THANKS FOR THE LESSON, FACEBOOK

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What a wild ride on the social media roller-coaster. Now if you’re thinking the reminder was “Do your own research”, all I can say is, very funny, hope you aren’t serious, and no, that wasn’t it.

It was a bit simpler: “Don’t put all your digital eggs in one basket.”

Yes, Facebook certainly showed us how reliant we are on their platform when they blocked local and international news services from our feeds – and “inadvertently” plenty of important government and community posts – but maybe in the long run they have actually done us a favour.

How did you cope? For someone like myself who had gradually become reliant on Facebook for news, I found within a day or two I was getting my morning digi sugar hit from a range of sources, including a truly customised newsfeed via the Google news app without all the ads, crappy click-bait stories and other distractions. I also was spending far less screen time, which was refreshing – a bit like shortening your daily commute. The now abridged version of Facebook also made me realise how little content my friends and family post which was interesting – after all they were the reason I joined up in the first place; to connect with my community, have a laugh with friends, and watch my nieces grow up on the other side of the world.

Ultimately this will hurt Facebook more than it will hurt us personally. If they are to persist down this path, less news means less reasons to visit, which means less visitors, which means advertisers will think twice, which means less ads, which means less revenue for Facebook.

The whole episode was a sad reminder of how mega-corporations work: before making the decision to block news content their analysis would have included multiple business case scenarios and from these they concluded they’d rather lose advertising money than lose a fight with a democratic government and society. This is a flawed approach because we can still pummel them in the future for a few tax dollars as a separate action, coupled with the unpopularity factor, it feels like Facebook have outmanoeuvred themselves.

In the meantime, for many of us a week without Facebook “news” (and the incessant threads of abhorrent comments) will feel like a load was taken off; no longer slave to a digital ritual, we were free in mind and spirit.

Suddenly resolute, I dare them to try it again.

Derek Green,
Managing Editor, The Westsider
editor@thewestsider.com.au

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