Facebook Plans to Rewire Your Life. Be Afraid.
FEB 17, 2017 10:33 AM EST
By Leonid Bershidsky
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto, penned clearly in response to accusations leveled at the social network in the wake of the bitter U.S. election campaign, is a scary, dystopian document. It shows that Facebook — launched, in Zuckerberg’s own words five years ago, to “extend people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships” — is turning into something of an extraterritorial state run by a small, unelected government that relies extensively on privately held algorithms for social engineering.
In 2012, Zuckerberg addressed future Facebook investors in a letter attached to the company’s initial public offering prospectus. Here’s how he described the company’s purpose:
People sharing more — even if just with their close friends or families — creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. We believe that this creates a greater number of stronger relationships between people, and that it helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives. By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.
Whatever those beliefs were based on, they have largely failed the test of time. Instead of creating stronger relationships, Facebook has spawned anxieties and addictions that are the subject of academic studies from Portugal to Australia. Some studies have determined that using Facebook detracts from a user’s life satisfaction.
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