Tom Hodgkinson is bemused by the ascent of a new social network
The rise of inane Silicon Valley culture continues with the valuation of a messaging programme called Snapchat at nearly $20 billion ahead of its flotation on the stock market. Like Facebook and Google, the childishly-named Snapchat is in essence an ad sales company. It has millions of users, and it has a ton of information on those users, and that makes it an attractive place for big global brands to sell their wares and penetrate new markets. Investors love it even though it lost $515 million in 2016. They reckon it is going to grow very quickly.
And they will probably be right. What continues to amaze me is the dumb sheep-like behaviour of human beings. Because someone else is on Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter, then I have to be on it as well, even if I don’t really like it. That is how worthless crap conquers the world. And it is done very deliberately: Facebook’s first investor was Peter Thiel, who is a Trump-supporting futurist libertarian. When Facebook was in its infancy, he and Mark Zuckerberg were captivated by the philosophy of the late academic René Girard, who signature idea was what he called “mimetic desire”. This is essentially the rather depressing notion that the things we desire are copied from other people, and that we do not really think for ourselves. This was the philosophical foundation of Facebook: you are all a bunch of lemmings. Sadly Facebook was right, and dull, tedious computer programmers who have created an easy way for teenagers to send each other messages through the telephone (so what?) suddenly become billionaires. It is a strange world indeed.
These comments were mailed to us at [email protected] after the above piece was sent as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your views.
I myself was a reluctant Facebook sheep for about a year telling myself I had to be on because my whole family was on and “needed to know what was on my mind”. I hated it the entire time. Finally, when Trump was elected I couldn’t take it anymore. Now since the election I’ve reclaimed my time to do other more creative non virtual pursuits like playing musical instruments, reading actual print books, and philosophizing. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll choose these activities a thousand times over the billionaire techno spying ad world any day! Keep spreading the good cheer!
Racheal from Colorado USA
You may be interested to know that the inane Silicon Valley people who run the show do not allow mobile phones and computers in their homes. Not least because of the dangers of electronic smog. While the people of the world consider Silicon Valley to be the centre of the tech universe it is just where big business lives and where the money hungry type of techie goes. The true techies like Tim Berners Lee do not live there. In fact they are very disappointed that the internet they created (and control in terms of standards via their site wc3.org) has turned into a massive surveillance device. They recently met to talk about how to create the new internet which cannot be so easily spied on.
Twaffle and kerfaffle
Love the world of The Idler and receiving this rant on a grumpy pants morning I’m having . Love what you’re about. Philosophy, the arts and twaffling and twaddling and saying “kerfaffle!” to people who claim to know what we ought to be doing with our lives. Your suppers sound great too. Thank you for being refreshing in a world full of sheep.
PS Have been the worst offender of social media in the past personally, though my consolation is I used them badly to tell everyone how bad my life was instead of using them as intended to tell everyone how great one’s life is.
I v much approve. One of the most depressing things about contemporary life, this infantile need to tell people you’ve got a new pair of shoes, or are eating a sandwich — but WHY, I idly ask, is The Idler on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
V Grove (who leads a secret life, unshackled by social media)
The kids are all right (or will be)
I agree of course. Our kids will cotton on to the fact they are being manipulated. They’ll enjoy the challenge of sticking two fingers up – we just have to hope that anti-consumerism becomes cool again as it was when we were 19. Poverty and oppression, widening wealth inequality, inequality in educational opportunity, an officially unchallenged climate of bigotry, threat of a military call-up may also concentrate their minds unfortunately.
I could not agree more, but they’ve got you by the short and curlies. Everyone who has ever advised me on SEO has said I must be on Facebook and Twitter to get a decent Google ranking. How I miss the Yellow Pages.
Don’t knock it, use it
I disagree. The thing I have noticed is that the compulsion to do as others do grips a type of person who criticizes social media without apparently having seen its uses or advantages. I use Facebook daily. I have a married son in California. I have other relatives in New Zealand and Australia. My nearest family in this country are over 100 miles away. Yesterday our granddaughter, whom we have not seen for over a year, drove up here from Southampton on business and we were able to meet up with her in the evening and go out for a meal and hear all the latest news and gossip. All this was arranged via Facebook. This morning, via Facebook, I was able to message her parents who farm in far off SW Wales and to tell them all about it and they instantly replied.
Using Facebook and Twitter I and others have carried on the fight against the Brexiteers and petitioned against inviting the maniac from the United States to come on a state visit to this country. Twitter especially has brought politics and true democracy, in the sense of the people discussing the issues of the time, to life in a way previously unknown in my lifetime.
Facebook and Twitter are not worthless crap, they are global communication systems of a kind that did not exist when we wrote air mail letters on thin blue paper. Don’t knock them, use them. Do good with them and you will feel better.