- Critics refer to Facebook as “asbestos” because it causes social harm, yet continues to profit
- Social media platforms can diminish the amount of time we invest in building “real connections”
- Should coworking operators rely on such a toxic environment to help build communities?
Facebook has been surrounded by countless data breach scandals in the past couple of years. A blog posted in Creative Good argues that by profiting from the social harm it causes, yet denying its culpability, Facebook is asbestos.
Asbestos, as you may know, was once considered to be a “magic mineral” whose properties — resistant to heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion — make it an effective insulator. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, asbestos was commonly used as insulation in buildings and houses; however in 1989 it was banned and its uses restricted when its dangerous health effects were discovered.
The author of the Creative Good post argues that Facebook is like asbestos because of the following reasons:
- While it was initially promising, it eventually turned out to be toxic (data breaches, spreading of fake news, contributes to depression, etc.).
- Its harm is not obvious at first, but takes time to become visible and for people to feel its effect.
- Those in less developed and poorer countries are “stuck” with it.
- You have to eliminate it fully from your life or it will continue to cause harm, even in small doses (it’s not enough to limit its use to a few days a week or month; either you delete your account or you are still exposed to its effects).
- Once you’re aware of its negative effects, you shouldn’t let yourself or others “live with it”.
The case against Facebook
The scandals surrounding Facebook go against the roots of coworking: “improve the working lives of people by forging connections, building communities and beating loneliness,” all of which can be attained by creating a supportive and safe environment where people can open up.
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Studies have found that social media use can be linked to depression, low self-esteem, and bitter jealousy. Others have found that social media can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Though in theory social media platforms should make it easier for people to connect with one another, it’s not necessarily so, especially if we use online connections to substitute the amount of time we invest in building “real connections”.
Though social media provides individuals with a space where they can open up and share, it’s no longer a safe place — consider Facebook and its various privacy breaches and scandals. Additionally, if you have members that aren’t active Facebook users, they could feel excluded, which could feed the loneliness epidemic the industry is trying to fight.
What to do instead
Your community building efforts should be concentrated in your space. Create and design a space that encourages interaction but also gives people choice. Moreover, use a wide variety of events as a way to encourage connections and meaningful conversations between members; host networking hours, yoga classes, lunch and learning sessions, workshops, and even weekend activities.
Think of the online world as a way to support your community. Yet, instead of using Facebook consider other ways to build your community online. You can send out a newsletter, host your own forum, use collaboration platforms such as Slack or ZoHo, Yammer, and the like; and you can have your own blog where you share important news about your space and your members.