By: L.A. Ortega
September 5, 2015 

SNOOPING of Private Lives, On-line
An argument can be made that information, when collected and manipulated en masse, is more valuable than oil. Information, arguably, is the "new oil". So why are we okay with letting whomever, whenever tap our oil well, at-will?

"... agencies [government, corporate, special interests] are manipulating online [discussion] with no public knowledge or accountability," says Glenn Greenwald in his February 2014 article. We (the public) remain oblivious to the details and impact of Internet content manipulation. We have been taught (want to believe) the information provided by a Google is real, not paid for or otherwise manipulated. We want to believe our Facebook friend's on-line posts sourcing articles about particular issues come with credibility. We are content not to question its veracity.

But Carnegie Mellon, University of Michigan, MIT, Glenn Greenwald and others say the landscape of social media is not how it is promoted, as a harmless ocean of picture sharing with family and friends. Studies suggest "the integrity of the internet itself, has been compromised," Glenn Greenwald.

According to Greenwald, there are trainings going-on to equip false disseminators, if you will, with the tools to conduct "false flag operations" on-line as Facebook friends. Sounds like something out of a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie, I know. However, this becomes disturbing knowing we sometimes make decisions using Facebook posts as sources.

Meanwhile, as honest law abiding citizens, undocumented or otherwise, we maintain a "I've got nothing to hide" attitude. Regardless of motive, be it to track your buying habits, your interests; where you travel; how many and who are your family and friends, recent studies suggest a profile is maintained on you, and that you feed that profile with every Facebook post. We don't know if Facebook is the sole gatekeeper of this profile, nor are we aware of what Facebook gets to do with it.

Social Media - The Activist's Dream Come True, NOT
Social media is sometimes erroneously credited for coordinating and fueling the Arab Spring, which included a movement of change for Egypt. Playing this hypothesis all the way out, it would go something like this:

The leader of this movement activity, using Facebook, says hey, all who are down with this idea of change, meet me here at this place at this time. With this huge target now painted squarely on his or her back, how long do you think they survive as a leader in this movement? 

Journalist were killed for simply reporting on Arab Spring activity.  Imagine what happens to those leading the movement, if found.

Connecting the World while Isolating the Individual
Isolation, loneliness, depression are all by-products of the Facebook craze. It is important for us to be aware of the particular negative impacts of social media. Research shows that increased Facebook use leads to isolation, not greater connectedness.

I personally de-activated my Facebook account on July 1st of this year. Of the 2,427 "friends", one - only one - contacted me asking was I okay. Not my compadre, not my colleagues, not my family, not a single other person - close or distant of a supposed 2,427 people I am connected with, noticed.

So, is Facebook really connecting the world?

Sherry Turkle, a professor of computer culture at MIT, author of Alone Together, writes: "These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time. The problem with digital intimacy is that it is ultimately incomplete: The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy. The source of Facebook's power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society...the illusion of distance with the illusion of intimacy."

Author Jesse Rice in his book The Church of Facebook, writes: "Instead of building true friendships, we're obsessed with endless personal promotion, investing hours on end building our profile, pursuing the optimal order of words in our next message, choosing the pictures in which we look our best." [We] have a mental image of a large group of people interested in [our] postings...part of our identity rests on an invisible entourage that accompanies [us] everywhere...Our actions are often based on what we think our invisible entourage might like best."

So what, big deal, you might think. There are some narcissistic people on the globe. This is no newsflash! But it is important to understand that Facebook, a 1.44 billion person "virtual community," actually promotes isolation not greater connectedness. It is the zombification of the masses through social media platforms, as Bruce Levin, author of Get up, Stand-up, puts it.

Some might say, now wait a minute Larry. Are you not the guy who has touched millions of people with the idea that the Internet helps drive an improved quality of life?

Yes, I am he.  And NIU's mantra is just that: Broadband connection and adoption lead to improved quality of life. But, much like work, play, socializing, and sex, it must be balanced. And for now, the pendulum has swung too far to the other side.  And we now are being hurt, in my expert opinion, by the over use of Facebook and other social media platforms, through it's zombification (distraction) effect.

When the best we can do is make Donald Trump stop saying bad things about Mexicans, stopping well short of what we should be demanding from him, these distractions have become a problem.  His rants scorch the social media platforms.  People all over join in the Trump piƱata beating.  For me however, now having vacated from Facebook, I can see that Donald Trump has
removed all doubt relative to his ignorance regarding the state of our economy in the US, blaming babies not US Trade Policy with China.  I can see that Donald and the corporations responsible for divestment from America are elated with the distraction he has caused.  I mean, really.  Nevermind about the facts, or real solutions, lets just get him to stop talking sh*t about Mexicans...distractions.

Our trade policy with China has caused 3.2 million US jobs to vanish since 2000, not immigrants or their babies. Yet all we want is for him to shut-up, which will do nothing to fix the trade deals, jobs or immigration. Distractions, distractions... distractions.  A better strategy might be to call Trump and his divestment buddies to the mat on the issue of divestment, reminding them of the $1.3 trillion purchasing muscle of the Latino community.  Let's talk with our dollar, not with our Facebook posts.

It is often said, telling a person not to do something creates the opposite effect. So rather than ask you to stop using Facebook, or to put down the cell phone and talk face to face to your neighbor; the person sitting across the aisle from you; the person waiting in line for their food; or to do a face to face meeting with your friend this week. I will say, in hopes that it will have the opposite effect, keep Facebook on your cell phone, your computer at home, at work, at your girlfriends, and never talk to that person sitting across the aisle from you, and keep your head buried in your technology wherever you go, at all times.

In the grand scheme of things, we are currently lost in an ocean of imbalanced technology (social media) use and it is to our detriment, not benefit.  Burying our lives in the fantasy of technology "connectedness" is not reality but rather, a way to check-out from the horrors of reality, leaving us immobilized - the status quo's dream come true.

Can we talk?   

L.A. Ortega
September 5, 2015

Cyber Civil Rights Activist
Community IT Implementation Specialist
Founder One Million NIU
Board Member Latino/a Roundtable

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