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Another perspective

My personal ‘participation’ in Facebook (and Facebook-owned Instagram) has rewarded me with countless opportunities – like creative work. The first job led to another, which led to another. I used Facebook to find flatmates when I moved to Barcelona. And sold unwanted items through the site when I moved back. During a 2 month trip to New York in 2016, Facebook allowed me to discover (and generate) further creative opportunities for myself – and more importantly, it facilitated new friendships. I met my housemate through Facebook; we’re currently using it to recruit a third. I’ve attended innumerable events of all kinds over the years that I likely would never have even heard of were it not for the platform.

But above all, Facebook is what it is to me because of the groups I’ve joined. These include, but are not limited to the following (mostly renamed for accuracy of description): housemate/property search in London (and Barcelona); housemate/property search in London specifically for people of colour; “Ingredient Hunters Barcelona” (naturally); creative networking for people of African, Caribbean or Asian descent in London; last minute hospitality work in London; a community for creative/politically engaged people of colour in New York; an Oxford-based group for discussion of feminism, and the same again for race.

Take from that what you will. There’s a name-calling facility at the bottom of this post, should you feel so inclined.


The sense of community is powerful. I don’t always participate; the feeling of belonging and solidarity also comes from simply gazing gormlessly at the screen for minutes, hours, and days on end like the mindless cretin I am observing interactions. Everything I’ve learned and gained from the hundreds of (mostly) intelligent people that share on these groups daily has literally shaped my life and how I see the world – for the better (at least I think so, but then again I would). And that’s a huge part of the emotional benefit for me.

I don’t post much at all. My most recent update was on 7 September 2017 to share a teaser video for this article. The post before that was from 24 November 2016, inviting my network to a series of workshops run by my old company. I won’t share a link to that here though… #ifyouknowyouknow. In between those entries I did receive a smattering of posts to my timeline from friends wishing me happy birthday and sharing music, but not many. My privacy settings are such that if somebody tags me in anything, I am able to review it and choose whether or not it appears on my profile. I always select the latter option (but the photo can still be accessed via the page of whoever uploaded it, of course). I’ve only personally uploaded around 10 photos to my profile in my Facebook ‘career’ for my friends to see.

Nevertheless… Out of curiosity and prompted by Neil, I downloaded my Facebook data last night. The contents were unsurprising, but the format sobering. Despite considering myself a relatively private person on Facebook, seeing in one folder all the photos, videos, links, messages, screen shots, documents, voice notes (and the rest) that I’ve shared ‘privately’ to friends using the Messenger app was somewhat unsettling.

Far more unsettling, however, was the handful of (completely unsolicited) photos that non-friends had sent to me. I would share them here, but I’d probably get fired.


However engaged you’ve been with this week’s revelations, I would recommend that you download your own Facebook data and spend some time looking through it. I was fascinated by the details of my life shared back to me about myself – but more intrigued (and disturbed?) thinking about what had inevitably been omitted and why. If you don’t use the platform and have nothing better to do on a Friday night, get yourself up to speed and then have a look through the information and language used on the company’s privacy settings.




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