Years ago, when I chose to leave my post as a Finance professor at Syracuse University, it was easy to see that social media was the wave of the future. So, like any other guy trying to save the world, I dove right into the social media platforms that only my students seemed to understand.
I’m a pretty fast learner (being a professor and all), and I found myself marveling at all of the possibilities around us that we could only dream about as children.
Since my launch into social, I’ve posted thousands of times, reached millions of people, taught finance to people around the world and built a company (Boyce Watkins Enterprises) that feeds quite a few people from my community. But I have to say that much of our success was IN SPITE of Facebook, rather than because of it. This digital bully has been nothing short than a royal pain in the a**.
Like myself, most online business owners have a love-hate relationsihp with Facebook. The reactions can go from jubilation and curiosity to fear, despair and outright devastation. One day, Facebook is the most beautiful thing in the world, and the next day, it makes you feel like you’re living under a dictatorship.
I came of age in the 90s. That was a time when losing a phone number meant you might never speak to someone again, every ex-relationship was easily buried in the past, and the friends in your neighborhood were the only friends you had. Facebook changed all that, and for this, I am extremely grateful.
When Mark Zuckerberg created this extraordinary platform that changed the world, Facebook was a very different company. They seemed to care about people more than profits, and that they actually allowed the betterment of humanity to remain part of the bottom line.
But when Facebook became a publicly-traded company, something changed. Suddenly, small business owners saw their businesses mutilated overnight after a snap judgement algorithm change. People were being censored for the silliest reasons (like quoting Malcolm X or Jesus). Loyal users were being put into “Facebook jail” and banned for weeks without any form of due process, a hearing, or even a f**king response from customer service.
Personally, I’ve been banned for weeks at a time, without even the ability to respond to my friends who were asking, “Boyce, are you ok?” Our business had spent thousands of hours and tons of money building up a Facebook page to nearly half a million fans. The page had become so strong and active that even the popular rapper Young MA gives us credit for jumpstarting her career after we posted one of her videos (she thinks I was criticizing her, when I was actually critiquing racist media culture that promotes violence and death among black youth – maybe that kind of talk is what got me in trouble with Facebook).
When Facebook took down our page, we were stunned. My team members were unable to figure out which post got us banned, because we were only told that we’d violated Facebooks elusive, confusing, unclear (secret) list of “Community Standards.” We messaged the company several times to find out what happened, and how we could fix it. All we needed was a phone call, an email or anything to allow us to plead our case.
We got nothing. To this day, the page is officially “suspended,” with Facebook teasing us with a stupid button claiming that if we simply tap it, the page will be published again. We’ve hit this button dozens of times, only to find that the page would go back into suspension only seconds later. It’s surprising that a company that earns billions of dollars per month would have such an obvious glitch in their system.
How horribly disrespectful can you be? What more has to happen before we realize that this company has entirely too much power? I haven’t even mentioned the fact that researchers have discovered that Facebook uses techniques to get you addicted to social media, like a crackhead waiting for his next hit.
You see, when Facebook kills someone’s account, there is a human element that their algorithms and financially analysts aren’t accounting for. Many people open their Facebook app every morning like it’s medication, a cup of coffee or a lifeline to the majority of the connections they have with other human beings. Being banned from Facebook can leave them feeling isolated and hurt.
So, only the cruelest company can create various forms of economic, social and psychological addiction and just play with your emotions like a frat boy who gets girls to fall in love with him so he can dump them out on the street. That’s what Facebook does to millions of people every single day and it’s terrible. In fact, if I were Mark Zuckerberg, I would spend at least $20 million per year on personal security. The decision to play with the lives of millions of (sometimes unstable) people can often come with serious consequences.
Adding to Facebook’s socioeconomic terrorism is what it does to black people. Most black leaders who speak truth to power are having their pages banned as if they are the black equivalent to a white supremacist. Even pages like Black Knowledge and Bossip have been banned or suspended without so much as an explanation from the company. Louis Farrakhan gets suspended on a regular basis, as well as men like Malik Zulu Shabazz. Tariq Nasheed, Cynthia G, and many others have complained to me about their treatment on Facebook and the list goes on and on.
The fact is that Facebook is not designed for black people. Most of their employees aren’t black and many of their misguided data analysts have no respect for the black experience, our day-to-day struggles and ways in which social media is used to connect us with those who understand our objectives.
Not only is the unfair persecution of black social media users unfair and unjust, it is disrespectful. Many people put thousands of hours of labor into developing and nurturing their pages, only to have them instantly taken away by the Destroyer of Worlds – some nerdy white boy locked away in a corporate office who hasn’t spoken to a black person in two weeks.
This is wrong, and Facebook knows it. The problem is that Facebook doesn’t care, because the government has given this company entirely too much power. It’s time to take some of that power away.
I suggest that all black people either leave Facebook or at least diversify their social media options. The fact that this company is profiting from our presence, exploiting our labor, wasting our time and stealing our data should be enough for us to walk away. We gave them a chance and they failed, and the reality is that it will only get worse from here.
Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD, and founder of the social media site Blaggenuf.com, which caters to those who believe in freedom of speech and expression.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.