Memes for inmates
November 22, 2021 2:51 PM   Subscribe

"After experiencing it for myself, it seems absurd that this fundamental strangeness of Facebook isn’t a regular topic of conversation." Kaitlyn Tiffany makes the world's blandest Facebook profile to see what's going on over there. (unpaywalled version)
posted by theodolite (40 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
The fake Carol was an imaginary 41-year-old woman from North Carolina who was a Christian, a fan of Trump[...] Then, for no discernible reason, there’s also a brain-injury support group

I guess I probably shouldn't laugh, but I did. No discernible reason indeed.
posted by Dysk at 3:04 PM on November 22 [17 favorites]


I don't know how much value there is in a profile with no connections. Who would bother with Facebook otherwise? And your connections are a big factor in what you see.
posted by emjaybee at 3:12 PM on November 22


I retain an instagram account because there are red panda fan accounts on it, and the existence of red pandas makes up for the horror of what instagram under its FB ownership has become—and maybe for a lot more in this fallen world.

When they introduced 'reels' I tried to work out what it did and what it was for, and still haven't come up with a good answer. What benefit to anyone does it have to be served algorithmically selected short clips, like Australia's Funniest Home Videos without the humour? This description from the article is perfect to describe what I realise now I was seeing:
The results of my experiment fascinated me mostly on account of their brutality. Each post felt like a blunt-force expression of loneliness, desperation, horniness, or all three. At the same time, they seemed entirely inhuman
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:15 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Every post on Facebook which ends with "Prove me wrong" has been proven wrong.

Prove me wrong.

[...and all of those posts have thousands of replies.]
posted by clawsoon at 3:24 PM on November 22


When they introduced 'reels' I tried to work out what it did and what it was for

Mostly so they can say they're trying to compete with TikTok. But they either have no content or have no idea how to do the algorithm, because mine is full of the same unrelenting glurge, even though Facebook does know a lot about me.

You can get much the same experience by browsing YouTube in an incognito window, though not quite as bad.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:58 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


An article telling you that Facebook is bad is like saying you should smoke less; unsurprising but short on specifics about how to cut it out of your life. Like, how? Cos I think the answer is regulation, the same way Europe cut down smoking, but this article mysteriously omits any suggestion that things might be improved.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:01 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


bad advice, stolen memes, shady businesses, and sophomoric jokes repeated over and over
Sounds a lot like any of several eras of The Internet, prior to meta filtering.
posted by joeyh at 4:08 PM on November 22 [16 favorites]


emjaybee: " don't know how much value there is in a profile with no connections. Who would bother with Facebook otherwise?"

I use the Facebook like 95% for buying and selling guitar gear from and to people I have no connection with. I have a few tens of 'friends' on the platform, but have de-followed most of them and never interact with anybody I know on the site.
posted by signal at 4:50 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


Facebook isn't a brain, it needs your brain and your social connections to help their corporate sponsors pick your pockets, and support folks that will keep this working as it does, billions of willing victims.
posted by Oyéah at 5:36 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]


This whole article is a fine example of what happens if you use Facebook the way Facebook want you to use it. Using the discovery, joining public groups, taking their suggestions. Nobody I know uses Facebook like this. They friend people they know, and maybe join our create a few small, private groups. Of course you're going to get awful if you're joining the giant public groups Facebook suggests. Awful its the lowest common denominator. But who actually does this (and why?) - surely something like reddit (ugh) is a better model for that type of experience? Facebook's USP to me is that you aren't interacting with people you don't personally know - if I wanted that, I'd be on twitter, or TikTok or whatever the kids these days are doing...
posted by Dysk at 5:50 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


If you look at YouTube with a new (blank) account it's similar. They'll recommend like one of each different type of known rabbit hole, waiting to see which one you click on, and most of them are so, SO stupid. But people must click on them. It's depressing, but in the same way the tabloids and dieting tips magazines at the grocery store checkout are depressing. At least those are not political.
posted by subdee at 6:14 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


It's depressing, but in the same way the tabloids and dieting tips magazines at the grocery store checkout are depressing. At least those are not political.

That must be nice. Over here in the UK, the Murdoch gutter press and tabloids generally are very much political, in the worst possible way.
posted by Dysk at 6:31 PM on November 22 [12 favorites]


I found myself at the bottom of a rabbit hole not of extremism but of utter trash—bad advice, stolen memes, shady businesses, and sophomoric jokes repeated over and over. Facebook isn’t just dangerous, I learned. It doesn’t merely have the ability to shape offline reality for its billions of users. No, Facebook is also—and perhaps for most people—senseless and demoralizing.
The hell you say. As best I can tell, it’s a way for people to declare their erotic fixation on various politicians, as any news story will produce comments about how this thing which has nothing to do with ______ is all _______’s fault, or at best, why isn’t this story about _______.

In the same vein as the writer in the FPP, I created a second account a while ago as a control for what I see on my main one. I commented with it on things and brought my own innate biases to it, followed a few media outlets both centre-left and rightish but didn’t send out any friend requests, but did accept any that came my way.

The main thing I noticed is no ads. I guess FB’s algorithms cannot pigeonhole the new account. My usual account’s feed is about one-third advertisements by volume, but I have taken to blocking every ad one by one and marking each one as “irrelevant,” so there the algorithms struggle in a different route — after trying to sell me the services of car insurance brokers (haven’t really driven in 35 years) and showing me Greek-language ads for tourist resorts in the Greek Isles (I speak no Greek and cannot recall that I have ever expressed any interest in visiting), I was asked frankly if I have assessed the likelihood that my horse is prone to gastric ulcers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:55 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


I'm intrigued by the adverts and reels Instagram decides to show me, and trying to figure out why. Lots of amusing dog videos, that's pretty accurate and understandable. An overwhelming number on ADHD advice. Why? A deluge of advice to alcoholics, also, why?
Thousands of flaky woo crystal, astrology, and find your perfect match psychics. Also, find your perfect bra.
I suspect the woo and underwear are there because I'm female? Equally interesting is what I'm not shown. Not one single cycling related advert or reel, although that's a topic I am clearly interested in, based on both my posting history and who I follow. While my husband sees plenty of cycling related reels and adverts.
I do like Instagram a lot, despite this. Accounts like "Dust to digital" more than make up for the drek.
It's also been a great way to keep in touch with friends in a sort of low key way, which has been a lifeline for me in these pandemic times.
Most of my friends don't like connecting on zoom or texting, and are too far away or too busy to meet up. If it wasn't for Instagram I would be a lot more isolated than I am.
posted by Zumbador at 8:09 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I use the Facebook like 95% for buying and selling

Must admit that my few experiences with buying and selling on FB went smoothly and quickly. Has it replaced Craigslist, to some extent? And why is that - less anonymity?
posted by Rash at 8:20 PM on November 22


FTFA, "2010-Myspace levels of grim."

Just, wow.
posted by riverlife at 9:53 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


short on specifics about how to cut it out of your life. Like, how?

Most of my friends that used to use it for social organization and communication have moved to a private Discord or set up some Telegram channels.
posted by Candleman at 10:01 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I have a Facebook account, because I'm a university student and for whatever reason, most colleges still seem to use this service to organise events despite the fact that it's seen by young adults as horrendously passé for all other purposes. I don't use it for anything else, it's a terribly bland profile that says nothing about me other than that I'm a student at this University.

I've never come across any of the shitshow stuff that people say is rife on Facebook - the junk the algorithm recommends to me are articles from mainstream news sites (like the BBC, I have to admit I did tell it to stop showing me stuff from The Sun and Daily Mail early on), ads for cosmetics (because it's skilfully deduced that I'm a woman, gosh the power of the algorithm) and inexplicably endless ads for a new Subway 200 miles away, just in case I fancy a trip to South Wales and get peckish.

Perhaps the fact that I told it to stop with the tabloid shit on like, day two of having a profile made the algorithm realise I'm not going to fall for stuff, but I've never come across far-right politics, anti-vax or anything like that via Facebook. How are people ending up with this crap?
posted by indemandgirl at 2:59 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]


Rash: " Has it replaced Craigslist, to some extent?"

Don't know, craigslist is not a thing in Chile.
posted by signal at 4:00 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


I’ve deactivated my Facebook account for the last month or so because of a new job. It’s wonderful. I used to spend every free, bored moment doomscrolling. I’ve retained messenger so people can still contact me but it is refreshing to not scroll FB all day.

Plus, I’m spending more time here for the first time in 10 years.
posted by schyler523 at 4:06 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Well it's proven that staying off platforms like Facebook make you happier so good for you!
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:21 AM on November 23


Like indemandgirl, I am forced to have a (fake) FB account because the theater I perform at runs everything off FB. I don't post anything to my page and only friend people I'm in shows with, so I don't get this crappity either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:31 AM on November 23


Most of my friends that used to use it for social organization and communication have moved to a private Discord or set up some Telegram channels.

Keybase teams work well for this too.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 AM on November 23


I have taken to blocking every ad one by one and marking each one as “irrelevant,” so there the algorithms struggle in a different route

I did this for a while and ended up thoroughly regretting it: the number of ads I was shown actually increased substantially -- I just checked, I'm also now sitting at a 1:3 ratio of ads to friends -- and what was being advertised at me in the absence of known "relevant" interests got so damn depressing. So many sleazy "testosterone replacement therapy" shills. Case sourcing services for personal injury lawyers. ("No unprofitable soft tissue injuries here, we have breakages and dismemberments!") And lots and lots and lots of ads for services that want to help me create new ads (generally by providing AI-written copy). At one point I blocked the same exact ad ("THE ALMOST-UNKNOWN REASON WHY 99.9% OF MEN FAIL TO ATTRACT GORGEOUS WOMEN") five times in ten minutes, because it'd been posted from five different ad accounts. Basically I'd blocked all the "reasonable" advertisers and was left with the dregs.

....though as I type this out I'm realizing I visit FB a heck of a lot less frequently than I used to, possibly as a result of taunting the algorithm like that. Maybe that's the answer to how to cut it out of your life: just make it suck a tiny bit more than it used to until the site tips over into repellent instead of addictive.

And yet there are people I like who I know for a fact I will never speak to again if I leave FB for good, simply because that's our only intersecting venue. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Oh well
posted by ook at 5:40 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


the existence of red pandas makes up for the horror of what instagram under its FB ownership has become

Dear Fiasco: Pixar's got you covered.
posted by The Bellman at 7:21 AM on November 23 [9 favorites]


^ I am several galaxies removed from the target audience for that movie, but dang if I don't want to see that
posted by elkevelvet at 7:26 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


I have taken to blocking every ad one by one

Can somebody who has made a positive decision not simply to install uBlock Origin and blanket-block everything by default explain their rationale?

Every time I read about somebody engaging with Internet advertising in this or any of the other myriad creative ways in which folks express their irritation with the form, I find myself rocking back and forth in my seat and tearing what's left of my hair and going why, why, why, why, why doesn't everybody just block all of it, given how insanely easy it is to get 99% of that job done?
posted by flabdablet at 7:31 AM on November 23 [10 favorites]


This is the stupidest possible timeline.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:35 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


what was being advertised at me in the absence of known "relevant" interests got so damn depressing

I’m starting to think that it is using negative information as the basis for algorithmic conclusions; that is, I have been blocking ads with such regularity that some subroutine’s metaphorical ears prick up when I fail to block something, taking that as a stamp of approval.

I haven’t eaten red meat since the eighties but now and again do have a vegetarian burger. Maybe three months ago an ad came at me for some vegetarian patties and I thought, “Hmmm. My preferred choice has been discontinued so maybe I’ll give these ones a shot.” I left it alone to come back and look at the name later. Three days later, every second ad was for various brands of vegetarian patties
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:59 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Can somebody who has made a positive decision not simply to install uBlock Origin and blanket-block everything by default explain their rationale?

Well, personally, because afaik there isn't an ad blocker that will block Facebook ads on my phone, which is where I'm doing most of my feed-related time wasting.

If that's incorrect I'd be thrilled to learn otherwise!
posted by ook at 8:44 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Can somebody who has made a positive decision not simply to install uBlock Origin and blanket-block everything by default explain their rationale?

I don't Facebook* but I do watch a ton of YouTube and while uBlock Origin blocks a decent amount of it, it doesn't block it on the AppleTV, which is where I and my spouse do 95% of our video viewing.

I log into Google's Ad Preferences every so often and clear out a bunch of topics. I just did it now because we're so tired of seeing the Lexus/Eternals ad that it shows us OVER AND OVER and just got rid of all car-related topics in the hopes that we no longer see it. Google also thinks I'm interested in languages and language learning, which probably explains why we're getting Spanish-language ads for dishwasher detergent and Hindi-language Diwali ads, so I left that. I also left the TV/movie related topics because we actually like seeing trailers.

*I have an account because I host the FB group for a client, but they manage it and I log in a couple of times a year, pretty much. Back when I was experimenting with FB ads on behalf of clients and myself, I turned off my ad blocker on FB so I could see how the ad worked and what they suggested to me, and what sort of ads I found most attractive.
posted by telophase at 9:00 AM on November 23


Re blocking ads on my phone, here's what I do: instead of the Facebook app, I just use Firefox (with ublock) to browse facebook.com.

Haven't seen an ad in ages, and I feel way more in control this way.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:10 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


why doesn't everybody just block all of it, given how insanely easy it is to get 99% of that job done?

The rest seems to be handled by Facebook Purity.

But why don't they block? I myself have learned that not everyone hates advertising as much as I, that not everybody has been striving to avoid ads for decades, like me; that the reason most American don't embrace PBS and NPR is ideological, not because there's no commercials. As fantastic as it is and so contrary to my world-view, some people desire advertising.
posted by Rash at 9:15 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


This whole article is a fine example of what happens if you use Facebook the way Facebook want you to use it. Using the discovery, joining public groups, taking their suggestions. Nobody I know uses Facebook like this. They friend people they know, and maybe join our create a few small, private groups.

This is how I use Facebook, and, so far as I can tell how everyone else I know uses Facebook with one exception. That one exception wants Facebook to be somehow more like reddit. This is clearly wishful thinking. Given that the vast majority of my Facebook connections are either Boomers or not-very-online Gen Xers, they are not going to be moving to any other platform unless has already been mass adopted. This means that I'm not leaving it unless I want to abandon all of them, and I don't.
posted by plonkee at 9:30 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


My feed was full of promises and emotional declarations: “You will have money TOMORROW,” or “May god heal everything That you’re suffering alone,” or “Real men make your panties wet not your eyes.” But they came from nowhere and went nowhere—and they only made me feel worse and worse.
I find this to be the most interesting part of modern social media. I would love to see some network research that states the % of network traffic that is person to person, bot to bot, and person to bot. I suspect that the bot to bot traffic far outweighs the person to person traffic, in order to build a legitimate persona that gets bots through spam filters.
posted by rebent at 9:51 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


After just two weeks on the platform, consuming only content that Facebook’s recommendation systems selected for me, I found myself at the bottom of a rabbit hole not of extremism but of utter trash—bad advice, stolen memes, shady businesses, and sophomoric jokes repeated over and over. Facebook isn’t just dangerous, I learned. It doesn’t merely have the ability to shape offline reality for its billions of users. No, Facebook is also—and perhaps for most people—senseless and demoralizing.
I have no doubt that this is an accurate enough summary of how Facebook-the-system works, but it's not Facebook-the-company's doing alone. The purveyors of bad advice and shady businesses have gamed every measurement they can game, they've worked hard at ensuring they're easy to find.

The point being, not to excuse Facebook, but that any forum that tries to "drive engagement" by auctioning off slots in the suggestion queue will surely wind up facing the same attention-economy pressures, with the same least-common-denominator trash spreading by gaming metrics rather than by possessing any merit.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:28 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Everything the author is seeing on that account with no friends is targetted toward people with depression. Of course the content is depressing.
posted by subdee at 11:34 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Depressing content for depressed people? It sounds catchy, but what's the reason it should be so?
posted by tigrrrlily at 2:52 PM on November 23


I think there are things we believe it's easier to sell depressed people, tigrrrlily?

My brush with this was on YouTube; I started watching all of a 'group of friends tries stuff semi-competently' channel and suddenly *all* my ads were make-money-quick and online-counselors and suicide hotlines. Pretty creepy, many of them.
posted by clew at 4:55 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


"How can we live like this … with cats who are public figures?"

excuse you those pages are the best part of the internet
posted by Jacqueline at 2:11 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


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