October 22, 2012

R.I.P Facebook

I logged into Facebook after almost a year and it looks like an airport trashcan.

Airport trashcan?

I mean too much glossy crap. Just a year back Facebook had interesting articles, intelligent view-points and emoticon riddled discussions. We had good jokes, incisive articles, useful personal updates and lots of cat videos. It used to feel like a nice relaxing dinner party with intelligent conversations.

Now it is littered with people redeeming gift coupons, store sale reward points, massage parlour offers, phone recharge discounts, travel tickets, vacation packages, movie ticket stubs… What's with this sociopathic trend of celebrating consumption?

Why are you pissed?

I thought you at least had to be a Facebook tourist to be proud of your shopping based achievements but this guy just posted a picture of his wireless modem with the caption “My new wireless modem :D :D :D :D”!

Hey, I know that guy. He did a whole photo shoot titled “My first External Hard drive :)) :)) :P :P” sometime last month. It was self-shot and he also applied an Instagram filter to make it look like 1967!

And these social readers… God, I hate them. I clicked on a webpage to get a better look at Scarlett Johansson's cleavage in the thumbnail and er… it… it might’ve been publicly shared over your wall.

That was you? How many times have I TOLD you NOT to use my Facebo…

Oh, puh-leeze! You’re worried about privacy now?

I told people it wasn't me but they never believed me. Now they probably thinks of me as a non-biodegradable plastic bottle of sleaze!

Look, I am sorry. How was I supposed to know that the default privacy setting would be set to public? Besides, thousands of people fell for the “social reading” thing, so you're not alone.

What the hell is “social reading” anyway? Since when is “reading” a social activity? Reading is something you do when you sit in peace, introspect and expand your understanding of this vast and wonderful universe in the privacy of your toilet!

Exactly. 300 curious humans clicking on a link titled, “Is Aishwarya Rai’s daughter actually a son?” on Washington Post Reader within the same two hour window is not reading, it is just mouse-clicking!

Mouse clicking – now that’s an activity that doesn’t get much credit.

Then there are apps that let people share their “activity”. NSFW videos on Dailymotion, shitty music on Spotify, "free chewing gum" coupons from Groupon... since when are all these things important enough to be shared with 600 other people? Who gives a shit if you have checked into a second hand pani-puri store on Foursquare?

Facebook realized that people willingly share only one or two articles out of every ten they read. Natural filters like “personality” and “thought” were filtering all the bullshit. But “thought” and “personality” are not good for the advertising business. So they essentially said, “Look it’s not what you like. It is about what you do.”

And what you humans do is order pizza, watch item songs and read celebrity gossip.

Yes, 90% of the time. #sigh

A Facebook profile was like having an alter-ego where everyone did their own thing. People shared their interests and hobbies. Some folks were into sports, some got all worked up about politics. A few vehemently defended their favourite tech company while others worried about endangered reptiles, stock market scams, science news, suicidal cotton farmers, art movies, and pretentious personal blogs…

Yeah, I got to know a lot about mere acquaintances and distant relatives just based on what they enthusiastically shared and friendships formed quickly on that basis.

Remember that guy who both loved celeb gossip and quantum loop-gravity and how one affected the other?

Do not judge others when you know nothing about quantum loop-gravity.

It wasn’t perfect last or anything with all the photographers and HIMs but it still was an eclectic collection of information, entertainment, knowledge, silliness, and emotion until the marketing cockroaches came along and started taking over.

The root of the problem is that Facebook became “Facebook Inc. – the publicly traded hundred billion dollar company.” Going public means that their loyalty now lies only with the stock holders, not the users. The stock market doesn’t care about the quality. The only thing it cares about is more profits every quarter.

When there is a virtual monopoly in a saturated market, the only way you can show increasing profits quarter after quarter is either by reducing costs like Walmart does, thanks to easily available slave labour all around the world, or by monetizing your users like product placements in sports, increasingly intrusive ads on Youtube, “Trending articles” on Facebook etc.

But let us not entirely blame a corporation’s quest for quarterly profits for the mess. You humans suck big time. You are the ones sharing fake inspirational stories, Satya Sai Baba blessings, photos of kidnapped children, pity posts for impoverished African kids, prayers for people with weird genetic diseases, and the worst of them all, “share if you love your immediate-family-member” statuses.

Can’t argue against that. I once saw a status that said “Share this post within 3 seconds if you really love your Mom.” Three seconds? There is a time limit for this shit now?

At least the marketing people are making some money off the shit they produce. What do they get out of sharing these things?

Twenty three likes?

Yeah. We cats may do a lot of disgusting things when you’re not looking but we never annoy fellow felines for fake attention. Only humans do it. You’re the ones who don’t think twice about annoying 80 other species if it gives you 8% off on AA batteries. You people are more than happy to trade your online identities for some extra mayonnaise on your garlic bread.

That is quite condescending coming from a species that can be tricked into chasing its own tail.

Maybe you’re just a cheap species and Facebook just made easier be “yourself”. Think about it. The creators of Facebook knew your weakness all along. You think they were giving you an account and all that space for freedom of expression for free? Bullshit, no one does that.
If you’re not paying, you’re the product being sold.

Probably. It’s same case with newspapers too. It takes about 8 rupees to publish, print and deliver a copy of Times of India. We pay only a fraction and bulk of it is paid for by advertising. Not just the Times of India, any newspaper for that matter.

The sales pitch of the newspapers is, “Look, we have a large number of uninformed readers who have an affinity for cleavage. Do you want to sell them some Axe deodorant?” The newspaper is not selling you ads. It is selling you to the advertisers!

They’re not newspapers anymore. They are advertising companies. They are all advertising companies. Facebook, Google, all the news channels, music channels, movies, sports… they’re all in the business of showing us ads. That is their primary duty. That is what drives them. Everything else they do is a by-product.

Comic books icon William Gaines and Editor Harvey Kurtzman created the MAD comic magazine which went on to become a highly-acclaimed masterpiece in American culture. Those guys had just one rule: NO GODDAMN ADS.

For decades, that policy helped them become pioneers in satirizing everything about the shallow materialist culture free from any conflict of interests with their funding sources.

I think it is time for Facebook to retire as yet another impressive subculture that got sold out because of our soul-selling, opportunistic behaviour.

Of course, after 5 decades of taking no shit from nobody, the old owners along with their values retired. MAD magazine started allowing the ads.
The ad guys always win.

Everyone else is sold out. Only crowd-sourced or subscription based outlets like EPW, NewsClick etc. have managed to inculcate and maintain standards. Maybe that is the way to go.

The way to go? You don’t even have an independent sub-culture that shows the finger to the ‘Advertising, Bollywood and Corporate power’ establishment dictating the mainstream narrative of your country and you’re dreaming of a future where Indians pay for high quality things?

I am just saying that the media and the arts need to be decentralized and democratized if there has to be any reasonable change.

I am honestly surprised you still have hope on humanity. Remember, you are the same species that inherited this beautiful planet and now you’re burning down the homes of polar-bears for insurance money! Forget about it. Now, scratch me on my head like a good boy… and below the neck too.

Make it quick, I have to step out.

Share this within 3 seconds if you really love your brother-in-law's second cousin.

Written by Flawsophy. Edited by me. CSS styling by @apnerve

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