Things We Find Beyond Our Control

Here are a few: Covid, the climate, Putin, the Congress, guns, cockroaches, Mark Zuckerberg. This man is a disease, worse than Covid. I want to focus on him because Facebook (now renamed “Meta”) seems maybe, at last, to be losing its sway over our mindless populace.

The latest evidence came last Tuesday when,

with a single earnings report and a disastrous conference call, Mark Zuckerberg wiped out $240 billion in value from his company. Meta’s was the largest one-day loss by a U.S. company ever, and the ripple effects were closer to tsunamis throughout Silicon Valley. . . . Meta’s market value of $900 billion at 3:59 p.m., was suddenly worth about $720 billion just 30 minutes later—reflecting a spectacular 22 percent fall in after-hours trading for one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world.

The numbers here are amazing. “If the drop holds, . . . the company’s overall value, known as its market capitalization, is on track to drop by a figure greater than the size of the entire Greek economy, based on data from the World Bank.”

There are many reasons behind Facebook’s rout, the most likely being the company’s reliance on a business model that uses your personal data to fuel its targeted online ad sales. But most people (at least the older ones) don’t use FB because of its business model. They want to see the latest pix of their grandkids or exchange recipes. Who cares if they reveal their personal data?

The government, for one, is beginning to care about big tech dominance. For some months now, “both parties want to regulate Facebook.” There is even talk of international regulation. Investors finally came to realize that the Zuck has likely overreached himself with a concept that promotes virtual reality over reality.

Some of you know that I have two sizeable Facebook sites: one to promote my book on Charles Mingus, the other in my own name. Unless I were to set up an email newsletter or recast my blog on something like Medium, I don’t know how I could easily reach you all. I deeply wish I could ditch Facebook and find other ways to communicate.

Considering the other megamonsters—Google, Apple, and Microsoft—why can’t we finally find ways to curb their immense power? Are we so absorbed in the virtual world that we cannot conceive, much less institute, ways to deal with the challenges of authoritarianism and climate change? The whole move to replace the reality of our natural world with virtual reality seems to me a clear instance of escapism, a dodge to avoid commitment to the only life we have.

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