Like a cult with great admin Facebook tells me that “I joined” on the 5th of September 2007, almost seven years ago. Like most, in those 7 years I have used Facebook to get in touch with old friends and stay in touch with new ones. In those 7 years Facebook has got more interested in me. Once it merely shared my pics and status, now it demands that I ‘check in’ every time I reach a new location. Furthermore, Facebook has taken its initial $500 000 dollar seed money from Q-tel, the investment arm of the C.I.A., and turned itself in to a corporation that is worth almost $30bn.
It is claimed that Facebook derives its value from advertising revenue, but arguably its greatest asset is the information you share voluntarily or by subtle coercion. In the near future you will be required to log into Facebook to receive network Wi-Fi at shopping centres or in town. You will essentially get free Wi-Fi in return for your location and information. Location and information that pinpoints, in real-time, and then records your device to within inches. The information from your profile will then be used to target you with tailored marketing and build a separate full profile on your movements, interests, friends and shopping habits. The value and importance of this data to a multitude of agencies and corporations should not be underestimated.
Facebook has recently taken part in a scientific study to examine how manipulated news feeds can affect the mood of users. Whether this was ethical or even legal is at best dubious, but to what ends and purposes this power of manipulation could be used I would argue is a more pertinent issue. The manipulation of corporate and state media to manufacture consent, shape agenda and define the parameters of discourse is as plain to see, as it has been over the past 100 years. Sadly it seems the results of research into the manipulation of media, which have categorically proven the existence and power of subtle and not so subtle propaganda, seems to have only been utilised by those keen to refine and enhance their techniques.
Whether you judge my above argument to be the product of paranoia or not is perhaps a subjective matter and ultimately dependent on how far you have or are willing to explore the above claims. For those of you that are curious and own a smart phone that was made with the last 18 months, try one thing, try and delete the Facebook app from your device. If Facebook’s undeletability from your device doesn’t bother you then give me the next short paragraph to appeal to what you already know, information that has been provided to you by your own actions and instincts.
Have you ever been out with friends and instead of engaging with the friends that have made the effort to be by your side you are ‘checking in’ or checking up on acquaintances elsewhere via Facebook? Don’t feel too bad we’ve all done it and had it done to us. How often do you come off Facebook a feel a little down and question why you don’t own what others own or why your life isn’t as fucking exciting as others? Have you ever boasted on Facebook just to show off where you have been or what you own? Have you ever lied on Facebook to make your life seem much more fucking exciting than it is? Again don’t worry we all do it. That’s why we largely post photos of holidays, new cars and nights out instead of funerals, credit card debts and nights in front of the television. Facebook is a corporation which encourages us to keep up with the Joneses. It is there to track you down, sell you stuff and encourage unbridled consumerism.
It is argued Facebook connects people, I suggested in my opening gambit that connection is the reason many of us got lured and then caught in its web. Not all of the posts are irrelevant food pics and I’m lucky enough to have a fair few Facebook friends that use Facebook to share information all too often ignored by the mainstream media that I berated a few paragraphs earlier. However, I don’t think sharing info is having quite the effect it aspires to, as sharing knowledge on Facebook seems to act as a personal sedative to any rage that is felt from the issue being shared. All Facebook sharing, from deep political memes to vacuous vanity selfies, seem to divide, atomise and sedate, via its digital cosh, those who would really be happier and more effective interacting face to face.
On a recent night out with some old school friends, I noticed the ones I interacted with the most were the ones who were not on Facebook as it was exciting to actually find out, face to face, what the fuck they had been up to. To be honest most of the people I really care about are in my phonebook and to prove I’m not a social media Luddite I’m going to remain on twitter, which I use as a tool for getting information. Which seems preferable to being used as tool for my information, by Facebook. Over years I’ve had a regular purge to try a keep my friends list relevant, but now I’m going to leave it up to fate and hopefully I may bump into some of you one day in the future and be able to say “how the fuck are you? What have you been up to?”
As of 10 pm today I will be permanently deleting my account from the Facebook Corporation. I know to some this will seem sulky and puerile, in fact if I’m honest I’ve probably levelled similar jibes at ex-facebookers in the past. Leaving is a little scary with almost seven years invested, will I miss being nosey? Where will I go for pics of food and cats? What about my pictures? (There’s a program called Fotobounce which downloads them for you to keep), What about when I want to show off, boast or embellish? The long and the short of it is I’m pretty sure Facebook is a medium which brings outs the worst in human nature, it divides and conquers and does so for the most nefarious of purposes. I’m giving it up for the same reason I gave up smoking, I’m pretty confident it’s bad for you and I wouldn’t want my kids to do it. So goodbye Facebook, I would like to say “it’s been real”, but unfortunately the problem with Facebook is that it hasn’t.