For years, becoming "connected" has been the zeitgeist — to long-lost family, friends, whole new communities, potential business partners at home and abroad, perhaps a romance. What's not to like?
- A lot, it has turned out.
The big picture: Since 2016, we've learned in drip-drip-drip revelations how our social media giants, especially Facebook, have made us disconnected — divided, discordant, isolated into like-minded silos, and manipulated by hackers working for the Kremlin.
What would the world look like if — tomorrow — Facebook simply ... vanished?
I posed this question to experts from a number of fields. All suggested that, given what we continue to learn, something is seriously wrong with the current state of affairs. Yet none cheered the idea of losing Facebook entirely.
- Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, said a world without Facebook would mean "less time spent online, less addictive consumer-driven behavior in citizens, less algorithm driven personalized-news, less fake news, less political polarization in population. Breathing room for non-social media."
- But it would also mean "value destruction for shareholders, job losses, negative impact on economy. Ceding social media battle globally to China-driven monopolies. A big win for TenCent/WeChat."
- So is Facebook a net negative? "It’s one of the toughest questions out there. I don’t see a good answer," Bremmer said.
Scott Galloway, a NYU professor and author of The Four, a critique of U.S. big tech, called for Facebook's breakup — not disappearance — under anti-trust laws. Similarly, Nicholas Wright, a British neurologist who studies artificial intelligence and politics, said that a government shutdown of the platform "would be a terrible blow to the U.S. capitalist system. How could anyone trust the Government not to shut down other companies and lay off tens of thousands of workers etc.?"
But both Galloway and Wright found plenty to like about the absence of Facebook, too.
- "FB has fomented the false notion that connecting the world is a good thing," Galloway said. "We, as a species, are tribal and lies spread faster than truth. With no guardrails or (expensive) human discretion screening content/advertisers, we have offered up the mother of all Trojan horses for bad actors."
- "Power corrupts, and Facebook is corrupted," Galloway said.
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