Belly dancers… we have a Facebook problem.
No, I don’t mean social media addiction. Or the latest drama in a certain belly dance-related group.
I mean, Facebook itself is a problem. And our reliance on it and its properties—Instagram and WhatsApp to mention a few—is troubling.
The Good: Keeping Us Connected
After the untimely demise of tribe.net, most of us migrated to the then-new social media platform called Facebook. (I’m old enough to remember that a “Facebook” was an actual bound paper directory made available to us in college so that we could look up our classmates. If you met someone cute, you’d “Facebook” them, meaning, you’d look them up and see where they lived and what year they were. Think of a yearbook that you get it at the beginning of the school year.)
Then bhuz.com went the way of the Dodo, and we’ve been stuck with Facebook ever since.
Of course, you probably saw a link to this blog post on Facebook. I have my widest reach and audience there. Most of my friends are on Facebook.
The belly dance scene relies heavily on Facebook and Instagram not only to promote our upcoming classes and workshops, but also to keep in touch, ask each other questions, and seek support from others in our global community. And for us, Instagram is a fantastic way to reach users outside our immediate reach if we harness the power of hashtags and video clips.
But this is a company that literally cares nothing for us except our data. They talk about “connecting” us and how we’re their “community,” but we’re just revenue and content generators.
The Bad: Our Reach is Limited. FB’s is Not.
My Abigail Keyes Dance page has about 4,500 followers, or “Likes.” and yet, I’m lucky if one of my posts there gets an “organic” reach of over 1,500 people. That’s not people who liked it. That’s how many feeds that my post appeared in. That doesn’t even really guarantee that the person really saw the post.
And if I want more people to see a post? Facebook wants me to “Boost” it. All right, it’s advertising, but when you Boost a post, it doesn’t even reach that many people.
While I can post the same content on my personal profile and get far more traction… what about dancers who are genuinely trying to keep their Pages and their Profiles separate for real reasons, like safety and protection against stalkers?
The platform is also programmed to prefer some types of content over others. A link shared from YouTube will have far less “reach” than one uploaded directly to Facebook. Facebook wants to own your video just as much as YouTube does. If you post a link directly from a website, rather than sharing it from somewhere else on Facebook, it also won’t travel as far as if it were already in the Facebook ecosystem.
But Facebook itself? Its reach is huge. They can store information on where you are, where you’ve been, your phone number, credit card information, other apps you use, the websites you visit, your financial status, your political views, your marital status (or lack there of), race and ethnicity, and a lot more.
While we cannot completely escape our voluntary surveillance state which has become a fact of modern life, the tale of Facebook gets darker.
The Ugly: Surveillance, Sharing, and… Genocide?
Let’s look at the other terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things Facebook has done in the past few years:
- There’s the time they sold user information to Cambridge Analytica, which was linked to the presidential election campaign of Emperor Orange Julius. (It’s my blog and I’ll call that windbag whatever I want.)
- They have retained users’ deleted videos. (Eew.)
- They knew that Russia was buying political ads in the run up to the 2016 presidential election, which undoubtedly swayed the results, and decided that was fine. (“This is fine.”)
- The facial recognition used in photo tagging is creepy AF. (1984 called, and Orwell wants his dystopia back.)
- Facebook shared our private messages with Netflix and Spotify. (Seriously?)
- The platform is only just this year making a concerted effort to remove hate speech and related content. (About damn time.)
- Oh, and their platform enabled a genocide in Myanmar, and a report FB commissioned themselves said they could have done more to stop it. (What the actual fork?)
And that’s just a tiny fraction of the shirtshow that is Facebook’s operation.
Not convinced? Just browse this search on the New York Times website. The term? Just “Facebook.” Or use Facebook’s own tool to reveal how much information they have saved about you. It’s not all nefarious evil, but it isn’t completely benevolent either.
Somehow paying their engineers over 100K a year wasn’t enough for them to realize that any of this was a problem. But how nice of them to give us animated reaction emojis.
Despite all of this, we post and we post and we post.
And we rarely ever think about the ramifications, or how much we rely on this platform.
And when they do terrible things or allow terrible things to happen, most of us either don’t know, don’t care, or… we rant and complain and get angry, but then post another video of our class combination or start another Facebook Live stream.
Because we need Facebook as much as they need us.
The Better: Engage In Other Ways
Because the belly dance scene is so reliant on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected, I won’t be leaving any time soon. I’ll continue to live with my ethical crisis and struggle with how the tech boom (and related industries) is ruining my home town and taking the rest of the world with it.
But… if you like my blog posts, my dancing, my workshops, or you just love dance, sign up for my newsletter.
Sign up for other newsletters from dancers, performers, yogis, artists, writers, musicians, and independent artists too. Unlike with Facebook, you’re almost guaranteed to see it.
And do us a favor? Open the email when you get it. Open rates make a big difference for a small business owner. Click on some links. Engage with content in ways other than Facebook and Instagram.
You just might like it better.
And because I’m being extra meta, I made a video. My apologies about the low quality… I did a thing I shouldn’t have, but now I know better.