I am a progressive. I make no secret of this. Of course, I would be classified as a “liberal” by many, but I see myself first and foremost as a progressive. I do not believe that progressive thought is limited to one particular side of the social/political spectrum, and it is often a point of contention with me when people assume as such.
I consider myself a progressive because I like to study, learn, and explore new ideas. I don’t believe that an intelligent society or culture ever stops learning, and it is for that reason that I rarely, if ever, qualify as a “conservative” or “traditionalist” on most issues. While I don’t believe in change simply for the sake of change, I don’t believe we have ever found a perfect system, and I don’t believe we ever will.
When I discovered Facebook just over five years ago, I was excited to see what it could do to bring people together. Assembling a contact list of current friends, people I knew twenty years ago, and like-minded people whom I’ve never met in person is what makes the concept of social networking so interesting. I also believe, however, that social networking can affect great amounts of change through its ability to give people a platform to share their ideas, discuss them with others, and learn from each other.
Of course, the drawback to social networking is that a large system to facilitate it can experience a sudden increase of popularity, inevitably drawing an element that is more apt to react than act. Rather than new ideas being shared, old ideas constantly repackaged for mass consumption become the majority of content that is shared. As has happened with conventional media, much of the content produced for social networks such as Facebook originates with a very small, exclusive group who are less concerned with making the end user think, and more concerned about revenue, and have pursued very questionable and unethical actions to preserve their dominance. Others have exploited the system for spamming purposes, often using their presence to spread social, political, religious, or other content that appeals to the lowest common denominator, in order to ensure that it is spread far and wide, which then gives them an attractive package of “likes” and “shares” that can then be sold to a prospective spammer.
Revenue, unfortunately, often supplies the funding such a large system, and can itself become the catalyst for the content produced and distributed. Facebook is first and foremost an advertising company, using its massive user base as a captive audience to facilitate commercial gain. As the user base has grown, so has the phenomenon of “ad creep” into the user experience. The advertising once confined to a small column outside of the news feed is now inserted into the news feed itself as being “recommended links”.
Unfortunately, the time has come for anyone who produces or consumes independent, well-formulated “progressive” content to question whether or not Facebook is still a valid forum for distributing that content, while building an audience and peer network for exchanging such content. If a system becomes flawed, the first course of action should be to correct it. If that course of action does not produce results, the next logical step is to form a system to serve as an alternative (or replacement) for the flawed system. This is a serious question, but it is one that I truly believe needs to be asked.