Do you remember the world before Facebook?

Do you remember the world before Facebook?

By Ellen Ratner   
Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, April 11, 2018, (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian)
Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, April 11, 2018, (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian)

LOS ANGELES: This week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House and Senate. While some of his testimony was laughable as he explained social media to a bunch of baby boomers, much of it was not.

Our, CEO, Timothy Maier, who is a boomer, said to me, “I wonder if the new generations know what the world was like before Facebook.” He outlined for all of us what it was like. This is what he said:

-One of the things that annoy me is people are constantly on their phone. A lot of times, this is simply to post or check their Facebook. Prior to Facebook, we used to have conversations – face to face. Now people use Facebook messenger, emails, texts, Facebook posts, and messages. All of these have a tone. You don’t know what the person really means unless you talk face to face.

-Facebook has become a place where people get their news. When I started out as a journalist, I read five newspapers – all of them had a different take on the news because there was no internet. Wouldn’t it be nice if people just started reading “real news” instead of Facebook news feeds?

-Prior to Facebook, we had privacy. We kept private diaries on our thoughts. Now we think sharing everything about our lives is important to other people. I don’t really care to know if you are having coffee and a donut.

-Those of us with kids remember actually having deep conversations about everything – who they are dating, who they are taking to the prom, and if they are serious about the person they are dating. Now we have to search our kids’ Facebook to find out if their “relationship” is “Facebook official.” They tell the world before they tell their parents.

-You never have any privacy. You can be outside and, all of a sudden, someone takes a photo of you and you are on their Facebook feed. What happened to common courtesy?

Maier is not the only baby boomer or member of the generation before, now called builders, who has a problem with Facebook and the internet.

It is the president’s use of social media and, therefore, the internet and sites like Facebook that have resulted in the degradation of humanity. Abraham Foxman, the former head of the Anti- Defamation League, had this to say:

“Trumpism has destroyed the social contract that protected Jews and other minority communities. The communal norms that Trump disparages as political correctness were not a panacea, but they provided security. Trump’s campaign destroyed the taboos about name-calling and stereotyping minority communities, demolished the idea of common decency, of not insulting disabled people and Muslims and Mexicans and anyone else he derided as not making up his base. Until now, minority communities have been protected against this kind of bigotry not as much by laws as by social norms. You can be a bigot in America, and the Constitution will protect your right to be a bigot. But until now, if you were a bigot publicly, there would be consequences, and you’d have to pay them.”

Before social media and sites like Facebook, if you wanted to go after an ethnic group, you had to do it on the streets or say it from a microphone or on the radio like Adolf Hitler. Now you can do it on the internet and Facebook, and you can choose a fake name and disguise who you are, as did the white Australian who began the biggest “Black Lives Matter” site.

I lived in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1966, I went to see the movie “A Patch of Blue” with Sidney Poitier. When the movie let out, there were many men in white robes (the Ku Klux Klan) handing out literature. Now all they need to do is to get fans on their Facebook page. They don’t even have to leave their houses.

The internet and Facebook have been gifts. We would never have learned about so many things if we didn’t have them. However, like many gifts, they have their downsides.

We were taught way back in the 1960s about the Trojan horse and, as it was said back then, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Many gifts have a downside, and Facebook, social media and the internet are those gifts.

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