In changing its rules so that we can no longer exlude our private data from searches, Facebook has now gone too far down the lines of exploiting our apathy and/or good will, and I will very soon be deactivating my Facebook account. This has been a long road, and Facebook has gradually encroached further and further on the unacceptable in its quest to squeeze every possible drop of commercial value out of the personal data of its users.
It’s always difficult to leave a system that feels as if it has become central to your social life, but this is exactly the feeling that Facebook relies on for its users not to leave, however much they exploit them. As Kirstie Ball and I wrote in our piece ‘Brandscapes of Control’ earlier this year:
“It should be recognised… that brandscapes remain both an emerging apparatus and an attractive apparent solution to risk and complexity in a world where data underpins everything from purchase to social relations, and where those data are too numerous and complex for any individual to parse. Thus it is not so much a ‘logic prison’ (Mitchell, 2003) but, if it is analogous to confinement at all, it is an affective prison, not because one openly emotionally identifies with it, but because it begins to mark the boundaries of emotional range and becomes simply too inconvenient or uncomfortable to be without. Outside the brandscape, the world might seem not just dangerous but also painful, dull, limited and lacking in content: the dead, heavy ‘meatspace’ of William Gibson’s retired cyberspace jockeys in the Sprawl Trilogy, or the reality without compulsory drugs in Huxley’ Brave New World” (Murakami Wood and Ball, Marketing Theory, 2013 – but you can find a pre-proof verison on academia.edu).
Maybe I should pay more attention to my own work! However, it’s undeniable that social networking adds something positive to life. The questions are what you are prepared to give up for that or, if that is a question you refuse to accept is necessary, whether there is a better socio-economic model for social networking than relying on basically sociopathic corporations to provide it for us. I have tried to persuade people to join Diaspora but it’s too badly designed and unattractive to use easily. Linked In is dull, but for professional notifications etc., it works just fine and that’s all I use it for. I do have a Twitter account, though I’ve hardly used it and in general they’ve shown themselves to be a little more concerned with users’ rights and feelings. Maybe I’ll have to look at Google+ again, but Google isn’t fundamentally better than Facebook just not quite as bad.
And, in the end, all of these corporate systems are entirely infliltrated by National Security Agency surveillance systems and so Brazil’s suggestion of a non-US internet is interesting here as are murmerings about a DiY version, mesh-nets that would link together on a more ad-hoc basis. I’ll be writing about some of these suggestions soon. But in the meantime, it will soon be ‘So long, Facebook…’