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What’s Surprising Is That Anyone Is Surprised

October 25, 2021

By now you’ve probably heard of the Facebook Papers. That’s what the news is calling 50,000 documents that a Facebook whistleblower took from the company. Actually, this is the second whistleblower. The other one, Frances Haagen, testified before Congress.

This new one is choosing to remain anonymous. I wonder how long that will last.

The documents that he. . .or she. . .brought out of Facebook are pretty damning. They seem to contradict several statements that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made to Congress two years ago.

The most egregious accusation is that Facebook intentionally fosters conflict. The documents claim it’s good for business. Of course, it is. I mean, anyone who has ever written a blog, or moderated a forum, or hosted a debate will tell you that conflict generates interest.

The worst is not that they boo you. The worst thing is when they ignore you.

In the news business the phrase is,

If it bleeds it leads.

Why would Social Media be any different? And why would you EXPECT it to be different? The only really surprising thing to me is that anyone is surprised.

For many years I moderated a facebook forum called “Liberty And Tyranny.” Our group was unique. It was composed of liberals and conservatives. We had a single rule:

No personal attacks

So, you could argue your point strongly. But, you couldn’t call names. Ad hominem attacks were forbidden. And it could get you banned. And we banned a fair amount. Unfortunately it was generally the liberals who couldn’t hold a civil conversation. Not all of them, of course not. And we banished a few conservatives as well. Some, good friends of mine.

We had a prize that you could earn if you started a topic that generated over 100 comments. The prize was a mug. We didn’t actually have any mugs. You could earn it. But, we would never send it to you. It became quite an honor to have not gotten a mug.

I held the record for a comment thread with the most comments. It was over 500 comments. The topic? “Boobs and Bullets.” I pointed out that conservatives often had the same “uncomfortableness” with a woman breastfeeding in public that Liberals had with someone openly carrying a firearm in public. I drew the connection that both are Constitutionally protected activities. And both offend on an emotional level.

The debate waged as you would expect. But, with no personal attacks. I’m still proud of not getting a mug for that thread.

But, what really drove it? Conflict. Everyone in the forum had an opinion. The Conservatives complained that breastfeeding was not at all like defending the second amendment. And Liberals complained that “breastfeeding never killed anyone.” In the end, we had a great discussion but no one’s mind was changed.

So, it’s no surprise that Facebook figured out how to capitalize and monetize conflict. It’s equally not surprising that Facebook would deny this strongly.

What is most surprising is that anyone is actually surprised at this.

Oh, and I made some great friends in Liberty and Tyranny. I’m still friends with many of them. But, the group ended about 5 years ago. There was one politician that members simply couldn’t refrain from attacking. He was even president for awhile.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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