I like a good Frankenstein metaphor, and The Guardian’s recent review of Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy has a corker when summing up the story of the social media giant:
“Facebook was founded by an undergraduate with good intentions but little understanding of human nature. He thought that by creating a machine for ‘connecting’ people he might do some good for the world while also making himself some money. He wound up creating a corporate monster that is failing spectacularly at the former but succeeding brilliantly at the latter. Facebook is undermining democracy at the same time as it is making Mark Zuckerberg richer than Croesus. And it is now clear that this monster, like Dr Frankenstein’s, is beyond its creator’s control.”
Having not been on the platform myself for several years, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. It’s not even the privacy issues that got to me (there’s no such thing as free!), it was the behaviour of people around me and their addiction to it. Apparently the stimulation it provides to the reward centre of the brain is akin to produced by sex, chocolate. Only with social media, you get endless ‘dopamine loops’ – constant itches that you have to scratch.
Yes, the monster’s out there alright. And, the irony of course is that in Shelley’s novel, what the monster craves most is the community and connection that he is constantly denied – exactly what most people seem to crave along with their neural pleasure hit.
So how do you kill the monster?
I just hope that Facebook isn’t as enduring as the the creature…