As you may have noticed, Facebook, Instagram and What’sApp had an outage and were inaccessible for millions of users for about six hours on Monday.
The experience of being without such social media giants in our lives – even for a brief period of time – was instructive, in that it showed us how addicted as a society we’ve become to them.
It also comes at a time when serious questions are being raised about the business models of Facebook. This week a whistleblower added her voice to those who have expressed alarm about an algorithm that favours content that inspires strong emotional reactions, which sows division with misinformation and which carries a real mental health cost to children and teens exposed to it.
Facebook can be fun, it’s highly-addictive and easy to engage with. But like most things free and easy, it comes with significant hidden cost.
We’ve seen that not only in the commodifying of personal data but also in its amplifying of content that has played a role in everything from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to the rise of anti-vaxxers.
Fortunately, there is an alternative to taking the post of someone’s “cousin” in Atlanta as an authoritative source of information about COVID.
If you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with it - a newspaper.
Unlike Facebook and other social media, newspapers have professional standards of fact-checking and reporting they must adhere to. In a sea of unchecked opinion, and virtual stream of consciousness, newspapers still strive to offer salient verified facts.
That work is not as simple as clicking on an emoji and it’s not free.
It remains essential, however to a functioning society.
Now more than ever, real news is worth supporting.