Facebook … the good, the bad and the ugly

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By Jim Rohrer

I was not an early adopter of Facebook. Like many my age, I thought it was for kids. Now, I am a user, and I enjoy the networking benefits it brings.
I commonly communicate with friends and business associates, many of whom I haven’t seen for years. My sister is a well-known artist, but she lives in Cincinnati. With her postings, I can enjoy her artwork.
As a consultant, I helped clients utilize Facebook to bring attention to their businesses. Currently, Facebook has more than 2 billion users. It’s clear that you wouldn’t have 2 billion customers in any business if your product didn’t add a lot of value.
To be sure, there are many interesting stories and articles that are posted.
Now for the bad news. There is a lot of political commentary posted, and much of it is negative in that it attacks those with different beliefs. Facebook somehow seems to bring out mean-spirited comments meant, not to inform, but to attack.
I have a former business acquaintance whose postings are so mean-spirited and sometimes in unacceptable language that I unfriended him. Another friend posts political and cultural things that are so incredible I sometimes respond with easy-to-get facts that show the untruthful nature of the posting.
I stopped because I could see my practices were straining our friendship. I should unfriend him, so I will not be tempted to take the bait.   
Recently, I commented that Paul Ryan’s retirement would cause us to lose someone who seems to be a good man. I pointed out that I was commenting on his character, not necessarily his politics.
Before I knew it, one Facebook friend was attacking another. As I saw what I had started, I shook my head, noting that my political beliefs were different than either of the Facebook friends, one being more liberal than I am and the other being more conservative.
My posting wasn’t even about political beliefs, but it deteriorated into a political tirade.  
Finally, there seems to be an ugly side of Facebook. I am not upset to realize that Facebook is an advertising company.
When I like articles about Ohio State football, someone is taking notes. I’m not surprised or upset when I receive an offer to buy an Ohio State jersey or hat.
My postings and likes are public information because I made them so. Of course, in this information age, someone will use this public knowledge to attempt to create a merchandise sale.
Sales is the engine of our economy. I have learned that no matter how cute the picture of the dog is, I pass by posts that are marked “sponsored.”
The ugliness comes from the realization that someone used the Facebook system to unfairly influence our democratic election process with information they knew to be false, misleading, even disgusting. Facebook never created this platform for such purposes, but they must get a handle on how to manage it.
It seems encouraging to me that founder Mark Zuckerberg said he would welcome the right type of regulation to help stop this type of activity. I do think the company made a bad call to not immediately inform us that a breach had occurred.  
Having been part of a couple of startups, I have noticed that successful startups are often able to gain huge customer bases, but at the same time, they often don’t know what they don’t know.
Just because they are big doesn’t mean that they have the expertise and awareness of huge corporations who’ve become more competent over many years. I’ll give them some slack this time.
One other looming problem is that there is no mechanism to hold anyone accountable for postings that are dishonest or blatantly false. Since Facebook only provides the platform, they are not subject to libel laws.
Perhaps some type of easy-to-use and totally reliable fact-finding process could help solve this problem. Like anything new, there will be a period of adjustment.
I remember the first TV pictures with their grainy, funny-shaped and small screens as I glance up at my 50-inch, high definition flat screen.    

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)