It’s been a while so, to liven things up and treat my one loyal follower (Mum), I thought I’d try a different approach and go with a list:
To get me started, I asked my brothers to give me single word descriptions of Facebook. The responses were:
“Connection”, “Events”, “Photos”, “Data”, “Controlling”, “Time Wasting”, “Addictive”, “Anti-social”, “Unrealistic”, “Fake”, “Connection”, “Reminisce”, “Depressing”, “Withdrawal”, “Membership”, “Propaganda”, “Supercilious”, “Stalkers”, “Pernicious”, “Insidious”.
So, let’s give this a go…
- Keeping in touch with old associates is difficult. As the trajectories of our lives pull us further and further away from one another, it is not surprising that the fragile strings of relationships often snap. This is often no-one’s loss. The greater the stratification, chances are, the greater the schism in personalities. However, as Mary Schmich put it, “the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young”; and as a stereotypical ‘man’, useless at keeping in touch, Facebook has provided a wonderful “cheat” to remind me, to prompt me. This is not merely because these friends possess the treasure of knowing past yous, but because, as the divergence of your roads increases, so does the heterogeneity of experiences and the amount you can learn from one another.
- As my general misgivings of Fb have grown over the last couple years, I have found that the major pro, restraining my finger as it hovers over the “Delete account” button, has been “Events”. Over the years, I have collected a personalised blend of institutions to follow and of friends to emulate. Consequently, my Home page is awash with events’ bulletins for all manner of nights out, lectures and seminars, special offers and novel adventures.
- As much as Fb has provided valuable connections to otherwise lost associates who have enriched my life, even including these, I would say the number of Fb “friends” is double the number I actually talk to (and this is in spite of the occasional culling). The ratio is considerably worse once you detract those Facebook friends I talk to exclusively off Fb, via (oh, I donno) the phone! For the most part, anyone important to you, you should have the number of, message, call, write to, see in person even! The others are, for most of us, kept around in some strange attempt to quantify our social lives, to validate ourselves via the ostensible strength of our online Sims or because we like spying on them to compare how your lives are panning out. This competitiveness is pathetic and the sign of an unhappy life. “Happiness comes from within” may be a hack line but, if you must look abroad for affirmation, you clearly know looking inwardly would only upset you.
- ‘Positive violence’ is not the violence of chains, but that of blindness. It is not violence by restricting you from doing something, but by encouraging you to do something else and preventing you from ever realising the alternatives. The point must be made that, while Fb may not have banned me from looking up events by myself or using other forums to find them, it has fostered a path dependency. Who knows, perhaps if I had to look up events by myself, I would find more, break beyond my echo chambers more, be invested to go to the damn things more often. Who knows whether my friendships would be stronger without Fb. If I couldn’t feel closer by seeing friends existence on my Profile, I might have to actually speak to them instead, to make an effort, to replace keeping people on ice with “we should get a drink sometime” and, instead, go and get a drink sometime.
- Facebook doesn’t just increase our connections with old associates, it connects us to the world. Never before has it been to easy to access news of all kinds, from all places. Of course, the internet has brought most of this change, but Facebook can personalise your updates and “democratise” information, giving us a tool to produce information almost as easily as we consume it.
- Fancy your own personal shopper, who can suggest a variety of products specifically tailored to you? Simply provide them with your information and Fb will show you a world of products you may well, god forbid, never otherwise know about. As facetious as that last sentence may have been, there is obviously a legitimate benefit to greater information in an economy. It helps us choose the best products, the best companies and avoid inertia.
Of course, having said that, your Fb personal shopper will never tell you that perhaps you need to try a new style, that perhaps you spend too much on clothes anyway, that you read too many populist economics books and you should try something heavier. As they do with your news sources and general worldview, algorithms stereotype you; and so you reproduce yourself as farce. Oops, I’ve strayed into cons!
- There’s a reason broadsheets haven’t traditionally been free. It is a full time profession being an investigative journalist and a life long vocation differentiating opinion from argument (the latter being opinion backed by facts and the weighing up of possible alternatives). News shouldn’t be free, nor should it be something you are unwilling to pay for. Yes, echo chambers existed before, but they were not nearly as insidious. Buy a “Left” wing broadsheet, for example, and it will be pretty hard to miss the greater number of Right wing ones (at least if you’re from the UK). As strong as your echo chamber may be – as a result of reading predominantly from one angle and associating disproportionately with people of similar backgrounds and views – rest assured, nothing will tweak your perception of reality quite like seeing the world almost exclusively through a 30x20cm square of artificial light whose pixels vomit out unverifiable information sources chosen specifically to corroborate your opinions and feelings – especially when there is no regulation, no standard to abide. What you consider the ‘Centre’ will be utterly shifted away from reality.[ How Duterte Used Facebook – Davey Alba; Brazil Battles Fake-News “Tsunami” – Dom Phillips]
- The greatest misinformation surrounding the above topic is that the easily accessible news of Fb is “free”. With every click, every browse and every second spent reading a particular article or on a particular website, you are paying with your data. From the moment my 15 year old self joined the new fad of Fb, I had signed away all rights to my online information to Fb, whomever they sell it on to or whoever steals it from their not-so-carefully-guarded vaults.
What a moron! Surely, any 15 year old in 2007 should have known what that meant! Should have read the small print. Should have foreseen the future of Analyticas and Palantirs harvesting said information to sell in-depth psychological profiles of me to corporations and political campaigns, domestic and foreign. It was all explained in the T&Cs, right!?
It should have been obvious, as I’m sure it is to all of us, that when Fb describes us as “customers” what it means is “suppliers”. Supplying the “goods” of our information to their corporate customers – just that Fb keep all of the money (cos they’re “just like all about bringing people together, maaaan”).
- In One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse borrowed the psychoanalysis of Freud’s Civilisation and Its Discontents to explain how we internalise the norms of society – specifically, Consumerism, Materialism and the needless flogging of overproduction’s surplus. Instagram is an even more insidious and terrifying harbinger of this excess, with close correlation to young people’s growing anxieties and unhappiness amid the bombardment of beautiful, bikini clad, 6-footers living a life of 5 star, luxury travel and enforcing the message that this should be the benchmark for a happy life, and that “Bali Body” and “Gym Shark” will help you get there.[see Jean Twenge’s iGen].
With breaking news of our encroaching apocalypse amid Capitalism’s systemic environmental destruction, I wonder, wouldn’t we all be better off without Fb advertising that “thing“, selected with algorithmic precision, I didn’t even realise I wanted but then was convinced I needed?[IPCC – Global Warming at 1.5; Disposable coffee cups – George Monbiot]
Whilst we’re on the topic of apocalypse, how much longer are we going to let the likes of Cambridge Analytica (reincarnated as Auspex International, for anyone interested in committing a mass shooting) aid corrupt elites and allow fascistic despots to strangle Freedom out of the life of the Developing World before we realise it really does us (“The West”/”The First World”/”The Developed World” – basically, anyone who caught the industrialization wave in the nineteenth century and aggressively started colonising everyone else) no favours in the long run.