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SKIPPER: Time to put the screws to Facebook

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For five hours last Monday, the world experienced cultural Armageddon.

Facebook crashed. An estimated 3.5 billion people throughout the world were without one of their primary sources of information and misinformation as well as their favorite means of communication.

John Skipper

Skipper

What did people do to pass the time while Facebook was down? One comedian suggested they sat around and talked about Facebook being down.

More disturbing than the meltdown were the reports last week that Facebook is dispensing information, commentary and advice that is harmful to children, particularly young girls.

It was not a good week for Facebook.

I try to put all of this in perspective because I am a Facebook user.

I got a recipe for a super-duper chicken-and-noodle casserole off of Facebook the other day. It fit in nicely with my fairly-new hobby of cooking. Last year, through Facebook, I hooked up with a college roommate who I had not seen or heard from in nearly 60 years.

Facebook helps me keep track of grandchildren and others who live out of state. A friend of mine points out that for invalids, it is their link to the outside world.

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to Facebook. But there is one truth that is undeniable. It can be a colossal waste of time.

For whatever reason people join Facebook, their life and their lifestyles change, and there is probably no turning back. In that respect, it’s addictive. Example – If you are a Facebook user, give yourself this test: The next time you go on Facebook, make a pledge that you will only be on it for five minutes. That’s like being provided with a bowl of potato chips and telling yourself you’re only going to eat one. It won’t work out that way. Research shows that most Facebook users are on it for several hours a day.

And now, we are learning it can also be a dangerous influence on kids – and apparently Facebook executives know it. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook insider and now a whistleblower, says internal research shows Facebook and Instagram have a harmful influence on kids. Haugen claims Facebook places higher value on profits than on health and safety. Their own research has revealed the dangers – but Facebook has not revealed it to anyone else, according to Haugen.

Now, Congress is looking into it. Oh, boy. We know its track record in solving problems.

But years ago, Congress and other influential parties, including the surgeon general, put pressure on the tobacco industry to come clean, so to speak. Now, restaurants and other public places ban smoking. Public service ads on the dangers of smoking are seen and heard every day.

Public pressure can work. The way to get solutions in this country hasn’t changed over the years. You have to hit the culprits with full force – right in their wallets.

A friend of mine has never gotten on Facebook. I asked him why not. He said he didn’t think he needed it. He was right.

COLLECTION: The latest from John Skipper

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John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.

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