Game Over for Facebook?

Is the game over for Facebook?

Would this outrage of knowing that the network is controlling us - reading out our most guarded desires and obsessions and feeding and fuelling the same through the mechanics of mind control - drive many to really delete themselves from Facebook?

Is that even possible, to let a digital me die unmourned? Someone I nurtured so diligently, someone who anchors me into a different world of digital connections and relationships, affords meaning beyond the day-to-day affectations - can I let the person pass away without an effort? 

And, yet, can I allow that person to control my life, my ideas and my engagements with the world? Can I let this digital demon, simply because I can't let go, manipulate the world on my behalf, subverting my most cherished ideals and making me a patsy for secretive billionaires and manipulators? Wouldn't that be an act of incorrigible narcissism, an act of submission to an evil empire, cowardice not unlike those which let dictators thrive?

Facebook seems naked these days, with all its chest-thumping about freedom being exposed as a sham, and its dark callousness as a hand-maiden of special interests spilling out in astonishing rapidity. It is just like the climax of Dave Eggers' The Circle, when the secrets of those who controlled the secrets have been prised open, that inevitable moment of human conscience triumphing over self interest has come. In this age of lost innocence, my digital creation is tainted: Should I let it go?

It is not unprecedented: My Orkut, hi5 and Myspace selves died before. I let them fade away. The Facebook may just be the same. It is not like the commandment to sacrifice your son, but rather trivial: It's like stopping to play Kingdom of Camelot and move on!

But it's more: Because there are other people, dear friends, those I met in real life and kept in touch on Facebook, those I met in Facebook and kept in touch with real life, those I lost and rediscovered, those I am waiting to discover, who I have to let go. I can really do with those few moments social media steals from my daily life, but have I not got more back than I gave?

In this dilemma, I am choosing a middle path, at least for the moment. I am not yet ready to kill my social self, but rather try to return it to innocence. A little dabbling into my Account Settings exposed that it is not just a relationship between my friends and me, but rather a total of 76 apps that I sign into everytime I get into Facebook, which tracks my interactions, and often, because I gave it permission, control them by being able to post on my behalf. Some of these are services I use - Goodreads, Amazon or AddThis among them - and media I read, like New York Times or The Guardian. Yet, many of them - a total of 40 - are just temptations I succumbed to temporarily, which promised to show me how I would look 40 years hence, or who is visiting my profile secretly or who is really my best friend, and took over my social life in return. My spring-cleaning involved deleting all of these, and then restricting the other, 'legit' apps, from posting on my behalf, click-baiting others. 

So, that's my new social self, less of a walking billboard and more an unadorned avatar seeking to connect. However, this may indeed be death to my FB self, as it is not a worldwide space for people connecting to people - that would be Internet - but really a private service that revolved around commodifying relationships. Once I withdraw my permissions for it to commodify my relationships and me, and refuse to be part of its commercial web, I deny its lifeblood. Facebook is no longer the worldwide commercial consent network that advertisers paid for, but another space where attention has to be gained the hard way.

 

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