Keeping us separated

I noticed that Facebook’s feed seems to have been updated yet again. I’m starting to see a lot more posts which are not sponsored but are not from my friends or from any of the pages or groups that I follow. Just idle recommendations that take the place of the content that I came to see.

Part of me would like to believe that it’s not malicious but rather just a bumbling attempt at keeping users engaged. But I really don’t think that’s the case. This feels like an intentional use of the slot machine mechanic of addiction (where you only get a tiny taste of what you want so that you feel the need to keep engaging in the addictive behavior harder) combined with an effort to intentionally separate us by obfuscating our posts from one another.

It also occurs to me that this is happening at a time where I’m hearing the cries for unionization and for revolution growing louder and more strained and I have to imagine that this is not a coincidence. If I’m capable of hearing these cries from multiple demographics and political ideals, then you better believe that Facebook’s big data brains have been hearing the cries too. I have to wonder if these new algorithm changes are an attempt to stop these unionization or revolution efforts. If you keep use separate, then you keep us controllable, right?

This is not the first time or the only way in which people have been kept separated by the tools of capitalism. Don’t you find it weird that we’re forced to be in a place for a third of our lives which implicitly or explicitly prohibits socialization and the discussion of serious topics such as politics, religion, and finances? Isn’t it suspicious that service-class jobs have the worst schedules that make it hard to live one’s own life and maintain friendships let alone meaningfully organize as a community? The lack of living wages is itself enough to keep people constantly thinking about how they’re going to to pay their bills instead of spending that time and energy fighting the forces that keep them in poverty.

I find these attempts by Facebook and other social media platforms to be especially insidious even if they’re less aggressive than the other anti-collectivist tactics that capitalism has to offer. They’re offering us an easy and convenient way to stay in touch with one another, while doing everything they can to make sure that our connections are less meaningful. When that alone doesn’t work, they’re making those genuine connections less frequent by inserting other things that have the same shape as the connections we’re trying to make.

Quite honestly, I’m fed up with it and I hope you are too. I think we need to recognize the flaws in the system that is being offered to us and really sit with those feelings so that we can come up with a real alternative. Not just trading one corporate giant for another but choosing to change the whole culture behind these connections and interactions. If it is precious to us to stay connected, I hope that we can put some serious intentionality behind those connections and really invest in them.

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