This Face is Our Face
by Walter Kirn
During a runaway Facebook session recently — on one of those threads that grows its own weird brain and sits up Frankenstein-style from the table and bursts its restraints and goes smashing out of the lab — it occurred to a few of us at once in that spooky quantum new way that there was something cowering and servile, something just plain slavish and depressing, about chatting and mingling with our ‘friends’ inside an environment and in a manner that had both been specifically engineered to yield up salable, packageable marketing data for the super-rich masters of the site. It felt to us, suddenly, belatedly, like we were in the position of young children whose supposedly spontaneous play is also, thanks to tiny dynamos attached to their little legs and arms, a profitable energy-generating scheme. The more we shared our ‘likes’ and made new friends and linked and updated and built communities and did all that other cool connective stuff that purportedly adds up to a Great Leap Forward, the faster we made those data windmills spin and the more juice we fed back into the grid for the grid’s owners to broker and redistribute.
Shouldn’t we at least get a dividend check or something? How could this not be a co-op, this enterprise? And through what sorcery or sophistry had we been convinced to sign away — for nothing, for worthless virtual beads, for the privilege of being allowed to speak and mix in a manner that had formerly been our right — controlling interest in our own identities?
Making our next and natural question this: Since Facebook is nothing without us, the people in it, then shouldn’t we come together and demand our rightful portion of its wealth? Not to mention some major say in how it treats us? And how, if we do band together, can it stop us? The ‘book’ part is theirs, the neat software and all that, but the Fact of All Facts is they are our damned faces!
At which point most folks on the thread had slipped away because it was 2 in the morning and, well, whatever, that was interesting but, well, whatever.
But I stayed awake for awhile and thought it through and I’m certain now that it’s only a matter of time before this tool of revolutions elsewhere turns on its own autocratic, self-serving bosses. I’m also convinced that they have known all along that their game was unsustainable and have been busy hiding away their loot. For only so long can sell what you don’t own while keeping the real owners in a trance.
Time to start thinking like citizens, not serfs.
Eventually we’ll run the place. Or start our own place.
The writing is on our Walls.
Piece crossposted with Walter Kirn’s Permanent Morning