What Will Become Of Social Media

The collapse of Facebook will certainly come within the next two years and with it Zuckerberg’s empire and wealth.  The following is from The Market Ticker:

A California judge recently ruled that The Social Network will face a class-action lawsuit following accusations that it peeked at users’ private messages without consent to deliver targeted advertising. Facebook tried to dismiss the claims, saying that it didn’t break any laws and that the alleged message scans were protected under an exception in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to Reuters. Which one specifically? That these “interceptions” are lawful if they occur over the “ordinary course” of a service provider’s business. The presiding judge countered, saying that Zuckerberg and Co. failed to offer explanation of how the scans fell under the website’s ordinary course of business.

Given that there is the future liability of a settlement for $10,000 per each user, Facebook is effectively bankrupt.  But the spillover will be into other social media organizations such as Google.  We should see a mass of account closures on Facebook that that will be reflected on its ability to garner revenue from advertising.  At the moment, Google will face a future class action lawsuit for reading its customers’ email and using that information to target the user with advertising.  At issue is privacy.  We may laugh when we hear that the NSA is reading our emails since very few of us ever place anything of interest in them.  But imagine if the NSA started to target us with advertisement based on our emails and other private electronic correspondence.  Well, that would certainly be one way to pay down the national debt and federal deficit.  Now normally I would feel sorry for all those people we would need to employ to sit and read our private correspondence but thankfully it is done by computers who never get bored with the picayune sentiments exchanged between humans.

Social media was suppose to change the world and to some extent it has, just not in the ways originally envisioned.  A good many false promises bloomed and turned into bitter thorns.  The privacy issue is just one result.  What the real issue has become is that so many expected a free lunch from social media.  Good things for society were suppose to happen with so little or no effort.  The promise of a more united society has turned into a more divided society.  And with the ability to be anonymous individuals feel freer to indulge in more hateful behavior.  Rupert Brown did the research into the soccer riots in England many years ago when police and by-standers were injured by soccer fan mobs.  Shops were destroyed and some looted.  What he found was this.  People who are normally good law abiding citizens under ordinary circumstances turn into mobs whose behavior is out of control simply because they feel that they have become anonymous.  When we lose that social identity in a social situation we are tempted to behavior in a manner we would find repugnant.  That is, we lose our social accountability to society.

I laugh at those groups who use a number of software programs to show that racism has grown on the internet.  The count of the various negative or racist messages (and here again one must ask how a message, posting, tweet, etc is deemed racist) have, according to their software analysis  risen in the last couple of years.  One might argue that what is being counted as racist feelings is little more than a tiredness and disgust at hearing the same old complaints recounted as news.  I must go back to the late sixties and early seventies when much of mainstream America was not so much anti Vietnam war but simply tired of the ten years the war had been the main subject of the news.  This is not a new phenomena, it was noticed by observers in Germany during WWII.  A certain numbness sets in with the occasional outburst of anger and despair.  Social media makes these outbursts possible by providing that anonymity against the backlash that others would unleash against such a complainer.

The fact of the matter is, social media is very facile, very impersonal, and very plastic.  On the one hand it is an extension of our personalities and characters, on the other it hides the real us from the world.  Online dating is full of those individuals who are pretending to be what they aren’t and never will be.  Social accounts and pages allow us to post only what we want other people to see without the worry that our true selves will be discovered.  It becomes a one way interaction, a way to filter one’s being and filter others without risk.  We have come to live in a false world, and I would imagine the more inured we become to this false world the more we may lose touch with the reality of a real society and thus become suicidal.  I found that when I was in the military I felt very isolated from the real world.  This happens the most when one is overseas in a strange land among strange people and thus isolated.  Outside of your platoon no one knows who you are.  Of course when I lived in a large city and was a stranger I faced that same problem, but alone.  There was no network of individuals I could rely on.  This is the ugly face of social media, those false friends who will fail us due to distance and non commitment.  This is the bankruptcy of social media.


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