I first heard about Facebook while I was on a movie set in Hollywood, California. We were shooting an all night firewhip sequence for a studio project and since I was the expert bullwhip artist every take during that 12-hour shoot involved me. That left lots of time for the rest of the cast and crew to talk and it was during these many conversations that started and stopped so frequently that I first heard about Facebook. It was 2008 and Facebook had just come out and was competing with Myspace as a new social media platform. I had a pretty fancy Myspace page that featured my bullwhip work and since it had been invented essentially for start-up music bands to get noticed, it had also worked for me to get noticed by Hollywood. I understood the power of this new social media thing because it had literally made it possible for me to do work for Hollywood while still a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio. Typically, if you wanted to work for movies you had to live in the Los Angeles area to network, but not anymore. With social media celebrities could talk to anybody and people of all types of backgrounds could suddenly be in contact with each other.
Yet there was something I didn’t like about Mark Zuckerberg. One of the actresses on set who had recently done work for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies had been a tester for Facebook and she knew Mark. Facebook was recruiting celebrities to help push the new social media platform so to take out the previous Myspace rival and she was one of them. At that time, she was very enamored that the young 21-year old Zuckerberg was already a billionaire. I asked her why he was a billionaire for a free service for which she didn’t have an explanation. All she cared about was that Facebook could get her more work around town. As she said, a few sexy pictures of herself on Facebook would get her an opportunity to get meetings with dozens of producers for new movie projects and leap her ahead in the audition process. So she thought it was great and that Facebook was going to be the wave of the future.
I was upset to learn later that RealD 3D had no intention to use the movie footage we shot for the film but had sold it to CGI artists for movies like Iron Man 2 and The Immortals. I stayed in contact with many of the people who worked on that set for several years, especially the stunt coordinator. There was a real temptation to start a Facebook page and attach that actress as a friend which would have instantly put me on the doorstep of every entertainment figure in Hollywood which would have been worth millions of dollars in opportunity for me personally. But I couldn’t shake that Facebook seemed to me to be diabolically intrusive. I read their sign-up agreement and could not accept the data intrusion they were proposing. So I took myself out of that next wave of technology from the start.
In 2012 as I was releasing my new novel Tail of the Dragon, my publisher was telling me I needed to set up a Facebook page to promote it. Instead of setting one up myself my son-n-law did it for me, because he and my daughter were on Facebook so the damage was already done. It didn’t have any of my contacts in it, which made it pretty worthless, but it fulfilled my contractual obligations with the publisher. As I was doing radio promotion work for the book several of the talk show hosts who knew me well thought it was funny that I had set up a Facebook page, because they knew how I felt about it. But I had managed to do it in a way that kept my privacy under my control and that was just how it was going to stay. People could argue that Twitter and Google are just as bad, and I did make a transition over to those media platforms over time, but I don’t think anything is as bad as Facebook in exposing personal behavior patterns and contacts, then selling that information to companies and governments for all types of vile purposes.
Looking back on it that was quite a time in history. In the summer of 2008 while I was on that film shoot Barack Obama was running for president and those same Hollywood people were excited about him. I wasn’t excited about John McCain, but I certainly wasn’t going to support a Democrat. But the Hollywood people supported any Democrat because like Facebook it was a way to make first contact with the producers around the city. Supporting Democrats was the first requirement for working on any film or television project unless you were a specialist like me, who had a very unique talent. But even then, it only went so far. Turning away from that life by rejecting Facebook it allowed me to work for the Tea Party rebellion that eventually elected Donald Trump. Not having Facebook allowed me to operate incognito for the next decade and do some really good things, politically. The decision was an expensive one, but what good is a lot of money if you don’t have a country. Facebook to me was literally a battleground of ideology that was harmful to the rebellion that had to happen. Even though most everyone used it, including many of my Tea Party friends, and they used it to network with other like-minded people, I needed to operate off the grid, and because of it I was able to do some pretty high-level activity without leaving a crumb trail for the opposition to follow, and that was very important.
It doesn’t surprise me that the stock is tanking for Facebook. The value of the company is in extracting personal data from people and selling it. Now that they have been busted for doing just that and Mark Zuckerberg is trying to repair the public image of Facebook’s major privacy violations, the end is inevitable. Because Facebook cannot make everyone happy. They cannot give privacy to their users without making their investors angry. And they can’t give their investors what they want without violating their users, so Facebook can’t win, and they are on the decline. There is no way they can recover.
Who knows what social media platform will replace Facebook. Of course, something will but whatever it is, it won’t be like Facebook. Facebook took people by storm during an era of naiveté that will never come again. What people thought was just a free way to speak to family and friends over vast distances turned out to be a window into every part of our lives, and people will never let their guard down in quite the same way ever again. Many people are perfectly willing to trade privacy for enrichment at first glance, but it doesn’t take long for resentment to build. I was against it from the beginning and I could have made great use of it at the cutting edge, but if I had, my life would have been quite different. It is often better to operate off the grid than on it, especially when tactical reasons mandate social camouflage. So it doesn’t hurt my feelings to see Facebook going downhill. I think it’s a really good thing.
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