Facebookistan reminds us that Facebook activity has real world consequences.
Jeremy Cassar

26 Oct 2016 - 3:39 PM  UPDATED 27 Oct 2016 - 9:33 AM

Facebookistan is a new documentary that takes a good hard look at the uncontested king of social media platforms, and what goes on behind its blue-and-white façade—exposing the curious, concerning, or downright freaky.

The doco also aims to flag the benefits of Facebook as a tool for democracy, and whether it's currently meeting its potential.

The documentarians explore the last 12 years of Facebook-dom from both a top-down view and also through a magnifying glass, painting a clear diagram of the beast and its anatomy. There has been a number of situations where what happens on Facebook bleeds into real life. 

Protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring

The extent to which social media is to thank for the string of uprisings in the Arab world is still in debate, but it’s undeniable that both Facebook and Twitter were active tools that benefited the dissenters.

In Egypt, both platforms helped enraged citizens disseminate fact from misinformation or propaganda, get their version of the truth out there into the world, and played a key role in mobilising protestors.

The authorities reacted by banning access to the more popular social media sites, then in an attempt to tame a seemingly untamable situation, severed the nation’s internet access completely. The block lasted five days and, if anything, attracted more Arab users after the fact.

Amanda Todd, cyberbulling, and suicide.

I cannot fathom what it’s like to move through high (heck, primary) school with a smartphone in your pocket. These kids are at their most impressionable, and it’s hard enough discovering what kind of person you might be without the added pressure of cultivating an image online.

In late 2012, British Columbian teenager Amanda Todd posted a video on Facebook online entitled ‘My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm’, before committing suicide.

A few years before, Todd had been targeted by an online stalker and blackmailed into sending a nude photo. After the image began circulating the internet, the Todd’s moved towns, then moved again, as the sick culprit continued to find new ways to get to her online.

While Todd’s story was one of the most Googled in 2012, raised awareness doesn’t seem to have done much to counter the problem, as seen in this year’s Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy.

An Aussie demonstrates how Facebook can save lives

Let’s be frank, there are a gazillion reasons, from the niggling to the sinister, to despise Facebook. From the self-promotion to the self-obsession to the self-pity, to the ever-shifting algorithms and privacy T&C’s, to the fact it sucks time with the mouth of a black hole.

Then you hear of someone reaching out to Facebook in an effort to find a matching blood or bone marrow or organ donor, and most of those concerns fall by the wayside.

In 2008, 23-month-old Iona Stratton was falling to leukaemia, her parents took to Facebook in a desperate plea to find a matching bone-marrow donor. The campaign worked and an Aussie came forward. Sadly, though, Iona passed due to complications after the transplant.

Thankfully, Iona’s passing helped solidify the possibilities, and more recent cases have been more successful, with the sourcing of donations becoming more frequent, such as a life-saving kidney for Vivica Lloyd, a ten-year-old Minnesota girl who after the surgery was permanently taken off dialysis. 

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Watch Facebookistan on SBS On Demand:

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