After all the recent news on how widespread the hacking of our information has become in social media, I thought I’d write the founder of Facebook.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

So, there was probably no way to know, not really, the impact of your developing an algorithm that searched our posts, chats, likes, reactions, photos and shared articles for words and information you could use to entice advertisers and marketers to make you a kazillionaire. 

I’ll give you that you probably didn’t know.

But then you got hacked, a lot, and probably not by friendly folks full of good will or concern for our best interests. Now they have all this information you’ve been gathering and hording and using and selling.

And now you’re rethinking all this… which is good.

I have a proposition for you. I was raised Catholic and sort of adored the idea of penance… doing a good deed to help mitigate the impact of our sins. So when I lied to my parents, the priest told me to pray… which was supposed to help me remember not to lie to my parents, and perhaps to spread some good to all mankind. 

So how about it? A penance.

Here’s what it would look like…. Our community of Mesa County, Colorado has started the first community wide program to help families deal with the challenging aspects of the cyber world…. the too much, too negative, too addictive, too lacking in privacy, too manipulative, too twisted, too many others, and too much stolen time and attention aspects. 

 We’re gathering in schools and libraries and workplaces to learn the simple and easy things parents can do to help our kids… because our kids are suffering… our families are suffering… our community is suffering. We had one of the highest teen suicide rates in the nation last year. Our mental health system cannot keep up with the legions of folks with depressive and anxious and hopeless symptoms.

Why? Well… no one really knows, but could it be this monster you helped create is oppressive? Our decline in mental health is fairly consistent with the decline of mental health in oppressive cultures… you know… where your information is gathered and used against you… where privacy is impossible?

So… how about you foot the bill for our community and others like it who are hoping to help parents of these first batches of cyber-raised kids? Pony up for PSAs and programs in schools and materials for folks like us who are winging it daily. And while you are at it… fund the things we know help get us strong so when we go into the cyber world we are less easily led, traumatized and weakened.

I’m asking for some help to keep us strong enough in information, behavioral change and psychological health to deal with this world you helped create and have profited from mightily.

And Mark… how about saying this cyber-prayer five times a day…
May the crises created by the cyber-world’s effects on our time and function; on our children’s mental, social and emotional development; and on our community’s kindness, health and prosperity lead us to solutions that could make us even stronger than we were before the Internet was a twinkle in some Silicon Valley nerd’s eye. Amen!

Elizabeth Clark
Cyber-Strong Mesa County

Elizabeth Clark

About the Author

Elizabeth Clark has been a mental health therapist for teens and families for thirty years.  She is a presenter for CyberStrong, a collaborative community effort, funded by the Western Colorado Community Foundation, to raise awareness and give skills to parents and educators about the influence of technology on our children, families and community.