Facebook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy

If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, then you may want to delve deeper into the social media quagmire headed by Facebook.

Faceboook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy. This was one of those Amazon Gold Box Deals a few weeks ago so I got both the book and audio book for Bargain Sleuth-approved prices; it is a very well researched and informative book, not dry and technical like it could have been.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook since they made major changes to Pages run by businesses in early 2013. I was running two blogs at the time, and while Facebook wasn’t our only outlet, it was the one where we received the most feedback from readers. Suddenly, no one was seeing our posts. All the algorithms changed so only paid posts get any traction on Facebook, and it remains that way today. I use Facebook for this blog, but don’t rely on it, because less than 10% of the people that like my page actually see my posts. You have to pay Facebook in order to be seen on Facebook. It’s all about the money.

“Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from its first, modest iteration. In light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing “fake news” accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO—who has enormous power over what the world sees and says—never has a company been more central to the national conversation.

Millions of words have been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life, or the imperative of this book to document the unchecked power and shocking techniques of the company, from growing at all costs to outmaneuvering its biggest rivals to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram, to developing a platform so addictive even some of its own are now beginning to realize its dangers.

Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.”

I listened to this audiobook and the narration was very good. The writing is even better. Levy has known of and followed Facebook almost since the beginning, developing an acquaintanceship with Mark Zuckerberg and interviewing him many times. He also interviewed many others that either started the journey or were part of Facebook’s journey into a couple of billion homes in order to form this history of the social media giant.

The object from the outset was a fetish for growth of Facebook, something that continues to this day. That’s the main goal of Zuckerberg’s need to overtake social media platforms, too. One employee had the audacity to suggest a feature that didn’t mean growth of Facebook. “Zuckerberg’s answer was to walk over to one of the omnipresent whiteboards and scrawl one word: Growth. ‘He said that if any feature didn’t do that, he was not interested,’ wrote (an early employee), ‘That was the only priority that mattered.”

While I was listening, I couldn’t help but think of all the great robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before trust-busting Theodore Roosevelt became president. Facebook has too much power. That power Facebook has was seen first-hand in the 2016 elections and their reactive measures following the outcome were not good enough. Too often Facebook is reactive instead of proactive, and that is shown throughout the book, too.

I thought the author had an interesting take on Zuckerberg: “Fishing for rose buds is a futile pursuit with Mark Zuckerberg. He is who he is. Facebook may have to change, but he doesn’t believe he has to.”

Bottom line for this book: if you use Facebook, whether for personal or business use, you should pick up Facebook: The Inside Story. You may never look at the tech giant the same way again. Whereas once I used to share stories of my kids and pictures all the time, since 2013, I’ve employed every privacy control Facebook offers and rarely post publicly in groups or on pages. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve known of their business practices for years and how small businesses can’t really thrive on Facebook because they can’t afford to constantly pay for ads. And after the fake news election fiasco, I no longer rely on Facebook to read news headlines except from trusted sources. My use of Facebook has gone down considerably as well, both as a business and in my personal use.

“Levy’s all-access Facebook reflects the reputational swan dive of its subject. . . . The result is evenhanded and devastating.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“[Levy’s] evenhanded conclusions are still damning.”—Reason

“[He] doesn’t shy from asking the tough questions.”—The Washington Post

“Reminds you the HBO show Silicon Valley did not have to reach far for its satire.”—NPR.org

For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com

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