WHAT DOES ‘LIKE’ MEAN TO YOU? MAYBE MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT DO YOU MEAN TO ‘LIKE’?
MY EXPERIENCE WITH FACEBOOK
Untitled, Oil on Panel, 24 x 36, Richard J. Van Wagoner, Courtesy of James and Juli Blanch**
This post does not take on issues of foreign money, foreign collusion, or foreign influence in United States’ and other countries’ elections. (I leave for a post closer to the 2018 election a discussion of measuring just the right level of corruption in America’s electoral process [campaign finance, dark money, Citizens United, voter suppression, gerrymandering].) And, you will quickly see I am among the least technologically sophisticated people on the internet.
But are we really all that surprised to learn we constitute marketing demographics derived from a platform we voluntarily enter and use at no financial cost? The signs were there.
The unsubtle, non-nuanced choice of Facebook emojis means a lot less to you and me than it does to Facebook. That’s generally okay with me.
I am also fine that, having been outed, Facebook claims it will exercise greater oversight and control over user information and vet the sources of such information including profiles and the veracity of user identities.
Given the recent outing of Facebook’s (1) open vault for access to user profiles and data and (2) deception concerning the openness of that vault (see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/07/christopher-wylie-why-i-broke-the-facebook-data-story-and-what-should-happen-now?CMP=sharebtnlink), maybe one answer ought to be full disclosure and fully-informed consent before people choose to use.
Nor am I offended by the risks of entering a forum — in which trolls, catfish and other tricksters are known to gain access — that requires me to bear personal responsibility, judgment and discretion for determining the veracity and merit of the information that makes its way to me. Sort of like life.
Maybe most significantly, Facebook might do well to (1) define for users in big bold letters what Facebook means by “private,” (2) inform users in big bold letters their “private” information is up for sale or access to outside users and interests, and/or (3) not sell or share it.
Dusk, Oil on Panel, 9" x 15", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Helen Bero-Van Wagoner and Richard A. Van Wagoner**
I don’t write code, am not a mathematician and know very little about algorithms. When I re-entered the world of Facebook around January 20, 2017 after a five-year hiatus, however, I consciously gave up any expectation of privacy for what I choose to put into that domain, including any personal information I disclose or post. And both my Timeline and Page are “public.” But that’s me.
Granted, I use Facebook primarily as a platform to express personal views about politics and geopolitics and, more importantly, as a gallery to share my father’s brilliant artwork.
I created a Facebook Page, Last Amendment, as a forum for such personal expression. While I have no paid advertisers and am not interested in soliciting any, from time-to-time I pay Facebook to advertise my own Page. Why? Three reasons.
First, I have an inflated and artificial sense of my own importance and the significance of what I think and say. And Facebook is the perfect forum for displaying such hubris.
Second, I use Facebook as a means to vent. Such venting reduces my need for anti-depressants and visits to my clinical psychologist. I’m considering titrating the first and am down to once a month for the second.
Third, regardless of my deluded sense of self and need for a non-destructive relief valve (I quit the booze a long time ago and can’t always count on the weather for bicycling), I use the forum to share my father’s extraordinary artwork. As with many artists, his work was genius, his skill at self-promotion terrible. Before he passed away, he made clear that, if we were unwilling to display his artwork, we should discard or destroy it. And no, except in rare circumstances his art is not for sale. It is for appreciation and I am doing what I can, with his estate’s express permission, to share.
Untitled, Oil on Panel, 20" x 36", Richard J. Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
In short order I came to understand that Facebook makes a lot of money by allowing, viz. encouraging, Facebook to advertise user Pages for Facebook users who might be interested in the content. My own timeline is replete with ads for products and events which, strangely, generally fall within my discrete interests.
Effective advertising requires targeting. Who is the target audience? What is the right demographic for the product any particular Page promotes?
Facebook, as with any quality marketing firm, wants to assure advertising dollars stretch as far as possible, to the right demographics, matching the product with the target audience. How? And who constitutes the audience? Unsurprisingly, Facebook has collected, crunched and synthesized (and continues to do so) the profiles and other data on its billions of users and presents that data in categories from which I, as a Page advertiser, can choose as my target audience. The categories, which are readily available for consideration on Facebook, include:
Business and industry
Family and relationships
Fitness and wellness
Food and drink
Hobbies and activities
Shopping and fashion
Sports and outdoors
Mobile Device User/Device Use Time
Of course each category and subcategory has its own sub-subcategories.
Based on the content of my Page Last Amendment, which self-identifies as “comment[ing] on the current regime’s suppression and manipulation of political, geopolitical, scientific, economic and truthful speech; it also serves as a gallery for my father’s artwork,” I choose mostly from the left of center, progressive side of “Politics (US),” and I leave it to Facebook’s marketing geniuses to do the rest of the work.
Apparently, we all are targets, demographics, commodities, products. Seems a lot like life. But by voluntarily exposing ourselves, I don’t believe we have handed over our free will. We still can — and should — vet whatever information makes it onto our Timelines, television screens, newspapers, Twitter feeds and any other sources to which we choose to be exposed and from which we choose to receive information.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.