Sunday, May 25, 2014

Facebook is ruined and it's all your fault (Yes you!)

Viral videos have always been a mixed blessing. After all, remember the bad old days of the Crazy Frog which was (sort-of) funny at first but was ruined by reposting and overhyping until it disappeared completely up it’s own arse. Not a tear was shed after the frog passed into ignoble oblivion with a feeble “rnng dngg croooak”.

The same may one day be said of Social Networking beheamoth Facebook, which is rapidly approaching a similar fate due to the explosion of viral sharing videos, campaigns and articles. If I was to hazard a guess at Facebooks proximity to it’s own anus, I would say it’s precariously skirting around the sphincter.

 Now, no one can take away the amazing achievements Facebook has achieved. Let’s look at stats such as over a billion subscribers (as of 1/1/2014) and a steady growth. No social network has ever achieved such highs and the rivals Facebook has seen off such as Twitter, Myspace, Bebo and Google+ is admirable.

However such saturation doesn’t come without problems. First of all an increases in users means an increase in people who you add or add you and that includes people you maybe don’t want watching your daily thoughts and musings. Parents, relatives, bosses etc all are people you maybe want to tread a cautious social line with of course. Then there are people who have way too many irrelevant things to say.

This is an endemic problem with humanity, especially as now humanity stands at a crossroads wondering just where to go next. Do we keep producing shit until the world blows up or we are all millionaire kings living in golden castles, do we scale down national boundries more and more until we have little communities of like minded sycophants living together and casting out thought criminals or do we abandon the trappings of modern living for a naturalistic life of self discovery. This represents three very big ethos of capitalism, nationalism and natural living, which are incredibly popular at this time if Facebook is to be believed. However the worst thing is everyone now has a voice to express this and this leads to a lot of chatter and a lot of it is pointless or just self-centred.

Normally these ideas didn’t spread as fast as there was no way to build communities but now that’s no longer the case and you are to blame, as are Facebook and me. Ideas spread fast but unfortunately the human mind hasn’t adapted fast enough to maybe discern when these ideas are lacking in actual practicality or whether they are straightforward bullshit.

This brings me to my main point which is the sharing of moralistic viral videos or overshared campaigns (normally backed up by clickbait headlines – notice I have done the same thing and I will sadly disappointed if this goes viral as it will confirm my worst suspicions). I no longer believe a video will make me speechless, nor that something will blow my mind. I’ve been disappointed too many times. However these things spread and spread and get reposted to the point where your Facebook feed is clogged. Facebook to its credit has done a lot to try and fix this by combining posts together but that nonwithstanding doesn’t make it any more heartening when the same story comes up again and again.

Moral campaigning in general has become very popular of late given just how damn effective it is. Case in point recently in the UK was the viral hit the No-Make-Up selfie, spearheaded by Cancer Research UK. It made tons of money (here being the key success point for the charity), raised perhaps some awareness of cancer (I think we know it exists already but ok) and was fucking everywhere. This was jarring for 4 reasons:

1.       It was fucking everywhere. Seriously I don’t think there was a day without the damn thing popping up in my face.
2.       One of my friends was actually working on the team behind this campaign (the degrees of separation are getting ever smaller)
3.       I’ve suffered personal losses from Cancer and hate the disease to pieces but found myself perhaps hating this campaign more. This felt strange as I’m not pro Cancer. Is anyone for that matter?
4.       It shames people into action, specifically giving the charity money (charities are businesses remember).
5.       Why the fuck is it brave or inspiring to not wear make up? One of the better points of discussion that the campaign raised.

Net shaming seems very common now and this is the problem with a lot of this digital propaganda. It takes a cosy view of the world and gives you a morally linear point of view. There’s not a lot you can say against it because otherwise you’re a grouch, an untermensh or in the case of the above that you’re pro cancer (remember people: Cancer exists and is bad!).

I don’t know who to blame for this. Of course I blame you as the collective you is the problem (and that of course includes me. Honestly, I should really know better!). However there is something in us that makes us suckers for twee cutesy things and ideas. How else could the Doge meme and cats in general have overwhelmed the internet with their presence?

We like to think the internet is talking directly to us or urging us towards positive action, as if we matter in the spectrum of the 5-6 billion online users and are not insignificant specs that could be enveloped and destroyed if we step too far out of line. That’s right the human race isn’t a big brotherhood of wellwishers (well, not yet at least) the human race is a baying crowd of animals, albeit with slightly better manners than our ape friends.
This belief plays very well into the hands of opinion leaders and writers chancing for a viral hit (this is where I’m to blame). If you think the internet is talking to you are more likely to heed its advice or criticism (hence the fact I have made it so my own headline is directly addressed to you. See now how susceptible you are?). There are so many cringeworthy videos like Look Up or that stupid article about why the world should be vegetarian, which devout vegetarian or moralist purists love. We all are searching for ways to be the perfect people and these videos click very well into place for that. People love something that moralises away complexity to create a simple, albeit fundamentalist messages to be special inspirational snowflakes (Chuck Palahniuk said it better though).

As a brief side point to that don’t eat meat article. On the whole I agree aggressive farming methods are bad and should be curtailed but going vegan or full on vegetarian is a very oversimplified approach. I have many vegan and vegetarian friends and I can tell you one thing they all have in common. They are nearly always ill or tired. Moderation is the key but that kind of headline doesn’t lead to Facebook shares of course. Oh and telling people to stop having so many kids helps too. Seriously the meat problem would be far reduced if people stopped trying to make the world a better place by filling it with their clones. Biological imperatives be hanged!

All this leads to my big points.
1.       Stop thinking the internet is talking for you
2.       Stop thinking you’re special
3.       Stop clicking things that are trying too hard for your attention
4.       Stop making horrendous click bait headlines that try too hard to get your attention

Also I appreciate that I’m using Facebook to promote this post and am inadvertently directing some traffic towards these trends but it can’t be helped so save the hypocrisy arguments. I know, after all, it’s all my fault too.

If you want to read more rantyness about Look Up's rise and rise to ironic success by decrying social media whilst benefiting from its existence this article is pretty good too.

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