Let’s just admit it, shall we? Social media can be exhausting. Even if you’re not one of those vaunted “influencers” we’re always hearing about, if you are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok or any of the other platforms, you can sink into a rabbit hole at any given moment and lose part of your day checking up on the accounts you follow, posting replies and researching things that you find. This is particularly true for political junkies and doubly so in the final, heated weeks of an election. But what if you could just shut down and get away from it all? And better yet, what if you could be paid to stay off the platform by the very people who run it?

That’s the offer that’s forthcoming from Facebook in the near future. They will pay hard cash to certain people to log off of their Facebook accounts and remain logged off until after the election is concluded. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Read on. (NY Post)

It’s pay to not play.

Facebook is offering users money to refrain from using the site and Instagram in the weeks leading up to the bitterly contested November elections.

To assess the impact of social media on voting, the company will pay selected members up to $120 to deactivate their accounts beginning at the end of September.

“Anyone who chooses to opt-in – whether it’s completing surveys or deactivating FB or IG for a period of time – will be compensated,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois tweeted last week. “This is fairly standard for this type of academic research.”

It turns out this is some sort of social experiment intended to gauge the effect of social media on the election. The first thing that crossed my mind was that they probably couldn’t afford to compensate people very well for a project like this and you’d likely just get credit on some of their offerings. But that’s not the case. They’re offering up to $120 which really isn’t chicken feed, particularly if you lost your job because of the plague.

My second thought was that since this offer is “by invitation only,” it probably won’t be available to very many people. But that’s really not true either. Facebook said that it plans on having 200,000 to 400,000 people taking part. Granted, that’s not a massive chunk of the entire U.S. population of Facebook users (currently estimated at roughly 221 million) but the vast majority of those accounts are inactive, rarely active or only dabble in keeping touch with friends and family. That number of accounts that have any serious reach and are primarily focused on politics is considerably smaller.

When that last fact crossed my mind, I found a sneaking suspicion creeping into my brain. What if all (or at least most) of the people who received this offer just “randomly” happened to be moderately influential conservative users? How big of an impact might that have in Joe Biden’s favor on November 3rd? If you knocked 400,000 of them offline for the final month before the election, it could seriously sway the online debate.

And let’s not forget that Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t exactly established himself as a friend of conservatism or even open, unimpeded speech. He’s made it pretty clear that his company’s DNA is primarily lined up with liberalism and when the ban hammer falls, it’s generally aimed at conservatives. Am I sounding completely crazy yet? It’s possible, I suppose. I haven’t even finished my coffee. But everyone loves a good conspiracy theory once in a while and there are certainly enough elements to this story to make you wonder.

Of course, such a conspiracy theory can’t be substantiated until after the program is actually rolled out and in operation. We’d need to find out how many accounts receive the offers and who they are in ideological terms. And that would take a lot of digging.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t put an evil grin on my face and toss it out there now anyway, right?