Social media

I just visited my Facebook account for the first time in some while and remembered the sour taste. A Palo Alto company’s misappropriation of the language of friendship and even liking has produced a newspeak that is no less hideous for knowing it’s just their game. Why don’t they say “Facebook friend” instead of “friend”? This elision of the proprietary element betrays the real nastiness beneath as much as the dinky-toy feel of the language when so castrated. The infantilisation is fascism in ovo. And who knows what use this technology may be put to in ten tor twenty years’ time — an age in the world of computing?

I didn’t know the origin of the name “Facebook”. The service was first made available only to Harvard undergraduates, then expanded in waves to include progressively less upmarket universities and beyond. Freshmen in the US apparently receive an actual book of photos and mini-bios to help them find their social feet — the “facebook”. I suppose it’s one way of deciding who to go to the student bar and have a pint with.

I was also suprised to discover that I got married in 2008. The assumption is that Facebook enjoys a central place in its users’ lives, and they will document them there in a timely fashion. Facebook becomes a projection of the social self, virtually outsourced. If users start out at a Jesuitical seven (probably common enough), the psyche will be transformed. That needn’t be a bad thing, but if man’s psychic prostheses are to be in the hands of corporations (or any other centralised organisation that might come to take their place), we may wonder whose interests will then be served. An example in Brazil is the “Currículo Lattes”, which no doubt started life as an attractive way for academics to parade their intellectual credentials online. It has long since become an obligatory form of self-monitoring and bureaucratic quantification of what should not be quantifiable, therefore (to put it neutrally) changing the nature of what passes for professional intellectual activity. The Potëmkin village is Airstrip One.

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