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How Facebook Changed the World

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jonnyboss
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Dec 10 2011 00:02
How Facebook Changed the World

Admin: moved to forums.

This recent BBC documentary was even more galling in its content than in its ridiculous title. To confuse cause with means so clumsily, and belittle the more-than commendable achievements of the street-fighters, occupiers, insurgents and insurrectionists of the ‘Arab Spring’ by attributing the success of their movements to Zuckerberg’s ‘revolutionary’ social network. Facebook was indeed a key tool in organising the tumultuous overthrow of Tunisia and Egypt’s dictatorial regimes, but let’s not get carried away with the smug technophilia. Facebook changed the world in 2011 inasmuch as the telegram changed it in 1917, the telephone changed it in 1968 and television changed it in 1989.

What is the real impact of the internet and facebook in a more general sense? Real community replaced by online community. Real debate and discussion replaced by forums, ‘likes’ and youtube comments. Real living replaced with vicarious experiences in online gaming and virtual worlds. Facebook’s position in all of this is that of the ultimate Simulacra, the ultimate Representation. Each individual is mapped on a vast network of separated subjects, with their own quirky ‘profiles’ as the digital projections of the self. Individuals who have constructed an immaterial relief of their personalities online, whose lived experience is recorded and logged in the ‘statuses’, ‘comments’, ‘likes’, ‘attendings’ and ‘not attendings’ of facebook’s Grand Simulation.

The genius of facebook lies in the semblance of participation it provides; the ability of users to comment, join groups, create events, add friends, and choose the profile picture that most suitably represents, defines and epitomises them. Our lifestyles are laid bare in a succession of computerised images that we can filter, crop and tag so that they truly encapsulate the mood of the night. The facebook profile is the surrogate self, the alternative ego in image form. Controlling and managing our identities, our own digital understudies. Sifting through a days-worth of banal newsfeed – a wonderful substitute for actual contact and conversation. Seeing how our semio-friends are doing in their second-lives. The facebook medium separates us more than it connects us. The participation it offers is only participation in our own alienation. It is a debased substitute for the Real, a meaningless collection of digitised images and signs that mediate the experiences of everyday life. Vicarious living, self-improvement through self-projection, secondary experience, indulging our tedious curiosities about the lives of others – these are the main functions of the social network.

All this without even mentioning the implications for personal privacy or the hoarding of data and information for use in market research, targeted advertising, consumer surveys, police investigations and whatever else The Corporation deems appropriate. Facebook can be a useful tool for organisation, but we must not exaggerate it’s potential as a catalyst for emancipation, rather we should realise its obvious limits – that it is perhaps the most advanced and ingenious technology of spectacular domination.

Facebook produces docile bodies and docile minds. Entire populations connected in abstraction but separated more than ever in reality. It is a highly-addictive social anesthetic that exemplifies the tedium and superficiality of late capitalism. Consistent with facebook’s global takeover, we’ve seen the rise of the ‘slacktivists’ and ‘clicktivists’, a particularly obnoxious breed of activist-militants, who boost the radical credentials of their online selves (and surely get a perverse sense of self-satisfaction) when they ‘Like’ the Robin Hood Tax or join the ‘I Hate David Cameron’ group, changing the world one step at a time, without ever leaving their bedrooms. Such a blatantly ineffectual substitute for direct action and unmediated struggle – the online petition – but one that provides the appearance of action and a veneer of participation, and after all, what appears is good and what is good appears. Dissent is signified, accepted, encouraged, incorporated, commodified and reduced to a simple click – channeled into the cyber-Symbolic realm of facebook.

Politics is what happens in everyday life. Facebook is a denial of life, it is life’s poor substitute, it is what happens when life stops, it is the pinnacle of post-industrial-consumer-spectacular-capitalism’s degradation of existence and the perfect encapsulation of our alienation, separation, mediation and banality.

Off facebook and onto the streets.

K.P.B.S.F.S.

http://kpbsfs.wordpress.com/

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RedEd
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Dec 10 2011 01:05

I don't want to be a dick or anything, but who do you think you are addressing, what behaviour do you want to change and what result do you want to come from it? Like, I'm a university graduate and have read my foucault and derrida and butler and zizek and shit. But I still don't know what the actual contribution of this text is. If it's just the expression of a person or some peoples' thoughts then fine. I don't understand, but maybe you'll have a good conversation with grad students from your particular intellectual and political tradition that do. But if you are trying to do something politically, like talking to some significant number of people, or even a group that has or even could have significant influence amongst many people I think you've shot wide of the mark.

(Also, and sorry to come across as a dick again, I think your 'real' vs. 'virtual'n routine at the begining of the text is nonsense. It's different forms of social mediation/discourse, not real/fake. Again, sorry, but I think that's important)

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Dec 11 2011 21:18

This is a bit harsh and one sided to say the least. Maybe I'm just not pissed enough to appreciate this, but I did quite enjoy the programme for what its worth.

tastybrain
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Dec 11 2011 21:37

What's wrong with what this person posted? I feel like its a fairly accurate critique of facebook and its limitations.

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Picket
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Dec 11 2011 21:49

Yeah but is it supposed to mean we are all wasting our time on Facebook? Which is a bit of a presumption, I waste time here, not Facebook. It's like a rant at some demographic which is assumed to be here.

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Paulappaul
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Dec 12 2011 02:59

Who gives a flying fuck. This article distracts me more then any Facebook group from class emancipation. If socialism means the end of online social interaction, I don't know if I really want it.

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NoRefunds
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Dec 14 2011 02:16

I think that facebook, like anything, is a double edged sword. It is mostly used for superficial crap, but most people are also superficial consumers. You can't expect non superficiality to come from a superficial mindset. At the same time it gives people who actually are concerned with the world a great way to connect, share and organize; while at the same time possibly informing others of the struggle.

The slactivists are basically liberals by the way, and they've always been that way. I don't think facebook created that attitude, just a new means of expressing it.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 20 2011 18:54

Guardian quiz judges 'revolutionariness' based on your social media consumption choices: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/reading-the-riots-blog/interactive/2011/dec/20/quiz-revolutionary-were-you-2011

I know it's tongue in cheek, I guess they've measured their demographic pretty well though.

jonnyboss
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Dec 27 2011 08:15

Yeah it was 'just for fun'. Deliberately hyperbolic. Should've made my intentions clear in the post, but I actually mistakenly put it in library and it was moved. (Sorry, new to forums) That isn't me absolving myself of having to justify what it says, but it's written out of extreme boredom, after a long afternoon on facebook, actually. Just moved somewhere I don't speak the language and facebook has kept me in touch with mates more than anything else. It was just some ideas about spectacle, signs, roles, the neutrality of technology etc.As far as who it's addressed to, I don't really know, probably myself actually, just putting thoughts on a page at the end of the day. Cheers though tastybrain anyways. xox

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Choccy
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Dec 27 2011 10:57

I'm wary of people scaremongering about the influence of facebook.
It's a magnification of other forms of social interaction.

People have ALWAYS filtered their interactions with people. We disclose things to certain friends and not others, we speak in hushed tones about others, people backstab each other, all sorts. We also make slip ups in the wrong company.
The difference is it's easier to trace online.

As far as social interaction, Susan Greenfield has been writing a lot of cautious facebook scare stories in the last few years but in the 3 years since she started that she's yet to actually conduct any research and has mostly written op-ed pieces. Ben Goldacre summarised research suggesting that people use facebook to consolidate existing 'real world' relationships as opposed to them being 'fake'. With that in mind I'd agree that the fake-real distinction is not helpful.

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Dec 27 2011 11:20
Choccy wrote:
Ben Goldacre summarised research suggesting that people use facebook to consolidate existing 'real world' relationships as opposed to them being 'fake'. With that in mind I'd agree that the fake-real distinction is not helpful.

Similar studies have been conducted on second life etc, etc as well right? Seems reasonable to me.

The society of the spectacle pre-exists facebook wink

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Croy
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Dec 27 2011 12:48
Choccy wrote:
I'm wary of people scaremongering about the influence of facebook.

The amount of conspiracy theorists that always say something like "the worlds best government intelligence database" before saying the word facebook really fucking gets on my nerves. Just sayin tongue

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Dec 27 2011 14:20
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Choccy wrote:
I'm wary of people scaremongering about the influence of facebook.

The amount of conspiracy theorists that always say something like "the worlds best government intelligence database" before saying the word facebook really fucking gets on my nerves. Just sayin tongue

How knowledgeable are you about the technical side of the internet?

Cryptome.org founder wrote:
“Internet a very large-scale spying machine”

^This fact can't really be disputed. The question is how to act on this information, dropping out of the internet comes with exactly the same issues as dropping IRL. It's politically ineffective. Saying that I'm not on facebook mainly as I see it as an arbitrary fencing in of the internet with little value for me.

You probably know but those little facebook, twitter buttons as well as the google analytics script that runs in the background of this website tracks your movement across websites and allows all your identities and accounts to be connected. If you log in to twitter with the same browser you post on libcom. Twitter will know all your posts on libcom. Even without this info every server can fingerprint you pretty accurately unless you use the most generic browser and settings test panopticlick.

The reality though is that the risk is *very* small, at least to most people. Only people who are a serious threat to states should be worried. Saying that services to get dox on prospective employees are growing and getting better. Skilled users of open stuff like Maltego can build a pretty good picture of people. (recent versions are crippled for legal reasons).

The spying is undoubtedly real but the risks are minimal for a majority of people.

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Croy
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Dec 27 2011 14:32
Quote:
How knowledgeable are you about the technical side of the internet?

Admittedly not very

Quote:
Saying that services to get dox on prospective employees are growing and getting better.

My school mentioned this in an assembly. As a sort of scare mongering thing, they said they randomly searched for one of students on Facebook, and proceeded to try and embarrass her by telling us all that her display picture was of her dancing around at a party drinking out of a wine bottle tilted skyward. Then they just went about "is that really the image you want to give out to employers". I think I already told you guys this and other related stories, but maybe I will start a thread about it. I want to have a blog here about my observations to do with school and my peer group from a LibCom perspective, and this is the sort of stuff I would mention. I messaged Steven but he has not gotten back to me.

ANYWAY, back to the point

Quote:
The spying is undoubtedly real but the risks are minimal for a majority of people.

I am pretty much of this opinion, and why the conspiracy theorists annoy me, because the government does not see them as threats enough to look at their shit. I think they already have got our internet and phones tapped, its just whether/when they choose to look at yours.

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Dec 27 2011 14:56
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
... they said they randomly searched for one of students on Facebook, and proceeded to try and embarrass her by telling us all that her display picture was of her dancing around at a party drinking out of a wine bottle tilted skyward. Then they just went about "is that really the image you want to give out to employers"

Urgh.. invading your private life in school - pretty f'ed up. Goes to show that spying is now normalised.

the croydonian anarchist wrote:
I am pretty much of this opinion, and why the conspiracy theorists annoy me, because the government does not see them as threats enough to look at their shit. I think they already have got our internet and phones tapped, its just whether/when they choose to look at yours.

^This

Weirdly a fair few of the lighter conspiraloons consider internet politics more important than physical world politics. And they seem capable of holding totally separate views in the two domains totally failing to connect the two. In some ways zeitgeist can be seen as net politics beginning to merge with normal politics, with predictably naive results. (speculative - still haven't managed to sit through any of their films). I'm hoping the filesharing kids will develop their ideas towards... wait... FULL COMMUNISM!

Spikymike
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Dec 27 2011 16:00

Having slagged off one of jonnyboss's other recent posts I thought this one was a decent blast at some of the overhyped commentary in the media ( sadly sucked in by many it seems) about the 'revolutionary' significance of various new communications technology (and made by someone who actually uses it for some purposes unlike me - so not dismiseable as a technophobe).

Yes the 'society of the spectacle pre-exists Facebook' but it hasn't gone away and is rather extended and deepened with the benefit of new technologies.

As we sometimes need reminding technology in capitalism is not neutral and 'communism' isn't reliant on any particular modern technology or means of communication.

The 'fake versus real' division could be better expressed but the text does express something which has been at the back of my mind for some time.

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Dec 27 2011 16:10
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Choccy wrote:
I'm wary of people scaremongering about the influence of facebook.

The amount of conspiracy theorists that always say something like "the worlds best government intelligence database" before saying the word facebook really fucking gets on my nerves. Just sayin tongue

Oh that part I wouldn't actually dispute. Online security scaremongering I think is actually quite sensible caution given a few comrades have fallen foul of info that was out there.
The scaremongering I don't like is the social aspect, not the security side.

jonnyboss
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Dec 28 2011 07:17
Quote:
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Choccy wrote:
I'm wary of people scaremongering about the influence of facebook.
The amount of conspiracy theorists that always say something like "the worlds best government intelligence database" before saying the word facebook really fucking gets on my nerves. Just sayin

Oh that part I wouldn't actually dispute. Online security scaremongering I think is actually quite sensible caution given a few comrades have fallen foul of info that was out there.
The scaremongering I don't like is the social aspect, not the security side.

I think the social aspect needs to be discussed. It's not about 'scare-mongering', or calling for a facebook boycott, but just recognising that facebook as a new medium has grown exponentially and has completely changed the way a lot of people interact with each other, organise and even view each other. Whether this is for or better or worse is up for debate, but it has to be acknowledged that there has been a shift.

For me the privacy/information issue, although important, is secondary. I'm not saying spectacle didn't precede facebook, just that facebook is a new and advanced part of the spectacle. I think that these new technologies that supposedly 'bring us together' and 'connect us' often just contribute further to our own separation and alienation, and do so whilst providing a superficial and vacuous pseudo-participation in the representation of our selves.

Maybe I'm looking too much into things and it's all just a bit of a laugh where you can share your holiday photies with your mates.

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Dec 28 2011 13:46

Have you examined the empirical evidence on how people actually use facebook, as opposed to what you think mght be happening?

'Baroness' Greenfield had exactly the same sorts of, superficially intuitive, concerns that you do but the research, that she hasn't done, but others have (see refs at bottom), suggests that you were closer to the truth when you said 'Maybe I'm looking too much into things and it's all just a bit of a laugh where you can share your holiday photies with your mates. '

Ben Goldacre challenged Baroness Greefield's intuitive but evidencially-basesless concerns, and took Aric Sigman (who seem to specialise in op-ed scaremonger pieces these days) to task. People do seem to use it to consolidate actually existing 'real world' friendships, let their mates know about parties, arrange having coffee etc etc.

I'm not saying it's unimportant, just that as much initial research is suggesting the majotiy of poeople use it as an extension of existing communication methods. And for all anecdotes are worth, I know I just use it to keep in touch with mates, arrange meet ups etc etc.

For me security is a much bigger concern.

Spikymike
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Dec 28 2011 17:16

Choccy,

I had a look at that discussion but whilst some of the wilder 'it damages your brains' stuff is clearly unscientific and scaremongering (playing on parental fears in particular) I'm not sure this refutation can be directly applied to a critique of the function of new technologies and forms of communication in the extension of existing trends in capitalism towards a pseudo participation in and connectedness to society as it is?

This is not to blame a particular technology for the problems we face but to recognise how technologies are shaped by capitalism in it's own image and interests.

Technology changes along with the development of capitalism and in response to the pressures of competition and the class struggle and we can certainly subvert new capitalist technological developments but only if we have some awareness of their specifically capitalist function.

Still thinking about all this though.

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Dec 28 2011 17:36

Like I said, I don't think it's unimportant, and like anything it can be developed, shaped and co-opted in the interests of the capitalist class. But again I'd prefer people attacked the social relationship and the process rather than 'social networking' technology itself.

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Khawaga
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Dec 28 2011 19:16

I'm with Choccy. If you want to attack 'social networking', you might as well attack e-mail as well. Indeed, the scare stories about Facebook are almost exactly the same as those that were raised with literally every new medium from books, radio and TV to video games.