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  • Writer's picturedocschleg

How Free is Your Facebook?

One of the things people like about social media is that they can, for the most part, post whatever they want, whenever they want. I know many people these days use social media instead of calls and texts to communicate. This is the wonder of the Internet--instant multi-media connection with anyone on the planet (that uses the same platform).

Recently I came upon this 2017 article. It describes the work of social media "moderators". The problem with being able to instantly publish all of my ideas and experiences is that not all people online are as moral and upright as me. There are more than a couple of people who seem downright evil and depraved. I don't want to have to sort through all of the depravity to get to what my best friend is eating for breakfast. After all, some of it is more than annoying or offensive-it's upsetting and traumatic.

Social media companies hire moderators to protect me from content that might offend or upset me. They do this by formulating a set of rules for content (no nudity, no homicides, etc.) and then allow the community (you and me) to "flag" content we find offensive so moderators can then follow up to decide whether or not the content breaks the rules of the social media platform. Hopefully, this means that most of us will get through our eggs and bacon without having to see a live-streamed homicide.

Perhaps you have witnessed one of these awful events and flagged it for the moderators. Turns out many people were able to watch the live stream of a school shooting, according to this report. I would imagine that experience to be very upsetting for most people, even if moderators shut the live stream down quickly. Imagine watching 100s of such videos every day as part of your job, though. In 2020, Facebook had about 15,000 moderators that reviewed about 3 million flags a day. As you can imagine, this would put a serious mental strain on a person. Moderators are at higher risk for psychological trauma when they do their jobs. Most people do not need a research report to tell them that watching evil and depravity all day will mess you up.

We know that there is a cost to convenience and the purpose of this post was to point out the human cost to the convenience of social media. I continue to have a hard time justifying social media as "progress". Thus, the cost of social media seems especially high to me, and the trauma of moderators is a piece of this. If I got rid of my car (too much carbon into the atmosphere), my life would get much more complicated. If I got rid of my airconditioner (high energy cost, chemicals in the environment), my life would get much more miserable. When I got rid of my social media, though, my life got much simpler and my mind more at peace. Things generally got better when I got rid of social media.

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