Hey there, Nathanael.
Well, first, let’s start with Facebook itself.
Facebook is the third of what is probably a quartet (or quintet) of the destruction of the innocence of computing. First was viruses, second was malware, third is facebook. I suspect fourth will be related to control of networking itself, and fifth will be licensing of high level computer ability. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Facebook is a living computer nightmare. Just as viruses took the advantages of sharing information on floppies and modems and revealed a devastating undercarriage to the whole process, making every computer transaction suspect… and just as spyware/malware took advantage of beautiful advances in computer strength and horsepower to turn your beloved machine of expression into a gatling gun of misery and assholery… Facebook now stands as taking over a decade and a half of the dream of the World Wide Web and turning it into a miserable IT cube farm of pseudo human interaction, a bastardized form of e-mail, of mailing lists, of photo albums, of friendship. While I can’t really imply that it was going to be any other way, I can not sit by and act like this whole turn of events hasn’t resulted in an epidemic of ruin that will have consequences far-reaching from anything related to archiving.
Each era of computing has had companies that rose above the others, whose stratospheric rise in income and success and mindshare and whatever else marketing fucktards want to call it turned heads. A start-up goes from an eyebrow-raiser to a non-proper noun to a verb. A million asshole salespeople and technological wannabes and pundits and sniffing elites make the word longer, as in “like facebook”. Something is like facebook, does something like facebook, wants to be like facebook, is like facebook but in some way different that somehow will magically propel it in even farther, without realizing that under contemporary situations, facebook is as high up as you want to go.
Microsoft did awful fucking things. I mean, all the time. Really awful things. So did IBM, way back when. Compaq? Assholery. Sony? Doing ten awful fucking things this morning before breakfast. Of course awful things are on the agenda and the lifeblood of any firm so big that it can affect law, affect standards, make millionaires just sucking under its folding metal chair for breadcrumbs. Facebook is just doing it to People.
People aren’t just eating Facebook’s Shit Sherbet of overnight upgrades, of lack of guarantees and standards, of enveloping tendrils of web standard breaking. They are shoveling it down. They’re grabbing two crazy handfuls of Facebook every minute of every day when they’re not forced to walk down a hallway or look up from their phones or ipads or laptops or consoles. They’re grabbing buckets of Facebook and finding ways to shove it down with one hand while pawing around for a second bucket. People have bought the fuck in.
Remember that week when Facebook decided which of your friends would show up on your what’s new thing? That was great. Remember a week or two ago when they changed the behavior of the Enter key in text boxes? Awesome. How about that nosebleed you got when they changed privacy/information standards six different ways, trying them on like new Malibu Stacy hats, as an audience ranging from barely literate mouthbreathers to computer scientists got to experience One True Rogering Of Personal Information. And there we all were! We wondered if there was some sort of App we could install in Facebook to give us a third bucket and arm to keep that Sherbet coming.
The old saw is that people don’t understand that Facebook doesn’t consider the users their customers – they consider the advertisers their customers. Make no mistake, this is true... but it implies that Facebook takes some sort of benign “let’s keep humming along and use this big herd of moos to our advantage”. But it doesn’t. Facebook actively and constantly changes up the game, makes things more intrusive, couldn’t give less of a shit about your identity, your worth, your culture, your knowledge, your humanity, or even the cohesive maintenance of what makes you you. Facebook couldn’t care less about you than if it was born in your lower intestine and ripped out of you in the middle of the night.
I use Facebook every single day. Because of its disgust and distaste for borders and stratum, I’ve gotten back in touch with some very important folks in my past, and used Facebook to get information about a variety of people and figures that are relevant to my work in history and research. I can do this because Facebook lets you rip through millions of profiles to spearfish just the knowledge you need, out of a blazing torrent of intrusion and exposure, and grab the tailcoat of a person’s life and yank hard, real hard. I use Facebook, in other words, like a search tool on human beings. For that, it is really great.
But the fact that anyone would put anything of any unique nature on there, that matters to them, is beyond insanity – it’s identity suicide. It’s like you are intentionally driving down the road of life, ripping pages of your journal and photo albums, and tossing them out the window. Good luck finding anything again. Good luck knowing in six months, a year, something will even be findable. Try and communicate with anyone using their designed-by-a-second-trimester-fetus “message” system with any of the features from the last 30 years. Go back and try and negotiate it for search and topic control and usefulness. No. Not happening. Everything on Facebook is Now. Nothing, and I mean nothing on Facebook is Then. Or even last month.
So asking me about the archiving-ness or containering or long-term prospect of Facebook for anything, the answer is: none. None. Not a whit or a jot or a tiddle. It is like an ever-burning fire of our memories, gleefully growing as we toss endless amounts of information and self and knowledge into it, only to have it added to columns of advertiser-related facts we do not see and do not control and do not understand.
As we watch this machine, this engine that runs on memories and identity and watch it sell every last bit of us to anyone who will pay, as it mulches under our self and our dreams and our ideas and turns them into a grey miserable paste suitable for a side dish or the full entree of the human online experience, I am sure many of us will say it’s no big deal. It should say something that in the face of this situation, having watched what has happened, what has transpired and likely will transpire, that I am not even trying. I’m not giving one goddamned second of thought to extraction or archiving or longevity or meaning. I can only hope that all the projects and processes and memories and history that I am focusing on will make me happy in the face of the colorless, null-void cloud of pre-collapsed galaxy that is the Facebook Nebula.
Thanks for your question!
Categorised as: computer history
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