This is a totally non-musical rant. I’ve never been a huge fan of Facebook. I’ve made no effort to do anything to encourage a presence and literally none of my real fans have encouraged me to push it. But Mark Zuckerberg has gotten a lot of press this week, what with the IPO and his marriage. And I finally have to come out and say it: I really have a visceral loathing for the guy. I don’t just mean ‘Facebook’ or ‘Internet Culture’ or what the guy represents. I mean the guy.
I never bought into all the Social Network caricatures. I’m sure he’s not quite as out there as all that. However, here’s what I wanna say…
Do you want this guy running the world? I mean have you really listened to him talk? It’s not just his affectations. It’s his message.
Unlike the other tech types, from Microsoft to Apple to Google, who are basically about the money, Mark really believes in changing people. He doesn’t just want to make a squillion dollars, he wants to alter human behaviour at a fundamental level.
I mean, he (and I guess a lot of people now) really believe in the rhetoric. It’s a true ideology of ‘openness’, ‘relationships’ and ‘sharing’. And like lots of ideologies from Libertarians to those Lyndon Larouche morons, it looks really, really cool on the surface. Just don’t dig too deep.
But unlike Ron Paul or Lyndon Larouche, Mark is in a position to really put his ideas to work. And that scares me.
I mean his shtick ain’t new. They’re re-packaged ideas that you’ve seen in a zillion sci-fi books and movies. At the end of the day, it presumes that the more ‘connected’ we are the better we are. The more we share, the more we ‘update’ everyone moment by moment, the more we depend on our ‘friends’ for advice on anything from shoes to politics, the more we depend on Facebook, the better off we are.
And I disagree. I don’t want to depend on any Social Network. Baby pictures? Fave recipes? Sure, Facebook is great. But for most anything important? I want my information curated by people who know what they’re talking about rather than crowd-sourced. Especially when paid advertising is involved.
The more connected we’ve become, the smaller our world is getting. Far from expanding our horizons, I think the net is now closing in (get it—the net is closing in?) on politics, music… everything. I’ll wager if you get your music via Facebook or Pandora or other ‘social’ outlets, you’re getting less variety than a few years ago, simply because they keep trying to show what they think you already like. They have no incentive to push you outside your comfort zone.
Said it before, say it again: We are now past the point where the net can be ignored. Facebook is like the tide. It seems innocuous, but it’s a constant slow force that you have to sail against or be taken somewhere else–perhaps without even noticing.
And even if I thought Facebook was, like the tides, an intrinsically good force of nature (which I don’t), I wouldn’t ever take my eyes off it.
I don’t understand why people don’t find Zuckerberg as viscerally creepy as I do. He’s like this bizarre combo of Saruman and Eddie Haskell and the more he gets out in public the less comfortable I am with what he’s trying to do with the world. Nobody much liked Bill Gates, but he didn’t frighten me like this. Do you see Zuckerberg starting a foundation to end malaria? Me either. (After all, unlike Melinda, a woman who marries a guy the week of his IPO probably isn’t providing much ‘life-balance’, right?) I think he really feels like Facebook
To add at least some substance to this rant, I highly recommend Jaron Lanier’s excellent (and brief) book, ‘You Are Not A Gadget’, which discusses all these ideas far more lucidly and eloquently than ever I could. He makes clear sentences of ideas that many of us feel but can’t quite put into words. Lanier is one of the founding fathers of modern technology (the acknowledge ‘father’ of virtual reality.) His sentiments are of the failed romantic; a man who, like Zuckerberg really believes in tech as a way to improve humanity. But unlike Zuck, he never dreamed of billions. Plus, Mr. Lanier has lived long enough to watch many of his great hopes subverted both by corporations serving up endless ads and an entire generation who’s attention span is quickly being reduced to 140 characters or less.
If you are a public figure, run a PR campaign or having something to sell, social media is great. But for human beings? Screw Mark Zuckerberg and all who sail within. I say that with such venom because Facebook is a genuine reflection of his character as a person. And I reject that vision utterly.
Mark my words, Facebook, Twitter and, as a matter of fact the general cultural attitude towards ‘openness’ and ‘social’ is to the mind, as dreadful to our century as was high fructose syrup in the twentieth and tobacco to the nineteenth. We’ll wake up fifty years from now and realise how utterly sick, and addicted we are, to something which initially tasted so sweet. And all because someone was clever enough to find the right pleasure center to target and then convince us something so fun couldn’t possibly be so bad for us.
Today we drive ourselves nuts and spend billions on diets, nicotine patches and hypnosis trying to rid ourselves of such deep-rooted addictions. Though it will happen well after I’m gone, I can’t help but wonder what sort of therapies will evolve to detox us from Facebook. It would not surprise me if Mr. Zuckerberg’s own grandson (‘Mark III’ anyone?) isn’t the guy who creates the start-up to find just such a cure.