The Principled Filmmaker Kip Baldwin May 13, 2014 Columns, Ethics in TV and Movies, Featured This column is going to be devoted to debunking the idea that somehow Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general, operate in some liberal utopia where all business is handled with the utmost concern for its employees, the environment, world peace, child welfare, fairness in the distribution of its wealth, etc. Now that is not to say that the entertainment industry has a worse record on these issues (although if pushed I might) than other industries, but it certainly is no better. However, before sliding headfirst down the very long and slippery rabbit hole of Hollywood’s unprincipled business and social practices, I first would like to take on the 1.2 billion pound gorilla that is Facebook and social media in general. I will start by saying that I am considered by some to be a social media thought leader and my Klout score puts me in the 15% of all people using social media or so Klout says. I am sharing this with you not to brag, as is the most common past time of those using social media, but to illustrate that I am not some Luddite technology hater, longing for the days of the horse and buggy. Having said, that on any given day I could probably be convinced to give up many of the wiz bang gadgets of convenience that we really don’t need and embrace a more earthbound life in order to be more a part of nature and less apart from, because I do believe that our addiction to technology has found us in a place where our illusions of control have placed us at odds with the reality of the process of life itself. I tell my techie friends who are eagerly anticipating downloading their consciousness into the machine in an attempt to gain immortality that they still need someone to chop wood here in the acoustic world and that I am perfectly fine being that guy. But, I digress back to the maniacal memory devouring monster that is Facebook. I began using Facebook in earnest about five years ago and have gathered about five thousand “friends” along with creating numerous groups and pages with more members and likes than are worth mentioning; mostly because I really don’t know, as I have not taken the time to count them all. And like me, I am sure most of you who have long been on social media have broken some arbitrary algorithmic rule that has led your account to being temporarily suspended. I am also sure that like me, you jumped through whatever hoops needed, giving your necessary mea culpa to the invisible gods of SM assuring them; you would never transgress again. I have gone through this social media circle jerk more times than I care to count, each time giving the digital hand job needed to satisfy the deities of bytes in order that I may go back about my business of bantering on their holiest of sites. That was until the last time Facebook threw the hammer down without cause or point. This time despite my incessant interactions with real humans, decided I was not; a real human that is. Now began the arduous process of proving that I am not some fake identity trying to game Facebook’s system, thereby thwarting their immediate need to bring in ad dollars to justify its existence to their shareholders. This meant answering a series of dumb questions, typing in the squiggly word number thing into the box and finally scanning my driver’s license (they could have started with that and saved everyone a whole bunch of time). Before finally being told to wait an indefinite amount of time for a response, as they had a limited staff of social media inquisitors and would get to me in the order received. I figured with 1.2 billion users that could take a while. At this point I really didn’t care (which surprised me) I figured I would log in using my partner’s account and check on my groups and pages in order to correspond where needed until I was proven human again. Maybe I should have made the argument that I had now downloaded myself into the machine and that I was no longer human, therefore Facebook’s rules didn’t apply to me anymore (I bet Scarlett Johansson could have pulled it off) but no, I just logged into my partner’s account and settled to wait for my reinstatement. That was when my rose- colored social media goggles fell into Facebook gaping maw of information hoarding and shattered into 1.2 billion pieces. It was at this point I was shocked and dumbfounded to learn not only had I been banned from using my page in the now, but any memory that I had ever been on Facebook had also been erased entirely. That meant any posts I had created and shared anywhere, including posts that has been shared from Facebook to other social media sites were gone. Now had I not backed up all my posts elsewhere, I am not sure how I would have reacted, but considering Mr. Zuckerberg lives just up the road, I can at least imagine he and I having a friendly chat about him being an information thief. However, while I had saved my musings and could republish them elsewhere that didn’t stop me from feeling heartbroken for the thousands of folks who read my posts of moving from fear to love daily, as a way to help them find meaning in their lives and get them through their sad and bad days. Not only was I now gone for them in the future, but they couldn’t reread past posts. I was incensed; this is when the light bulb came on as to how deep and how much control social media has gained in our lives. Not only was Facebook in control of whether I could post in the future, but whether anyone would know I had existed there in the past as well. Keep in mind that this ability to hoard and control our information by Facebook and all social media companies extends to the grave and beyond. You see, if you die your account will eventually be locked and your friends and family will no longer be able to find you there to remember you by. That is unless they petition the social media overlords and they deem their plea compelling enough to share with your loved ones memories of you. Here’s what is most annoying and frightening about the business of social media and Facebook specifically. The reason Facebook is worth over a one hundred billion dollars is because of us. It is because of our numbers and our incredibly valuable marketing information we continually share with them. Now Facebook needs to prove it’s a viable business and it is going to do this on its users’ backs by hook or by crook; shouldn’t really surprise anyone considering how Marky Z started his company. Rather than just being honest and telling its users they are going to start charging them for their Facebook pages, they are going to limit almost entirely (with their ever changing litany of hard to follow rules) many of the functions we have used without a second thought and then forcing us to pay for them in the form of ads. Let me be clear when I am talking about charging, I am thinking maybe a dollar a month. That would bring to Marky’s pocket a cool $13.4 billion a year; most of that pure profit as it would now be an almost mindless business to run at that point. So the next time you log onto your favorite social media site and just before you do, you see the words “Always Free”, remember it cost nothing for the slaves to become slaves either. The difference being the slaves of any era had no choice before being sold body and soul into a life of servitude: we do. Social media may have figured out how to own and control our information, but that does not give them the right to own our content, both historically and in perpetuity.