Facebook’s Second Life

“Once it was clear how bad it was and how mismatched they were, everybody had this awakening: We have made some mistakes, but these guys know even less,” an anonymous executive told Nicholas Thompson, editor in chief of Wired who reported on Facebook’s internal reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Washington D.C., which was (as my readers know) a predictable bit of pantomime and theater.

The Wired article, it reaffirmed the reality of Facebook: everyone has a cultish devotion to their leader and serve at the pleasure of Zuckerberg. I wonder if there is room for dissenting voices in the kingdom, and if there are, can they be heard. Back in the day when Microsoft was at the eye of the storm, its management team and managers below them became more cautious in their approach to business. It was fear of the government and, a tiny bit of self-accountability. Reading various accounts of the internal reaction at Facebook, you can easily see that there is not going to be behavior modification.

Facebook is and will always be addicted to personal data, and data-informed algorithms and offering an effective advertising platform. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the drama of the past few weeks has not dampened advertisers enthusiasm for the platform.

The web citizens might have retweeted and shared the #deleteFacebook meme, but not many did. The reason is simple — most of us don’t have amazing lives, we struggle with the harsh reality of living, and perhaps that’s why we need the opiate of an alternate reality. We need the fantasy of being part of something else, which isn’t about struggling to pay bills or deal with crumbling social relationships. It is escapism. It is the second life, the Second Life never became.

Instagram is no different — it is an alternate reality, an escape into the world of beautiful landscapes, perfect bodies and a kaleidoscope of selfies that remind us every day — look at me, I am here. Look at me: I am beautiful. Look at me: I matter.

In my months of abstaining from Facebook and about four weeks of staying away from Instagram has taught me that what matters is the reality — the reality of relationships and the real world around me. Instagram is fun, lot more fun than Facebook. However, in the end, it is a platform for delivering ads. We need to learn to figure out how to live with it. It isn’t a great truth teller of fashion, style or photographic excellence. Instead, it is a rapidly churning machine of collecting likes and showing ads. And it’s okay. As long as we know that, we can take a break.

Where do we go from here? Perhaps it’s small groups in new chat applications? But it’s only a matter of time that they start injecting advertising into those platforms. Or some other form of making money. It is an unending cycle — all we can do is be real about this.

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