The Real Farmers Who Use Facebook
Facebook's CEO +Mark Zuckerberg
is fond of referring, when defending the merits of Facebook's Free Basics for India and other developing markets, to the trope of the farmer who uses Facebook to find valuable information to increase his yield or save his crop from a pest.
What if I told you, though, that they're at least as likely to use it for the sort of casual browsing and socializing that First Worlders with ubiquitous access use it for?
There is value in connecting the world to the vast repository of information and tools that is the internet. Not all of this needs to be justified by pointing to basic necessities. Humans crave the sort of connectedness social media offers, even when it amounts to the sort of banal chatter that some decry as dumbing down the species.
It's easy to become jaded to the power to engage in idle chit chat with 'Friends' thousands of miles away when you take it for granted. The trillionth internet meme may seem far more moronic than the first one you ever saw felt to you at the time. You can only dislike the people you know for 'over sharing' to their social networks because you assume it as a fact that they can choose their level of sharing in the first place.
Even when the modern internet was new and shiny, it had begun to move beyond the domain of utility to the realm of entertainment and idle time activities. It shouldn't be too shocking that in markets where users are coming online for the first time, with slow and limited access to data, that already people are taking to social media for social interaction and content consumption beyond matters of urgent necessity.
None of which is to say that Free Basics is worth defending. It builds its business precisely on exploiting this desire, promising access to 'The Internet' while in reality ensnaring the user in an escapable Facebook Wide Web. It trots out the farmer seeking solutions to his crop failures to justify picking and choosing winners, in reality restricting the choices and online experience available to that same farmer.
The farmers of Facebook are real, and they need more and more open access, not cheaper, inferior, and corporate controlled access.#FreeBasics #NetNeutrality #SocialMedia