I made Facebook my enemy, and then they offered me a job interview
A couple years ago, I wrote about why, in my eyes, everybody should stop using Facebook. It made some waves. To date, it is my most read Medium article, still garnering a handful of reads a day. I’d made it my mission to take down Facebook, not only through writing, but also by building a competitor — a new social media platform which, I believed, would address all the points where Facebook failed. I spent two years of my life fighting Zuck’s monster baby — David to his Goliath.
So it came as a surprise to me, when a few weeks ago, a recruiter from Facebook reached out to me to interview for a software engineering position.
Now that I’d made Facebook my enemy, and had practically spent two years battling it full-time… what should I do? Should I compromise my principles and accept the interview? Would working for Facebook mean I was selling out?
At the time of writing that article, I was eager to jump on the anti-Facebook bandwagon, along with countless journalists, politicians, and other observers of the technology world, to proliferate the narrative that Facebook was a threat to democracy, and that the platform was, to a significant extent, responsible for the current polarized political environment in our country, not least because it was complicit in getting the “reality-star-in-chief” elected through some somewhat shady means.
But, as I’d later discovered, there were some plot-holes in my, and many journalists’, argument. I’d slowly come to a realization that the issues I’d been criticizing Facebook for were present in any social medium to some extent. It was not exclusively a Facebook issue. Polarization, clickbait, misinformation — the reason these things caused a stir on Facebook, was simply because of the size of the company, and the number of people using the platform. With anything that becomes incredibly popular, there are bound to be some people who use it irresponsibly, both unwittingly, and deliberately. Thus, I discovered that the problem, at the root of it, was not a Facebook problem. It was a human problem.
You see, around that same period of time, I’d been doing a bit of meditation, and I internalized the virtues of mindfulness, or the idea of being less impulsive in reacting to external conditions. Looking at the situation, then, with a mindful perspective, it becomes clear, that the issue of people using the platform irresponsibly cannot be resolved through A) a change in features, B) a break-up of the company, or C) any other policy changes either legally or corporately imposed. Instead, the solution has to come from within. From you, and me, and our ability to moderate the way we use these platforms, such that we do not post, share, or react impulsively. If anything, the scandals and controversies should have opened our eyes, as users of these platforms, to our own accountability for the experience we have using them.
As much as I’d built my identity around opposing the company and it’s world dominatory aspirations, I had to concede defeat. Not to a corporation, but instead, to my new, wiser self. I left the old “down with the system” persona behind me. I released a beta of my anti-Facebook platform, but mostly just as a formality.
Guilt free, I accepted the interview.
I spent three weeks preparing, studying up on software engineering concepts, delving deeper into the field I was now a part of. Never having studied computer science, or having any real profession experience in tech, I was now, somehow, recognized for my efforts. The very company than inspired me to embark on this path, out of opposition, had acknowledged me — welcomed me into the field. I was not recognized for the mission behind my endeavor, but by the persistence with which I went about it， diligently setting out with a goal and following through with it, picking up some valuable skills along the way —learning to code, designing user interfaces, leading a development team. My ideological motive did not get me anywhere. But the journey did. And through that, I started to understand what life is really about. Instead of dedicating one’s life to resisting things that are beyond your individual power to influence, learn something new, make progress in your own pursuits, and the rest will fall into place.
I still personally don’t much enjoy Facebook as a social networking tool. I think it’s devoid of any clear, tangible purpose in people’s lives, and causes conflict or resentment among individuals more often than is worth my effort to avoid (though it looks like a virtual zen garden in comparison to Twitter). That being said, the company is, in my opinion, admirable in their attempts to shift the platform towards a stronger emphasis on community — events, pages, marketplace, as opposed the old “battle of opinions” use-case. So while I won’t be using Facebook (much — I did create a new account after all that, to join some local groups), I also won’t be badmouthing the platform, or dedicating my life to taking it down. From now on, I’ll probably be writing more about positive things in life, like how Tiktok makes every song better.