The Facebook Dilemma | Reflections


This is an agonizing series of lessons on unintended consequences, optimistic naïveté, and how a mission and core values are ultimately subsumed under the gravity of the economics of your business model. A few thoughts.

First, it is a fairly consistent phenomenon, that every organization that grows faces the dilemma of their original  mission, vision, and values being unable to sustain the sheer economics of expansion. The paradox of growth is, that which got you there can’t keep you there. And the thing that keeps you there undermines what got you there.

Second, there is an underlying assumption that the mission of making a more “open and connected world” is a positive thing. That assumption is that the world is fundamentally good. Well, as we have seen before, and as technology theorists have warned us (specifically Marshall McLuhan, and Neil Postman), not only is the “medium the message” and that “we make our tools and our tools make us,” but also that technology extends and amplifies our human aspects. And, if part of the human condition is to be deceitful, hateful, divisive, etc., well, shall we be surprised when our technological platforms follow suit? (I would also add to this, that in addition to extending and amplifying our human aspects, I would add that technologies therefore mask and atrophy our actual humanity.)

Last, according to Facebook Failed to Police How Its Partners Handled User Data (NYTimes, November 12, 2018), Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis (NYTimes, November 14, 2018), and Mark Zuckerberg Defends Facebook as Furor Over Its Tactics Grows (NYTimes, November 15, 2018), the “Dilemma” of Facebook is growing more into a crisis. Facebook did publish a rebuttal/response, (what they call an “Update”) on November 15, 2018, but news about the company continues to be negative. It is going to be interesting to see how this all develops in the years to come.

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