Feel free to comment or make suggestions. I likely won't be publishing as a followup it for a few days.
In Part 1 we asserted that Facebook is primarily a MEDIA company that has social engagement features.
In this followup article, we discuss whether Facebook is a tool suited for productivity and actually getting things done.
What Are We Trying to Get Done?
Aside from media created purely for entertainment and amusement, most media intended to be consumed by any significant audience is produced as the result of or as a by-product of other activities. The church newsletter, the family photo album or Christmas letter, the corporate annual report are all media productions intended to summarize and describe the productive activities of a group or a company that would otherwise be unknown. Even commercials and advertisements are selling a product or service which is the result of efforts and work that is most often completely unrelated to media production.
The reality is, very few people have a job where a significant portion of their work is to distribute media for consumption on any significant scale. Even professional entertainers whose primary job of an entertainer is to amuse others and distract them from productive work as the court fool amused and distracted the king in years gone by is in the business of PRODUCING media, not primarily in distributing it.
With this in mind, the question of the practical utility of being on a media platform comes to the surface.
Facebook at its core is a platform that facilitates the distribution and the ability to consume it "socially," as a shared experience with others.
Even if you disagree with this assessment, and you consider Facebook a “social” platform, we must still agree that “socialization” is far different from productivity.
So, Facebook is the right place to be if you are seeking to consume media. Facebook is also the right place to be if you are one of those few people whose job it is to distribute media produced by yourself or others. And finally, Facebook is the right place to be if you want to "socialize," (which in our media driven culture most often ends up a group of people consuming media together and discussing it).
But is it the right place to be if you are seeking to get something productive done?
Because of its nature in permitting social interaction and the fact that Facebook does provide some tools that can help gather individuals around a virtual table to collectively work on something, people have put it to use as a tool to be productive.
But a careful look at the tools and resources Facebook provides reveals that they really are not up to the task of serious productivity. This is primarily true because those tools are centered around the distribution, consumption, and discussion media "posted" on the platform (status posts, memes, clips, animated gifs, etc.)
The newsfeed structure is ephemeral and updates only last until the next update comes along. Though posts exist "forever," there is no mechanism for permanance in the newsfeed and there is no regard for importance, only the urgency of, "what does Facebook, through it's secret sauce of "algorithms" think I should be paying attention to right now?"
Even within Facebook Groups, sharing data and resources in any meaningful way is almost as cumbersome as using email to share files and data. Organizing tasks and data, setting goals, and having a sub-group engage over a period of time in a collaborative manner with more than just a very few people in the group is likewise doable but excruciatingly difficult.
All of this is because at its core, Facebook is about broadcasting and announcing “what’s new, right now!” Real productivity takes effort expended over time often in cooperation with others in an organized manner.
It seems that Facebook has recognized this shortcoming and has developed a new platform called “Facebook Workplace” to “help.” But that simply means that they, themselves, recognize the validity of the main point being made: as a media platform that aims to "feed" us media to consume, the Facebook we all know and love is not suited to productivity and getting things done.
People are trying to use Facebook for productivity primarily because the platform has become so familiar, not because it is the right tool for the job. It is because “everybody” is on Facebook, they are familiar with the interface, and, let's face it, people don’t want to have to remember yet another username and password. So we try to “make do” and try to use this platform that is ill-suited to the aims of productivity to accomplish something substantive and do meaningful work.
Any group that succumbed to this temptation has discovered that while the Facebook platform works well for broadcasting status updates and distributing media based work product with a broader audience, there is still a need to heavily supplement Facebook with additional tools and resources to do most of the “heavy lifting” of productivity, even the most basic things.
A quick preview of the available features in "Facebook Workplaces" indicates that this won't change on that platform. It appears to be more or less the same Facebook platform cordoned off in some ways with access restricted to the workgroup(s) involved. And while such a reduction of distraction will help, it doesn’t answer the core productivity issues.
All Your Bases Are Belong To Us
There is, of course, another concern with attempting to do work on a platform that monetizes the data we voluntarily turn over to them. This monetization of your personal and company data is still "baked in" to "Facebook Workplaces." And unless an organization is willing to shell out $3/user/month (an amount that indicates how much your personal data is actually worth!), Facebook will be the “data controller” and the “data processor” under the terms of the GDPR. And even if you don't know what that means, their intention with this designation is made clear in the terms and conditions of service.
Just like on the "Free" Facebook platform we all know and love, Facebook will be using all of the information uploaded, communicated, and stored on the “free” version of "Facebook Workplaces," to sell to you and to profile you, and to track and monitor you and to alter your experience of the world by altering the things you see in your newsfeed.
Their Terms specifically state:
“Facebook will use the information that we collect to provide, develop, improve and monetize the Services, as well as the Facebook Services and those services provided by the Facebook Companies. Examples of such use include: . . . personalizing and customizing your experiences as part of our provision of the Services including presenting you with content, communications, or topics (including paid content) that you may be interested in or that are popular or trending within your Business community; . . . We may also share the information we collect with third-party partners and customers who help us to provide and improve our Services or other Facebook Services or who use our advertising or related products, which makes it possible to provide Workplace Standard as free service to you. . . . We collect, use and share the data that we have in the ways described above: . . . as necessary for our (or others') legitimate interests, including our interests in providing an innovative, personalised, safe and profitable Service to our users and partners, . . .”
While many scoff and are dismissive of the many privacy concerns raised by the main Facebook platform claiming they are careful of what they post and have nothing to hide and thereby no reason to be concerned, few if any would say similar things about their email boxes, their private correspondence, and their personal notes or even interoffice memos. Yet, the FB Workplace platform (just as the regular Facebook platform does) will scour all of those things (just as Google does with Gmail and GDrive) in order to “personalize and customize your experiences . . . including presenting you with content, communications, or topics (including paid content) that you may be interested in.” (And none of this even touches on the ability for data included even in "Private" groups and one-to-one messages to be used for algorithmic targeting or may be disclosed to investigators and law enforcement as third-party business records if they are older than 90 or 180 days [depending on whether they have been receieved by the intended recipient or not]).
The decision to "stay" or "go" is not as cut and dry as it may first appear. It may be better to take a step or two back and ask, "Is what Facebook IS suited for the use I'm trying to make of it?"
Much frustration could be reduced by this question.
Media consumption is part of our culture. Facebook is another portal through which to consume media and adds the ability to socially interact with comments and conversation about the media that is mutually being consumed. The platform also allows anyone with an account to distribute media that they have produced and so contribute and participate in community in that way.
But that is the extent of the tool.
To attempt to do more than that with these tools is to fall victim to the temptation of trying to pound in screws because the only tool you have is a hammer.
The world needs something else. If we want to do meaningful work online, there is a desperate need to use a platform that will not only permit us to be social and communicate interactively, we need a platform that will actually allow us to come together and collaborate and work together to accomplish shared goals and purposes. Not a platform designed to allow us (and everyone else) to compete for attention by standing on the street corner shouting out our ideas and thoughts hoping others will hear them; not a platform that allows us to distribute compelling media in order to get people to "follow" us, but a platform that allows people to meet as peers and equals and interact in a virtual environment as we roll up our sleeves and attempt to actually get things done.
Such a platform needs to provide a robust framework for security and privacy. It needs to allow users to have an identity that can be used securely anywhere throughout the network so they have only ONE username and password to remember that grants them access just about anywhere.
In the best scenario, it would allow anyone who wants to the ability to have physical control over their own data and serve it from their own privately owned and operated server while still allowing a person to connect to other servers running the same platform anywhere in the world. Even better if it allows individual users to easily and effortlessly clone and copy their data to other servers for backup and resilience against attempts at "deplatforming". In addition to all this, it needs a reasonably robust array of options for communications, storage, and presentation of data and information. And, finally, it should be flexible and able to be adapted to the specific needs of a group or company or institution without sacrificing the ability to intercommunicate with others outside that group or company.
It sounds like a "pipe dream" and an impossible piece of software.
But it already exists and is in use. Is it perfect? No. Is it as easy to use as a system you have been already using for 5 or 10 or 14 years? Probably not. But it is functional and robust and can be installed today. There are also individuals and companies that will permit you and each member of your group to create an account on their server and begin learning and getting things done.
to find out more!