This week I got a facebook ‘friend-block’: for 7 days I cannot add any new friends, because ‘you have attempted to add a friend you don’t really know in real life’. I am told to ‘please only send friend invites to people you really do know’.
Has anyone ever pondered about the philosophical consequences of this little overjealous bit of security apparatus? Here we have a ‘new medium’ that sees it as its role to determine whom you can connect with inside of this medium and whom you can’t. It apparently is able to tell whom my real friends should be, and the idea to connect with an ‘unknown person’ is presented to me as a crime that should be punished.
What is wrong with connecting to unknown persons? We do it all the time when we are on the street or in a bar, its called ‘socializing’. And as these are so-called ‘social media’ one would expect they’d rather enlarge ones options to connect with like-minded people, rather than block your possibilities of ever doing so.
The truth is I was severely bored with facebook, especially because its such a limited environment, so I set all my posting rights to ‘public’ and started adding anyone that responded to my posts, in a genuine wish to make the whole thing more dynamic. Just a few days later, I am banned.
Imagine a telephone book that blackens out phone numbers and decides for you whom you can call or not, based on the software’s idea of whom you ‘should know’. However unimaginable such a book would be, it is exactly what facebook is doing at this moment. Why?
The obvious and incorrect answer is: incompetence. It’s a flimsy policy created to battle spammers. This is probably the argument that would come to mind of most people, but it’s entirely incorrect: ‘whom you know’ is really a totally ineffective standard to battle bots with, since its perfectly possible to create a million bots that all know each other very well on the network.
The somewhat less obvious answers is: facebook realizes that its only worth money if the ‘map’ of friendships it draws and sells to governments and companies is real. What good is it to ‘map’ all human connections if those are basically just connection that do not exist in the real world – useless information for spooks, marketeers, and so on.
Ergo: getting to know unknown persons / meeting new people = evil. It devaluates their network. They can’t sell demographic information based on fake ties: if everyone has 5000 friends, the information is utterly useless for any commercial purpose. Hence, the idea of ‘socializing’ must be treated with the idea of severe punishment.
It fits perfectly in this idea of a paranoid, self-centered society where anything that is actually natural and healthy is forbidden and destroyed, since it threatens the paranoid hierarchy. Which brings us to the other issue: nudity.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that it would be relatively easy for facebook to make a ‘personal filter’ that anyone could just turn on or of, just like Google images does. On Google images you can simply choose whether you prefer nude images to be included, and the filter works perfectly. It is not a technological issue at all.
And yet, as I recently heard a friend explain, we are asked to believe that facebook hires huge amounts of religious people in third world countries to constantly search and moderate its content on ‘nudity’.
I find that story simply too dumb to believe: if it is true than the facebook management consists of utter digibetes. Recently there have been a number of rather grave censorship incidents, when not just pictures were censored but also artworks (Picasso) and Cartoons (The New Yorker).
Since the aforementioned ‘filter’ is relatively easy to realize, we must draw a different conclusion here: nudity in any sort of form is declared public enemy number 1 on this medium, regardless of country or region or whatever else standard you might want to apply. Facebook is a television that has not only completely banned nudity, but has also gravely censored artistic expressions of such. Why?
The obvious and incorrect answer is: they fear the right wing american public. Nonsense, since they could turn on the filter by default and offer an option to turn it off.The correct answer is rather: They ARE the American right wing and their enemy is intimacy. They have no issue with the most gruesome sort of pictures: tortured animals, people blown to pieces, anything goes, but a nipple is evil.
As the first example showed, their idea of a ‘social media’ is one that prevents socializing and quarantines it to a sell-able unit.
The second example shows that portrayal of intimacy is unwanted. Why? Well, to remind people of intimacy is to remind them of the real world. With real people. Whom you could connect to, outside, and have a real conversation with. Intimacy always has been the traditional enemy of totalitarian states.
And a totalitarian state is exactly what facebook is: there are no philosophies, no laws of appeal, no responsible people: its one huge invisible machine that creates the ‘rules’ for users, and there is no possibility to even contact a living being over any of it. Intimacy and socializing are forbidden: welcome to the new ‘Social Life’ of the 21st Century. It’s all about ‘whom you know’.
But wait, wait, wait: what is it I see there, on the advertisement block?
Right. Art and Intimacy are forbidden, but prostitution is okay, it’s cold and it makes money. Way to go, Mr Suckerberg.
Martinus Benders, Istanbul, 15-09-2012