In this month's duel, Cathy Rentzenbrink and James Ball go head-to-headby C Rentzenbrink, J Ball / April 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Cathy Rentzenbrink: Yes
It was uncomplicated fun once, wasn’t it? A lovely, free way to share photos with our friends. Smartphones supercharged the experience. I could post photos on the move! I could narrate my life!
I wasn’t honest of course. I didn’t mean to lie exactly but didn’t want to bore anyone with my problems. I gave out the highlights; the cocktails but not the hangovers. It took me a long time to twig that I was not the consumer but the product. Facebook was selling me on. And I walked right into it. I whored myself out as traffic in return for some digital strokes.
I’m increasingly convinced social media is bad for us in ways we hardly begin to understand. Facebook makes me feel like an unstable teenager, which rather begs the question of what it makes an unstable teenager feel like.
I can’t cope with the noise, with the way that a picture of someone’s new pet or exciting day out will be interwoven with a video clip of a dead child on a beach. It makes me feel bad about my fellow humans and about myself but I don’t seem to be able to stop my hand twitching towards my phone for my next hit.
I used to blame myself for being weak and then I clocked that some of the smartest brains in the world are employed to manipulate and exploit me. They need me to stay on Facebook so they can sell my presence. They want me addicted and they like me restless and dissatisfied because it makes me long all the more for the reassurance of the little blue lights and ticks.
Despite their emotional language they don’t care about me and they don’t care about the mental state of my eyeballs; they just need my eyeballs so they can sell them. It’s time to go.
James Ball: No
Facebook was certainly a much simpler—and sparser—place when I first joined it as a first-year undergraduate, when the site was only open to a handful of universities in the UK.
Back then, when there were only a few hundred users on the network and no advertising of any sort, it was unimaginable that this little message board site we’d all started using would end up with billions of users—including our parents and families—with enormous power over the world’s media and conversations, and billions in revenues from its highly-targeted advertising.