[iDC] Replacing Facebook (Geert Lovink)

Sean Dockray sean at e-rat.org
Fri May 28 19:44:47 UTC 2010

i'm not sure if I'm doing this (sending a message to the list in  
response to Geert) right, but here goes nothing.
there's a few too many question marks and exclamation points and  
strident claims, but the form got the better of me.


Everyone now wants to know how to remove themselves from social  
networks. It has become absolutely clear that our relationships to  
others are mere points in the aggregation of marketing data. Political  
campaigns, the sale of commodities, the promotion of entertainment –  
this is the outcome of our expression of likes and affinities. And at  
what cost? The reward is obvious: we no longer have to tolerate  
advertisements for things for which we have no interest. Instead our  
social relations are saturated with public relations. But at least it  
is all *interesting*!

Unlike the old days, when we could invent online identities daily, our  
social networks today require fidelity between our physical self and  
our online self. The situation is unbearable.

The frightening consequence of it all is that we believe in the value  
of these networks. We understand perfectly well that our privacy is  
being renegotiated without our consent; the rules are changing in  
plain view; but we still participate! It is like a new form of money,  
something we realize is a myth, but we act like it is real and that is  
its power. We can’t leave because everyone else is there! Or because  
we are invested in the myth ourselves.

The question is how do we extract ourselves from this predicament?

Recently, some programmers figured out how to computationally do  
exactly this. By entering in your username and password, the software  
would delete as much information as possible, ultimately removing the  
account itself. It was a radical enough idea to attract the legal  
attention of Facebook.

This software did not go far enough!

When someone disappears from Facebook, does anyone notice? Does this  
software retroactively invalidate all of the marketing data that has  
been collected from the account? Has this person de-dividuated  
themselves? No, silence has not disrupted the system in the slightest!

Social networks need a social suicide. In the same way that 99.99999%  
of users on Facebook don’t exist within the cloistered world of one’s  
home page, an invisible user – one who has committed suicide – is  
simply a non-factor in the constant and regular computational logic of  
the thing. The answer isn’t silence, but noise!

Suicide on a social network is a matter of introducing noise into the  
system. It spreads viruses and misinformation. It makes things less  
interesting for others. It disrupts the finely calibrated advertising  
algorithms on which suggestions are made – for friends, groups,  
institutions, ideas, and so on. Social networking captures,  
quantifies, and capitalizes on positive feedback. It records and  
reproduces similarity. Oh yes, everyone is not watching one of three  
mass-produced choices; but beneath all of the possibilities there is  
only one choice! The one for you!

A roadmap for an effective Facebook suicide should do some of the  
following: catching as many viruses as possible; click on as many  
“Like” buttons as possible; join as many groups as possible; request  
as many friends as possible. Wherever there is the possibility for  
action, take it, and take it without any thought whatsoever. Become a  
machine for clicking! Every click dissolves the virtual double that  
Facebook has created for you. It disperses you into the digital lives  
of others you hadn’t thought of communicating with. It confuses your  
friends. It pulls all those parts of the world that your social  
network refuses to engage with back into focus, makes it present again.

Invisibility comes in many forms, and on social networks it is the  
form of a radical overload of information – a maximum participation.  
No more thought, because every considered click adds to the  
collaborative filtering algorithms that makes sure everyone continues  
to like what they like, but in slightly modified form. Click  
everywhere, click often, and don’t stop until you have disappeared  
beneath a flood of meaninglessness.

This is a call for suicide, for the abandonment of seriousness and  
belief. It is a call to reclaim ourselves from the sad version of  
ourselves that lives in that bloodless village. Don’t become nothing,  
the singular point defined by an absence, become everything, with  
everyone else. Drown the system in data and make a new world in the  
ruins that remain!

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