If you talk to enough people, you will often find a divide on the merits of Facebook.
Our class is no different. As part of our learning about network cultures and aesthetics, we were literally divided into two groups to debate what José van Dijck refers to as ‘connectedness’ and ‘connectivity’:
“Perhaps ironically, commoditizing relationships—turning connected-ness into connectivity by means of coding technologies—is exactly what corporate platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, discovered as the golden egg their geese produced. Besides generating content, peer production yields a valuable by-product that users often do not intentionally deliver: behavioral and profiling data. Under the guise of connectedness they produce a precious resource: connectivity.” (2013: 16)
The ‘Affirmative Team’ championed Facebook’s attempts towards connectedness, while the ‘Negative Team’ lobbied for the case that Facebook does nothing more than cultivate connectivity.
As a member of the Negative Team, it was interesting to pull together something meaningful beyond the normal rhetoric of too much advertising and issues of privacy. One of our arguments centered on the curated self, and, on reflection, this route is of increasing interest. Is the patchwork of content that constitutes ones social media presence ever a true reflection of who we are? Like the paradigm of quantum theory, by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality. Social media elicits a skewed reality. The peer surveillance that we subscribe to is the performance engine that drives the actions of the curated self. Author Walter Kirn describes the options that are the result of this participatory behaviour:
“It looks as though we are confidently and voluntarily giving up every last bit of private information to the Web; it looks as though the last thing we fear is having our privacy invaded. But I’ve started to wonder if whether it’s a kind of ‘you can’t fire me, I quit’ reaction. That in a world where we don’t expect privacy; in a world where the default setting is ‘you can find out anything about me’, we want to be in control of our image. And a generation that’s trained to make itself look good on Facebook is really in fact converting a certain anxiety it has about its real self being seen, into a performance.
You’ve got two options when you find out you’re under surveillance. One is hide, and the other is perform. We pick perform.” (Zomorodi: 2015)