and became the go-to site to stay in touch with people and also get comedy gigs.

The reason I am writing about Facebook is that I had my account locked just over a week ago, for what it described as “unusual activity”. This is coming from an organisation where investigations have found that data bought from Facebook was used for targeted ads intended to suppress the votes of African American citizens who had been profiled as being less likely to vote for Trump in 2016. Facebook ads have also been used to pump falsehoods during the Brexit campaign in favour of leaving the EU, as well as the sit being used to spread anti-vax content and conspiracy theories.

Oh, and the site was allegedly founded specifically to stalk girls at colleges. I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned that. Presumably, that sort of behaviour is perfectly acceptable though.

You never had these sorts of problems on MySpace, it was mainly just full of emo kids who spent hours adding mods to their profiles.

The site asked me to confirm that I am really me by uploading some official form of ID such as a passport or driver’s licence, or at least something with my address on it. There was no way in hell, or anywhere else for that matter, that I was going to share this with Zuckerberg’s dodgy data farm, so I opted to leave it locked.

As things turned out, my account was locked immediately after I got back from the supermarket. While doing my shopping I bumped into a girl who was in the year below. She suggested that a group of us old-schoolers living in the area should meet up to reminisce about the olden days. Then just over an hour later, my profile disappeared in what looked like I’d rather shut down my Facebook account of 14 years rather than attend a meetup.

But for about 48 hours, I was free from Zuckerberg’s creepy tendrils, save for WhatsApp. Facebook was out of my life and it felt amazing. No longer would I waste hours of my time scrolling through the inane ramblings of people I sort of used to know but haven’t seen in years. No longer would I see someone pop up on my news feed and have honestly no idea who they were or why we were apparently friends. No longer would I think less of a casual acquaintance for expressing questionable views on social or political issues.

There was also the fact that I would lose touch with large swathes of people from various points in my life, not to mention losing all those hundreds of pictures – many of me drunk. But it was a price I was prepared to pay.

Then I realised the sad truth. Without Facebook, I would find it almost impossible to get any comedy gigs. I mean, I am finding it difficult enough as it is without losing my sole source of leads. With the exception of one or two long-established gigs, probably about 97% of all comedy gigs looking for acts are posted on Facebook groups.

So I set up a new account. It’s smaller and with far fewer ‘friends’, but it will be used for exactly what I need it for. Not sharing personal information to allow any sort of data profile to be built, or engaging in political debates with people I barely know, but purely for booking comedy gigs and making the occasional stupid comment.

My old account is now consigned to a server archive either somewhere in Silicon Valley, or somewhere in the world far less expensive. All those memories and stupid conversations are locked away, never to see the light of day or the light from a computer screen ever again. And that’s fine. It’s the past. It’s gone, no longer matters, and does not define me.

There is no question that social media and particularly Facebook has made the world a far worse and more divided place.

Everything that rises eventually falls. I can only hope that Facebook’s ultimate demise isn’t far away, provided I can find another way to get comedy gigs. But the damage it has done to the world may well last for far longer – from Facebook, not necessarily from my comedy gigs. And I maintain my view that MySpace was always better.

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