Tokyo Damage Report

i call bullshit on social media

Imagine, ten years ago, if one of your friends had come up to you and said, “Hey Luis, I think you’re a rad fella, we’ve had a lot of good times, shared a lot of secrets, helped each other out of a lot of jams. . . .but from now on I will only be your friend if our friendship is mediated by a huge soul-less company that exists only to sell our private information to third parties. Well? Click yes to agree!”
You would have said, go fuck yourself. But nowadays that is the NORM for young people wtf.
Even though it’s the norm, obviously no one ever says this out loud – but they don’t need to! That is just how shit works nowadays. But next time you make friends with someone in RL, try explaining that to them in those exact words and see if you don’t fee just a little bit like an asshole.  Turning regular people into corporate shills is just one of the crappy things about social media.

There’s been a lot of noise in the past couple of years about The Man cracking down on the internet: domestic web spying, net neutrality, banning of file-sharing, weird SOPA/PIPA/TPP treaties, etc. But I don’t think enough people are complaining about social media, which is an even bigger threat because it involves users becoming their own jailers, in a sense.
I hated the ‘90s internet (rave pants, second life, the word “cyber” as a prefix), but at least there was a certain exuberance – the whole idea of “Let’s take the internet as far away from regular life as possible. LOOK I’M A FUCKING CYBER DRAGON WITH TITS! This is a new frontier and let’s just take this freedom thing as far as it will go. THE DRAGON HAS WELDING GOGGLES ON WTF!!?!"
But nowadays people want the internet to be as much like real life as possible – they want to log on with their own real name and connect with their real friends. What the fuck you need an internet for then? It’s like the modern net and social media in particular combines the worst features of both: all the non-privacy of the internet, combined with the  lack of creativity of RL.
Just because there's less imagination, that doesn't mean that people are more truthful, though. On social media you can’t be anonymous, or a cyber dragon, you have to be yourself, BUT you can still lie your ass off: everything you write , every photo you take, has to be tweaked and massaged to make you look a bit cooler than you are.
Social media is like writing an internet dating profile that NEVER ENDS.
In the old net days, they had this saying, “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” Meaning: if people only read your words, they will judge your opinions based on how smart or persuasive you are, not judge you based on race sex or religion. Say goodbye to that!
There’s this idea that we’re losing our privacy to corporate marketing people who track all our net behavior, or that we’re losing our privacy to govt. spies. But the real balderdash is: people are voluntarily giving up privacy. They can’t WAIT to give up privacy.  People on “Google plus” actually LIKE the rule that you have to use your real name. . . .because they think this will cut down on “trolls.”  
They want to give out their real name, because they want to reconnect with old high-school chums or long-lost lovers or some dingbat from summer camp, or whatever. They want 1,000 “friends” and would prefer that those “friends” actually be people that they have had some real-world connection with.  
Because hey! If they know you, you can guilt them into “liking” you. You don’t have to actually do anything interesting or write a rad novel or produce something unique. You just have to say “I’m that dorkwad you know from 10 years ago!” Whereas if you were anonymous, and you wanted friends, you’d have to actually be interesting. Or have cleavage. Whichever.
But what are you giving up, in exchange for “likes” and “friends” and “votes up?” well, basically you can’t write anything about your boss because she’ll see it and fire you. You can’t write anything about your parents for the same reason. You can’t write anything interesting at all. 
I was going to say this took us back to the “bad old days” before the net gave us anonymity . . .but even back in the ‘80s, you never had your parents, teachers, bosses, ALL IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU, FOREVER. 
One site I think is rad is ZERO HEDGE. It’s this person who works on wall street who constantly exposes secrets the industry doesn’t want you to know, or shows how the famous CEOs are wrong about things. That would never happen on social media, where dude would have to use his real name.
So, ok. No more muck-raking, no talking bad or exposing authority. No more creativity. You have to be yourself, but a really fake version of yourself. All of the fakery with none of the creativity/privacy. 
One of the shitty things about school and work is: everything you do is quantified and ranked. Every second is scheduled. I did this many homework math problems. I made this many assembly line radios, with a retail value of XXX dollars. I got two Bs and 4 Cs. I read x books and got Y GPA.  I was #3 employee of the month. 
In other words, what made your free time special was: it was time when you were not being quantified and ranked. 
But now with social media, they are taking the business/work/school model and pushing it into the last non-regulated parts of your fucking life. 
Compounding the problem, if you look back, most of the best times of your life are precisely those times that can’t be quantified, ranked, or reduced to a number. The best times of your life involve intangibles or spiritual feelings. 
Since these by definition can’t be reduced to easy-to-compare-and-digest statistics such as “likes” or “# of friends”, they have no place in social media.
The people who run these social media companies want us to use them every second of the day. That’s why they give us so many carrots and little hamster-pellet rewards for participating in their services: likes, upvotes, friends, whatever whatever. The result is that we will start living our private life in ways that are rewarded by SM, and neglect those activities that DON’T give us the little mechanical reward: 
Imagine a facebook timeline like this:


You’ll never see that because
a) those wonderful experiences can’t be reduced to numbers,
b) advertisers can’t make money by selling you epiphanies, and
c) you can’t link to those things. Even if you click on the blue words, there is no website that will give you that thing. “Oh! Growing and becoming a better person? Sign me up! Click here!”
Will the next younger generation lose the capacity to even care about experiences which cannot be quantified and ranked? To paraphrase a nice Bill Hicks bit: “Why would I want to take mushrooms in the desert and look directly into the face of god, and be told that all humans are one , and we are all worthy of love? That won’t show up on Facebook at all!”

11 Comments so far

  1. Kellen August 30th, 2012 1:07 am

    Welcome to what security nerds were saying 10 years ago when friendster became popular. Social networking clearly has some interesting use cases (discovering new culture, finding old friends, maintaining contact with people you would otherwise drop) but it's probably not worth the larger social consequences.

  2. random August 30th, 2012 3:49 am

    i have the feeling that you give social media more power than it has. the things you discribe (real life isolation while having X friends online, the smalltalk nonsense every day without real content and the selfesteem pics,statusmessages) were there before social media. on one hand you explain that social media for you is nothing more than a clickad and name machine for companies and on the other hand it feels like you giving them credit for their huge numbers. i also feel that you somehow accept the whole ranking thing as a legit way. i think the internet is a new part of society. these people are stupid in the first place because they dont think about social media and its problems and create an account. these people are stupid online and offline. which brings me to ranking. a lot of people wont question anything authority tells them. in my kindergarden i learned how to behave "good" with small stars on a special place on the wall. when your in school it goes on, when your in a job there is a report and in sports there will be leaderboards. the problem is how do you want to fight this whole idea? thats like talking about religion. in the eyes of  pro ranking people the only way of proving that they are wrong would be to show them that nonrated have more value in a way. but that means that you have to argue on the same context level as they do.
    and the next problem is that youre in a way saying "before the internet people met in real live and it was a good thing. evil internet!" this example is a littlebit over the top :)
    there were people who where clever enough to drop this whole show off techniques and then there are people stupid enough to believe that these ranking things are real things of matter if its 2012 or B.C. 2012.
    i can understand your anger very well but i think its much more fun for yourself to stop hateing these people and start to find people who are loveable. sounds emo but at the end of the day do you really want to fight with stupid people in an debate you can not win because your counterpart will be to dumb to  accept your win/arguments? or do you want to find someone to ride the bicycle at night? 

  3. Baka_toroi August 30th, 2012 10:06 am

    I don't think it's about quantification, it's more about documenting your life, providing evidence that you've been at Cool Event 2012.
    I hate smartphones though. Let's change what I'm currently living for a 4'' touchscreen! Oh, the joys of looking at tiny YouTube videos on a party.

  4. Steve August 30th, 2012 6:31 pm


  5. François August 31st, 2012 9:21 am

    You're supposed to log in with your real name on Facebook, Google et al., but you're still free to bullshit that. I've been using a fake name on FB for ages, never had a problem.
    A friend's alias is something like Ksdfqdfqa Poioioioiu and he never had any problem either.

  6. admin August 31st, 2012 10:50 am

    @francois: i’m so happy to hear from you again! You have always been the main intelligence man on these websites of mine. But, yo.

    OK you are smart to not use your real name on FB or whererever. But you are in violation of their contract. Social media can fuck your whole account if you write something that pisses someone off: if that person/institution complains “Hey, M. Fr. is not using his real name!” then FB will freeze your whole shit for breach of contract. and this discourages internet “content” which “sticks it to the man.” And when one company has a monopoly on your personal life, what does that do to freedom of expression? Why do regular utilities like electricity or sewage get regulated/run by the government and not social utilities? waah, waah, I’m crying like a small child here. Yo send me an email sometime my French compadre – what is up with your life G? Still selling them custom cars? P.S. God bless you people for inventing wine. I am tore up off some chablis. Also: french black metal is the ONLY black metal to be very melodic and still raw and underground. But Omega Deathspell is for posers. I feel sorry for them. Who writes riffs that complicated and then ON PURPOSE records lo-fi records so that no one can hear the riffs that they spent a year composing? THat’s not “elite”, that’s just “self-hating.” And fuck them.

  7. admin August 31st, 2012 10:59 am

    @kellen: can you follow through on your condescending comments by sending me links to what those “security nerds” were saying? and, why would security people worry about philosophical issues in the first place? that seems outside their domain? Seriously dogg I am on your side, there is no need to rag on The Kid.

  8. Steve September 2nd, 2012 11:15 am

    re: security nerds – they go to college and learn all this theoretical slippery slope stuff, and then get corporate jobs with businesses that are basically like, 'if this doesn't affect our bottom line, it doesn't concern you'. Any losses they would incur from the insecurity of their client's data is already factored into the budget, so in that sense, they don't worry about it. But there is still that college kid inside of them that reads the 'end of the world' articles on security blogs because they are so bored of the mundane stuff in their actual job.
    source: lots of friends in security (couldn't hack it as software programmers, blah blah blah)

  9. François September 3rd, 2012 4:11 am

    Thing is, if tomorrow FB deletes my account, I'd be like "well, too fucking bad" and not give much more of a shit. It's not like I'm conducting business or my social life through their network.
    Rest of the story via email.

  10. Paul September 4th, 2012 3:34 am

    I've been thinking of blocking all social media on my PC, and making it something I only access on my phone. See, the thing is, your phone already IS that place. Its somewhere where business contacts and your personal life sit side by side in some sort of perpetual awkward 11th hour of the work Christmas party, sinking into a bucket of fiddly battery micro-management slurry. Meanwhile, when I sit back on my PC, I'm back in my buggy, 90s world of time-wasting videos, free knowledge (hooray for Wikipedia, Open Universities, Codecademy etc!) and tiptoing away from bloated design, obnoxious ads, and unified comment systems like Disqus.

  11. mrjohn September 26th, 2012 2:24 am

    Great rant, should be on the top page of the internet.

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