THE MARSHALL PLAN: Gazing at our reflection on Facebook

What bugs us most about the use of personal information by Facebook?

Did we honestly think that it was created just to serve our vanity without a price?

The foundation of this private business (and this is an important distinction) is that it was built upon the hope that all 1.32 billion of us will freely toss our personal information into the ether. Our likes, conversations and shopping preferences are a goldmine to marketers, businesses, political parties, investigators and rip-off artists. We are the product.

What is most annoying to users of this app is that full consent for information was agreed to in the company’s terms of service. The old warning of buyers beware certainly rings true.

As a private business should the government be questioning its use of freely given data? Should government move to regulate or somehow break up it all up? Is that the job of government?

Facebook’s appeal and hook can be found at the very core of human nature—in religion, mythology and history.  When we gaze into the blue-hued screen of our phone we believe it’s opening the world to us, but it is also trapping us in a snare constructed of our own vanity.

Consider Greek mythology and the cautionary tale of Narcissus, a man known for his looks. He was the son of a God and nymph—-that sounds like a life of privilege.

Narcissus was lured to a pool, where he saw his reflection in the water and fell deeply in love with his own image. It was so bad that he could not leave the beauty of his own reflection. Narcissus became lost amid the world that surrounded him.  Sound familiar?

In Christianity, there was the fallen angel Lucifer, who lost it all for his own deadly sin of excessive pride.

“It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels,” wrote St. Augustine.

Like so many people I am distracted and sometimes hindered by pride. There is a thrill in a byline and praise from readers. Likes and comments stroke, poke and wave at our egos.

There are also many benefits from Facebook in my opinion. It can reunite friends, promote conversation across national boundaries and help us share our lives with family. It can foster unity, or it can toss fuel on the fires of revolution.

I think Facebook when used as a tool and not an emotional crutch can be useful, informative and entertaining. As a writer, photographer and marketing professional it works quite well as a vehicle for self-promotion and enrichment.

In a time where we are buried in information we must ask ourselves how we are using it and more importantly how it is using us?

Can it be a lesson in maturity we are going through, a puberty of the technology age?

Maybe in a world of hoodies and t-shirts we should search for our civility, humanity and our tolerance of discourse. In addressing our immaturity, we might rise above our innate narcissism.

The polarization and politicization of mass media, government and business is troubling on many levels—but the root of the problem can be found in individual and collective pride.

Imagine how much more humanity could accomplish or see if we just stepped away from our own reflection.

This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to step out from behind the electronic curtain and gaze at the “Frankenstein” he lovingly sewed together and brought to life with the breath of his own ego.

Facebook will add a “see how you’re affected” tool at the top of our news feeds.

How have you been affected?

“Dad put down your phone and let’s go fishing.”

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