Facebook

“If you feel that these media influence and inform public opinion – and swing elections! – then abandoning Facebook and deleting your account may actually be civically irresponsible”

1. FB promised to be and, in many ways, has become a new public square. It was never private. The insistence that it was private and that our privacy has been violated leads people to be more frustrated than they should with these privacy violations that they were naive to think they were protected from to begin with. The notion that FB is an essentially private domain also leads people to believe that the ethics of the private domain are assumed to be normative here when they are so obviously not. Instead, it is a messy and, in many ways, unprecedentedly open public square that needs a lot of work to be a place of ethical discourse. But don’t assume it was ever otherwise.

2. If you feel that your privacy has been violated, you can clean up what you share here and you might have been oversharing. Being “authentic” online is not the same as being identical to who you are in real life; I am more suspicious of the online presences of people who are completely the same IRL because it suggests they think too loosely about these media and their power, and that they are too cavalier about the lines between private and public.

3. If you feel that these media influence and inform public opinion – and swing elections! – then abandoning the media and deleting your account may actually be civically irresponsible. I hate hate hate FB’s betrayals of its users but I feel more committed than ever to be on this medium and to advocate for the things I believe in, and to try to create conversation to enrich our new public square. If you are a rational and reasonable person I implore to stay, lest your fear of this medium and its dangers will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. If you think these media influence and inform public opinion – and swing elections – I implore you to invest in civics education and other alternatives to our culture of dangerous misinformation; and I would also not humbly suggest you consider that – unless you are willing to include yourself in the class of people whose vote was swung – that there may be other and more substantive reasons why your ideas and candidates lost, the awareness of which would make more significant demands on you and on the society than the cheap excuse of a poorly-policed website and its vulnerability to opportunistic Russian trollbots.

5. All that said: put some rules in place. Don’t feed trolls, don’t read comments, delete and block hostile and personally antagonistic posters, monitor your mental health and stress level in online interactions, follow and engage with the kinds of people and ideas that enrich your online experience, and try to monitor your own mentschlikhkeit. Online conversation is a new normal and we are collectively responsible for creating the norms for the community we want.

Yehuda Kurtzer, Facebook post (4 April 2018) [https://www.facebook.com/yehuda.kurtzer/posts/10156419279157174]