“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Eric Schmidt
I finished Deep Work by Cal Newport last week and started The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains by Nick Carr over the weekend, so I’ve got the hows, whys, and wherefores of Facebook and Twitter on my mind. There’s a good chance I will be
inflictingsharing some of these thoughts with you over the next few weeks. The books are about the longer term neurological effects social media makes has our brains, but as I step away and evaluate what I do and do not get from them, I see more.
Facebook is the place for many things; fighting with friends over politics, fighting with “friends” over politics, laughing at pictures of cats, laughing at pictures of “friend’s” cats, etc.
It’s also the place where Facebook wants you to sacrifice your privacy for the privilege of doing those things. As its enfant terrible CEO said:
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” – Mark Zuckerberg
This is his justification for making the sharing of your information with advertisers the default option, rather than something you are asked permission for. After all, polluting your browser and phone with battery-sapping code isn’t cheap. The man has needs.
It can’t be said often enough: if it’s free that means you are the product.
But Zuckerberg does have a point: while 19th and 20th Century Western Society embraced the idea of privacy, that value seems to be eroding today in the name of conformism. We want out celebrities and politicians to live open lives. As a tabloid reporter said in 2011; “Privacy is for paedos.”
There is a line somewhere, between what we need to know about the people that influence our lives, and what we don’t. There’s another line (somewhere much closer to the “nothing, so fuck off” border,) between what we need to know about everyone else and what we don’t. We, however, are allowing this line to be redrawn by the government, private industry, and our “friends.”
But Facebook and its ilk have a more insidious effect:
“The demonisation of the private sphere, sullied with connotations of abuse and corruption, rests on the denigration of individual freedom and autonomy in general. We cannot be left alone, and, too often now, we no longer want to be left alone (emphasis added.) Independence of thought and life has been supplanted by instagrammed dependence on the validation of others.” – Tim Black
I think this touches on something I often see on both Facebook and Twitter: over-the-top declarations of conformity. It’s not enough to just quietly agree or even just click the “like” button. Our acknowledgments have to be immediate and heartfelt, preferably full-throated and a little threatening to any who disagree.
There’s a connection between groupthink, individuality, and a loss of privacy. A desire to fit in often leads to a desire to disclose. This desire to disclose becomes social proof, and then the norm becomes disclosure.