Face-hooked: we need to be fed.

February 13, 2013 5:30 pm
facebook privacy

Illustration by James Longhorn

Facebook: Too late to turn back?

Strange times. As I write this I flick up and down the Facebook homepage, across names and ideas, manipulated for reasons I’m unable to understand. Facebook say there’s a formula to it, you see what they want you to see and you see who you want to see. Something to do with likes and dislikes and who you’ve viewed and who you’ve liked and what you’ve liked, jargon and information pumped into a machine and spat out- the end result your homepage. If nothing else Facebook illuminates our nosiness, our desires to pry into other people’s lives and get a look what’s going on. After all, it’s a small world, we’re all friends, I observe you and you observe me. We’re playing a game of information strip poker, all of us slowly undressing till we each get a good hard look at one another’s souls.

Occasionally somebody cries out to ask whether anything is private anymore, only to quickly wash away in the tide of the News Feeds. Or they quit Facebook all together- condemned to live clueless and eventless, locked out from house parties and knowing who’s broken up with who. Nothing is private, privacy has ceased to exist in a way it never could have done before Facebook. Now we need to know what people think and where other people are with insatiable appetites. Likewise we need to be seen, seen to be where we feel we should be seen, seen to think how we want others to think we think. Our thoughts and actions are validated, liked.

But what does it all mean? Has Facebook changed the way we behave, or simply sped it up? Were our insecurities always so apparent? How could we know. Old ideas of the public and private sphere have blurred, there’s no going back. We’ve always lived our life through personas, spoken differently depending who we’re speaking to, but now we’re forced to develop a Facebook persona: consciously developed; an idealised self. We are on social network what we feel we should be: think you should be funny- post a joke, think you should be deep- post a Nietzsche quote.

Manipulation exists in full view. Facebook suggests a band you might like based on your tastes, suggests who you should talk to, stacks your friends in an order in the chat bar: it’s all based on the formula. But the strangeness of living through Facebook’s rules and codes is out-weighed by our intrigue. We accept the manipulation, the marketing, the attacks on our subconscious, because we need to know what everybody else is thinking, doing. Facebook’s our generation’s great addiction; we need to be liked, to snort a line of pure approval.

It’s no surprise the government wants access to the information Facebook holds on our conversations and posts. The state exerts its control however it can and what better way is there to get into our psyche? There was little public outcry when the government laid out plans to introduce its ‘snooper’s charter.’ We’ve become so accustom to living our lives through the eyes of the News Feed that our information becoming accessible to authority seemed the next logical step. Misanthropes complain we’re living in a dystopian hell, overuse ‘Orwellian’ till the word becomes redundant. What they fail to realise is that this is what we want, we’re dependant on Facebook- we consume what others are thinking as we consume food. To say we should go back to communicating  face-to-face is like saying we should start moving from city to city via horse and cart, it’s backwards: the entire journey all you can smell is horse shit.

Examination of Facebook is an examination of yourself. Why did I like that page? Why did I post that song? Why did I choose that Profile Picture? There’s an unwritten rule to assume its natural, a code of conduct that nobody speaks out about each of our desires for the approval of others. Facebook has its mysteries, still we don’t know why those people exist in that place or we see that bit of information there. If Facebook was to reveal its formula for these things then all our Facebook browsing habits would be exposed, and what’s more uncomfortable than thinking that others could see what we view, who we view, when we view it? Facebook know that and that’s why the secrets are maintained. We know all this, yet it changes nothing.

So we beat on, click after click, view after view, in a state of ignorance. Anxieties under wraps, unspoken.

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