We Control The Transmission…
In the German village of Hamelin there is a plaque that reads “A.D. 1284 — on the 26th of June — the day of St John and St Paul — 130 children — born in Hamelin — were led out of the town by a piper wearing multicoloured clothes. After passing the Calvary near the Koppenberg they disappeared forever.”
The Pied Piper is a real and factual historical account about a village that hired someone to rid them of rats. The piper did as he promised and the rats followed him out of the village. Then they didn’t pay him. So the Piper returned and played a tune that mesmerized 130 kids and young adults and they followed him out of tow as he played. They followed for miles until they reached another town. They never returned.
The Pied Piper is a good metaphor when discussing Facebook. Facebook’s preferred technological medium is the Internet-enabled handheld device. The Facebook feed and the use of cellphones to stay on that feed is the modern Pied Piper.
In the book A Companion to New Media Dynamics, Alexander Halavais talks about Gatekeepers and their role in shepherding mass thought. “Ingar Brink argues that our shift from attempting to affect the behavior of others to trying to affect their mental state requires new ways of attending to the environment and sharing those objects of attention with other people. Our ability to have some form of control over what we attend to is essential to how we come to think individually, and how we communicate those thoughts socially (he’s citing authors Bruner and Tomasello)”.
Gatekeepers maintain control of how communications agendas are set. What you are fed on social media is pursuant to how you are being primed and how the information is being framed. Facebook uses its technology to shape thought forms and the patterns those thoughts make as they proliferate though large numbers of users. In using this technique, Facebook is telling you which thoughts are valid, and through repetition it becomes the norm.
This new norm is a new method of disconnection. While you are being sold the imagery of enhanced connection through their provision of an ability to maintain connection to family and friends, you are actually being slowly taught to accept the new parameters of acceptability. Some of the fallout of this new model of processing your perceptions is the adoption of polarization and fear. Facebook loves fostering polarizing viewpoints and a culture of fear because there’s money in it. A fuck ton of it.
What Facebook and other social media outlets have done is given agency to the darker impulses in society. We are witnessing the rise — and the flourishing success — of the Contrarian. Contrarians are anti-science, anti-government, anti-authority and anti-accountability. They will die on that hill if necessary. They are convinced of things such as a flat earth, the evils of vaccines and big brother spying on them 24/7, etc. Whatever the established, vetted science declares as the current state of knowledge, the Contrarians will immediately begin shouting about how it’s all bullshit and The Man is trying to control them.
This contrarian mindset is nurtured by an environment of distrust. Facebook knows that if distrust becomes the norm they can keep the fires of polarity stoked and sell the increased traffic at premium rates to advertisers and other purchasers of its user data. That word — traffic — that’s you. You are the commodity that is being bought and sold on Facebook. The traffic patterns and thought patterns the users create by being on Facebook are highly valuable to buyers. Advertisers, law enforcement, government intelligence, even some academic researchers are all examples where buyers can be found. Facebook knows this. Facebook is all about this.
Do you ever stop to wonder why Facebook seems to be loaded with trolls and people arguing about everything? Everything. Fucking everything. It’s because the company makes sure the pot keeps getting stirred up. They engineer the environment that keeps you shocked, angry and worried. This is a proven technique that all but guarantees a high level of user engagement.
Also consider this point: Since 2004, the new state of real-world disconnect has been steadily creating a loss of ability to maintain face-to-face focus and engage in an actual conversation for a duration longer than one minute. This state of disconnect was explored at length by esteemed filmmaker Tiffany Shlain in her 2011 documentary entitled, Connected. Everyone is glued to their device, building their friends lists, but no one is communicating device-free and face-to-face. This is the trend now, and it is more than a little disconcerting.
Now remember, you use Facebook free of charge, so where do you think Zuckerberg’s money comes from? It comes from selling your activity data to the highest bidder. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal net worth is currently over $116 billion dollars. Despite technically earning a salary of only $1, his 400 million shares of Facebook stock pay him quite lucratively on an ongoing basis. He’s not worried about the things normal people like you are forced to endure. You know, like living indoors, paying bills, being safe, etc. The Zuck is a fundamentally detached human that looks at you only as a resource.
You are, in point of fact, an unpaid employee of Facebook. They tout it as a free service, but you are the fuel that runs the Facebook business model — and they are making a killing from your unwitting acquiescence to your assigned role. You are not much different from livestock chattel — they lead you around with ease and make money off of you.
If you use Facebook, you work for Facebook.