Culture Critique
Culture Critique

The Social Network

After people take their pictures and film their videos, they post them on social networking sites, such as Facebook, for others to see. The problem with these photo galleries, personal films and other posts is that they are out of context, and often without relevance or purpose, other than status posturing, the sharing of mundane daily activities, and the forwarding of trivia and sensationalist news. We see what people ate for lunch, their vacation pictures, sports activities, or the latest meme, such as funny cat videos, etc. It is one-way communication that we can choose to “like,” respond to with a generic supportive comment, or simply ignore. What in fact happened when our face-to-face and phone dialogue was supplanted by the online social network, is that we began to advertise ourselves: that is, we broadcast a carefully constructed message to each other of who we want to appear to be. Broadcasting is not true communication, and a society that only broadcasts, or advertises, and doesn’t analyze, question or debate, is one that will stagnate for lack of ideas and citizenship.

 

Facebook, the social platform, functions largely as an apolitical space that serves the commercial, libertarian politics of Facebook, the company. Groups of friends become feedback bubbles where everyone agrees and generally holds similar views, and when views differ, individuals keep quiet in order to be polite and avoid a public argument. So while some political comment might be made, or some popular cause promoted, there is almost never a reasoned discussion or debate about it, and seldom any action taken, beyond the signing of an online petition. In this way, the conformity and apathy of the Facebook network is much like a dictatorship where people censor themselves so as to not disrupt the status quo, which is status through materialism and appearance, not ideas, merit or values. It seems only people in dictatorships, or activists in unjust democracies with great inequality, use Facebook to challenge authority, for example during the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street, if mostly as a way to organize. But they need not have used Facebook at all, if a private, encrypted, and not for profit alternative had been available.

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