It’s no surprise to find out that Facebook is complete trash. We’ve known that Facebook is complicit in lots of things, including election meddling. Now, we know that Facebook and Instagram are doing damage to teens 13+ and under 13. And, honestly, we all knew this anyway, because social media can really mess with us mentally.
But…what do we do about it?
It’s very difficult for me, as someone who is connected to so many people on the internet, to say something like “burn it down.” We know Facebook is shit, but places like Twitter or Tik Tok also come with a ton of problems. However, these apps, and the internet, connect us in ways we’ve never been connected before. Never has that been more apparent than the past 18 months as we’ve lived through the isolation of Covid.
Social media as the Triangular Trade
In class, I often bring up the the internet and social media as a sort of modern day Triangular Trade. If you don’t know, the Triangular Trade (you may have learned it as the Columbian Exchange, but fuck that guy) is the global exchange of people, plants, animals, goods, and diseases.
The triangular trade ushered in a new era, opening the world in a way it had never been before. People were suddenly connected to a world across the ocean. They talked about it, read about it, ate new foods, learned new information, and some moved there and became colonizers.
But contact also meant that 90% of indigenous people died. It meant that millions and millions of Africans were enslaved in the Americas. It meant that the people and the land was used, abused, and forever remade to shape a new vision of the world.
So, you know. Not great.
In the years after 1492, there were many people who wanted to make gobs of money by doing absolute shitty things. Why? Because it didn’t matter, they’d be rich, so they took advantage of an opportunity.
That’s kind of like Zuckerberg right now. Facebook is shitty – but so are a lot of internet companies and people. The internet is so new, and we are all still learning how to use – and abuse – it. So what can you do about it?
Focus on the kids
Look, we can’t hide the internet from kids, it’s here, and they are way better at internetting than we are. They have finsta’s (fake insta’s), they have Tik Tok, Facebook, and Snapchat (also terrible) and they will and do hide it from you. I know, because I’m a teacher, and they will straight up tell me that they hide social from their parents.
Adults must have hard conversations with kids. These conversations must center around teaching kids how to be good internet citizens – just like we should try to teach them how to be good global citizens. How do you do this? Well, you, as the adult, must be willing to set rules, and follow them. This is super difficult, but there are apps for that. My family has Disney Circle, which allows us to limit access to the internet on their devices and see what they are looking at. This provides them with autonomy, and it provides us with control. This isn’t the only option available though, so do your research and find what’s best for your family.
You should also speak to your kids, or kids in your life, frequently, about the internet. Don’t demand their phone and go through it. Instead, build a tech relationship with them. Discuss the pros and cons of the internet. The pro’s and cons of apps. Teach them how to Twitter, and lead by example.
Because, bottom line, tech is progressing at an unprecedented pace. As an average human, we don’t have the ability to stop shitty people from being awful. However, we can teach our children, and ourselves, how to be responsible on the internet. How to spot bad facts, how to look up valid sources. Essentially, we have to learn how to consume the internet without it consuming us.