Letters to the Editor: June 27, 2012

The True Cost of Facebook

With all the many reasons to distrust Facebook, all you can come up with is privacy? Your writer never even makes a case why “privacy” is important as a stand-alone issue (“Closing the Book,” June 20). Facebook collects data on its users so other companies can send ads to possible buyers. Is this likely to land us in Afghani prisons, increase our health insurance premiums or curtail our voting rights? No.

Facebook may be “making money off you,” but that’s no loss; the money wasn’t yours in the first place, and advertisers were never going to hand it “back” to you. (It’s also worth noting that one even finds ads in, ahem, newspapers.) The fact that Facebook doesn’t sell “a product” makes it not much different from YouTube or, for that matter, Leave It to Beaver, which was a way to get people to buy soap and shampoo.

The egregious privacy violation cited in this article was, by the way, committed not by Mark Zuckerberg, but against him. The perpetrator (Silicon Valley Insider) reportedly “obtained instant message conversations from when Zuckerberg was still at Harvard.” Your author doesn’t seem to mind if journalists release a citizen’s opinionated or obnoxious private messages, because . . . why? Zuckerberg isn’t entitled to privacy in his personal communications, but we’re supposed to be protected from ads for jewelry that we actually like?

I was disappointed in the article because I had hoped to find better reasons to reduce or eliminate social media time, so here’s my own list: We have a generation growing up largely without the tempering influence of family, unable to focus long enough to read a book-length work and desperately afraid of boredom. They assiduously remove themselves (via electronic gadgets) from situations where they feel challenged or uncomfortable, thus losing the social skills that come from in-person practice. Who cares about abstract notions of privacy? I’m much more worried about young girls posting their photos and asking “pretty or ugly?”; predators; the loneliness of finding out that Friends are not friends; socialization that relies on peer influence; the Peter Pan wish to escape adult responsibilities; the addictive nature of periodic reinforcement; and the health costs of inactivity.

The argument that “I am more than my statistics and shall not be reduced to a demographic!” sounds narcissistic when compared with these growing social consequences.

Santa Rosa

A New New Deal

Recently I heard an interview with Ralph Nader. He mentioned that 80 years ago there was an economic depression worse than the one we have now. The president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, developed a massive work program. If there were the will of the current president and the current Congress to do that again, it would create a great boost to our economy. There can be no doubt that repair is needed on our highways, bridges, school buildings, etc. This should have started at least three years ago. It’s not too late. We should also get behind the Jesse Jackson Jr. bill to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour. That also would boost our economy.

Santa Rosa

Dept. of ‘I Beg to Differ’

Dear Jen (Rhapsodies & Rants, “Methane Myopia,” June 20), while it’s true that industrial-scale cattle operations and the conversions of forests to pasture have profound negative impacts on the environment, you’re missing the point of my article (“Fixing the Footprint,” June 13), if you think the Marin Carbon Project is more of the same. The research they are conducting is on existing grasslands, land that benefits from careful, well-managed grazing, and has evolved with undulates for millennia. As for your comment about methane gas, it’s true that methane is a powerful climate-changing gas and that cattle are a significant source of the gas. But as stated in my article, the project’s research demonstrates that diverting green waste from landfills and turning it into compost yields a net reduction in methane gas emissions. Further, the application of compost to the soil has been shown to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil. Taken together, the group’s research has shown the diversion of green waste from landfills and the storage of carbon in the soil has the potential to more than offset the methane produced by cattle.

Out standing in his field

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