Everyone knows that Facebook is one the most influential Internet companies ever, so we’ll forgo that speech and cut to the chase.
You’ve done some good things Facebook, you really have. Connecting people all over the world, for example, was really great. But we can’t ignore the fact that in your 11 years, you’ve done quite a bit of misbehaving as well.
In honor of your 11th birthday yesterday, we’re going to delve into the good, the bad and the ugly of what you’ve done. Since it’s your (slightly belated) birthday, we’ll start with the good.
In 2004, a young Mark Zuckerberg brought together some coding skills and a dream of uniting Harvard elites to build thefacebook.com and help students bond over “books” and “courses.” Anyone who’s seen The Social Network has a pretty good idea of what happened next: the site saw immediate popularity and quickly grew into an Internet phenomenon. At the time, Facebook was revolutionary, and that’s pretty cool. He even promised, ‘I’m not going to sell anybody’s e-mail address,’ in an interview with The Harvard Crimson.
The Facebook People Can Be Pretty Cool
In an interview with 60 Minutes in 2010, Mr. Zuckerberg talked about Facebook hackathons where “all of the Facebook engineers [would] get together and stay up all night building things.” Even Zuck himself would code with everyone. Team building, boss/employee bonding and productive fun? We approve.
We’re Proud of Your Pride
As a company, Facebook has participated in many LGBTQ Pride marches in San Francisco, and last year, more than 150 Facebook employees and interns marched in the annual NYC Pride parade. The company has even looked beyond the gender binary system and added more than 50 gender options for users. These are the things we like to see.
Last year, the social media site announced that they want to use drones to bring Internet access to the two thirds of the world that still lack connectivity. They plan to hit Africa first, and to support this endeavor, Facebook bought an entire drone company for $60 million. Internet may not be the number one thing that parts of Africa need, but there’s no denying that this initiative gets a thumbs up.
Facebook supports its employees with extremely extensive benefit packages that cover the basics along with adoption, fertility treatments and money for new parents. Just last year they announced they would cover the cost for any female employees who wish to freeze their eggs. Some saw a hidden agenda in this last initiative and claimed the company is trying to discourage female employees from leaving work to have children. But in an industry that is usually highly alienating towards women, we don’t see it that way.
The Bad and Ugly
This list is long; there’s even a pretty lengthy Wikipedia article dedicated to “Criticisms of Facebook.”
The Struggle With Liking the “Like” Button
On February 9th 2009, Facebook introduced one of the most revolutionary features to ever hit the Internet: the ‘like’ button. It’s a great way to tell a friend you like his photo or status update, but the price we’ve paid for this feature may outweigh the benefits. The company didn’t have bad intentions, but it’s this coveted stamp of approval that encourages trends like the viral “fire challenge“—where young people literally light themselves on fire and post a video of it online—to spread on Facebook. The popularity of the “like” has us begging for attention and admiration with all of our online activity from Instagram photos, to YouTube comments and Reddit upvotes. To be honest, this one button carries a lot of the responsibility for making us self-obsessed and slightly crazy.
Leave Our Feelings Alone
In 2012, Facebook data scientists famously manipulated more than 600,000 users’ emotions by tinkering with their news feeds. The stunt—considered creepy and unethical by most—was part of a study to see if viewing positive or negative content would influence the mood of users. When word of the study got out in 2014, the public was furious to learn they had unknowingly been recruited as lab rats. The company did little more than give a meh apology.
Use AI Responsibly
We are totally for AI progress, but there are some aspects of Facebook’s artificial intelligence endeavors that we could live without. For example, that social media assistant type tool they’re building that will “moderate” your online activity, yeah that. Yann LeCun, the head of Facebook’s AI lab, said, if “you’re uploading an embarrassingly candid photo of your late-night antics. In a virtual way… this assistant would tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Uh, this is being posted publicly. Are you sure you want your boss and your mother to see this?'”
That’s Not Your Name
Last year, Facebook enacted a “Real Name Policy” and froze accounts with pseudonyms. This alienated many artists, performers and members of the LQTBQ community who, as a result, fled for a new social networking site called Ello. Facebook later changed the policy and issued an apology of half-truths. Not the best move.
One App is Enough
Basically, Facebook made everyone really, really mad last year. In July, the company removed the chat feature from the mobile app and launched an entirely separate app just for chat. They didn’t really expect us to just accept the fact that they wanted to take up more of our precious phone memory, did they? Many users rebelled by deleting the original Facebook app or their entire account. The overall consensus was that the whole thing was quite rude.