Why Facebook Makes Us so Mean 

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Updated: May 08, 2023
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 Technologies are advancing at an unimaginable rate, we have robots that clean our homes, we have cars that can drive themselves, we have drones that can deliver packages, we even have apps that can help you find a new job when you lose yours to a robot, a car, or a drone. Technologies are helping us to realize the dreams that we’ve been hearing about for years on tv. Technologies are giving us everything that we want and that is a bad thing.

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That is a bad thing not because of what technologies are doing to us but because of what we are doing to technologies. What I want to focus on specifically is the technological innovation today, which is also the leisure of liberation model of technological design.

This is an idea that goes back as far as Aristotle, and it’s quite simple: “the less we have to work the more human we become.” For Aristotle, this idea is an argument for slavery, since the slaves do all the undesirable work the rest of society can become the virtuous humans they want to be that they were born to be. We also find this idea in Carl Marx. In Marc, this idea becomes an argument for central planning, for letting the state manage the undesirable work in such a way that it liberates both slaves and owners alike.

Now today, we of course think that we are beyond slavery and central planning, finding them both reprehensible and dehumanizing, but I think what we have done is simply change what we mean by slavery and central planning. We think it is wrong to enslave humans, but we think it is perfectly acceptable to design artificially intelligent beings and make them do whatever they want. We think it is wrong for the state governments to interfere in our personal affairs, but we think it’s perfectly acceptable to design algorithms that tell us what we can and can not do. The question that presents itself for us today then is this, more people have more leisure than ever before, but does that mean that we are more liberated, freer, and more human?

For example, “Netflix and chill”. These words not only are a marketing campaign, they are a slogan a rallying cry, perhaps even a zeitgeist. The idea is pretty simple: have fun, let Netflix do all the work. Netflix has algorithms that can find anything you want to watch and play it for you nonstop, freeing you up to, well, chill. “don’t think, don’t act. Let Netflix think and act for you.”. maybe it would be better to think of this phenomenon as “Netflix and freeze to death.”

If thinking and acting are what it means to be human, the technologies are becoming more human, not us. Is this what we want? Do we want technologies to not only work with us but to work with us? The problem is certainly not that technologies are incapable of liberating us. Netflix can help us not only chill but become better educated. Twitter can help us not only to troll but to unite. Facebook can help us not only to share baby pictures but to share experiences.

The revolutionary potential of technologies has been largely unappreciated and unused, taken up by some, but mocked by most. The problem is that it seems we don’t want to be liberated, we don’t want to be more human, and maybe we don’t even like being human. This is the flaw in the thinking of Aristotle and Marx, the flaw in the leisure as liberation model of technological design, the flaw that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first identified over a hundred years ago as the disease of nihilism.

Nihilism is the embracing nothingness, not caring, of the belief “nothing matters.” Nihilism can take many forms, and therefore it is very important that we not only think of it as a depressive resignation from the world experienced by primarily overprivileged teenagers. Nihilism can be not only active but participatory, even joyous. Just think of the classic Batman villain the joker. He wants to create chaos for no reason than he can, and he has a great time doing it. or just think of all the people who voted for Brexit, and spent the next day googling “what is Brexit.”

According to Nietzsche, there are primarily five strategies that we use to embrace nihilism and avoid ourselves and reality. Self-hypnosis, mechanical activity, petty pleasures, herd formations, orgies of feeling. If not all of us but most of us are guilty of all five. We like watching tv, we like having routines, we like helping those in need, we like rooting for our favorite sports teams, and we like reading twits or twitting about trump. Now I know all of those sounds like perfectly normal activities, and they are perfectly normal. But it’s exactly their normalcy that is the problem. We are very comfortable zoning out for hours on end. We are very comfortable making as few decisions as possible. We are very comfortable viewing others as needy. We are very comfortable losing ourselves in the crowd. We are very comfortable being judge, jury, and executioner in the court of public opinion.

Let’s focus on orgies of feeling since this was the nihilist strategy Nietzsche was most concerned about, for as he put it, it makes the sick sicker. Today we don’t have to wait for an inquisition, a witch trial, or a revolution to be able to participate in a violent and emotional outburst that can consume an entire society. Today all we have to do is log into Facebook or Twitter, see what’s trending and start clicking. It doesn’t matter if what’s trending is positive or negative. All that matters is that so many people are participating that we can spread whatever message we want and feel justified and anonymous.

So again, what’s important to realize is that these nihilistic comforts are not new. What is new is how we are using technologies to enhance and spread our nihilism. Let’s talk about a more specific example; on November 5th, 2017 a story of a Denver Guardian story is posted on Facebook about an FBI agent involved in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails who mysteriously died. The story is shared over 560,000 times on Facebook, making it comparable to the most shared stories of the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Now what should concern us is not the story that went viral the week of the election, not that the story is completely fake, but that there is no “ Denver Guardian”. Whether or not we shared this story or any of the thousands of similar fake stories currently circulating on Facebook, we are part of the problem.

By normalizing the amount of time we spend on social media, by normalizing responding to click paid headlines without ever reading the article, by normalizing the competition for most likes, most retweets, and most followers, by normalizing trusting an article for no other reason than how many others have shared it, by normalizing cyberbullying and hacking, we are all part of the problem.

One solution to this issue can be that if we are using technologies nihilistically if we are using technologies to uncouple freedom and responsibility, what we need to do is to bring freedom and responsibility back together again. In other words, we have to become responsible. Responsibility is not something that you do, it’s something you are. To be responsible is to be human, is to be an individual, is to be able to say “I did this, and this here’s why I did it.” this doesn’t mean that you must break every social convention you can find to show off how awesomely unique you are. This means that you have to be introspective, that you have recognized your nihilistic tendencies, that you have to be able to figure out why you don’t want to make decisions, why you don’t want to be in charge, why you don’t want to be independent, why you don’t want to be you.

As Nietzsche put it, you have to become who you are. Many of us may say “ I’d love to be an introspective and engaged individual, but who has the time?”, but that’s nihilism talking, not reality. The problem is not that we don’t have the time to do what we want, the problem is that we don’t have the want to do what we have time for. We’re becoming better and better at outsourcing our responsibility to technologies, and therefore were becoming better and better at outsourcing humanity to technologies. Leisure is not liberating us to become more human, leisure is liberating us from being human. This is what we must resist. To become responsible and don’t let this happen to you, don’t let this happen to your friends, don’t Netflix, and freeze to death.

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Why Facebook Makes Us so Mean . (2022, May 02). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/why-facebook-makes-us-so-mean/