Everyone remember the “We come from Facebook” banners carried by Brazilian anti-government protesters last year?
A new study released by Facebook’s “Data Science” team demonstrates that they were able to manipulate the emotions of users on the site. All they did was reduce the amount of “positive” or “negative” posts presented to users’ News Feeds. After doing this, the “experimental subject” users subsequently tended to be more negative or positive in their own posts.
In other words, Facebook is able to mass-mind-control people’s emotional states just by tweaking an algorithm!
And that’s not all. The study conclusively demonstrates “emotional contagion” in social networks, allowing emotional states to “spread” across the sites like infectious diseases. Simply by reading people’s posts, you’ve been infected!
The distinclty unpleasant implications of this latter point have been noted by commentators, who compared Facebook to a “social contagion that caused hive-mind behavior”  and worse.
But perhaps the best observation relates not to the phenomena itself, but to the implications. This “web 2.0 global brain” represents a “parasitical emergent phenomenon, [requiring] people to compusively use it in order to maintain itself, and it does this by triggering the reward system for social interaction while it is really anything but social.”
In other words, the collective consciousness created by mass-scale “social networking” feeds not just on the efforts of the engineers who built it, but on the kilowatt-hours of distraction it creates in the people who use it. All things thrive on attention, and the “Facebook organism” is maintained by sucking up spare productivity and mind-share from its users.
Now a few of you may have picked up on the “global brain” reference a little while back, and recall my earlier assertions that the idea of creating such a thing deliberately is merely a new form of the fascist instinct.
Here’s why. The early 20th century right-wing movements associated with the term ‘fascism,’ as well as the left-wing movements which produced the same result (which I refer to as ‘red fascism’) all shared one thing in common.
Like the original Roman ‘fasces,’ they believed in unifying all individuals into the body of the State. Mussolini saw Italian Fascism as derived from Corporatism, the idea of a country as an organic body . (The Communists took this one further and said “forget national borders, we’ll go for the world!” — but that’s beside the point.)
In other words, just as the ‘fasces’ was a bundle of weaker sticks tied together to form a single massive one, so too did the fascists seek to tie the population of free individuals together into a single all-powerful organism which would rule them.
And seen in this light, the idea of a “global brain” as espoused by all sorts of people… as implemented to a limited extent by Facebook… even as alluded to positively by Assange… seems like nothing less than the ultimate triumph of fascism.
There was an incredibly depressing book I once read that talked about something very similar, except it was a social contagion that caused hive-mind behavior (the book
called it “the meme”), and the only way to “cure” it was to erase every memory the person had formed since being exposed to the meme
Anyways, The author is John Barnes, and the book was part of the “Meme Wars” series
‘social’ media is a parasitical emergent phenomenon. It requires people to compusively use it in order to maintain itself, and it does this by triggering the reward system
for social interaction while it is really anything but social. Even IRC is more social than facebook. The only winning move is not to play.
The fact that it enables trends which normally scale to one circle of friends to go global is not a surprise.