Social Networking

I’ve come to the conclusion that this social networking thing is nothing more than a front for advanced marketing data collection. As far as i can tell you don’t need to provide anything in the way of content or value to your users, and in turn get to extract from them huge amounts of valuable data about their age, their hobbies, their associations, level of education, business interests, etc.

My expectation of the standard business plan for a social networking site would be along those lines. Use the natural instinct that people seem to have to use the internet to re-connect with friends, and to amass collections of things (connections, friends, adds, etc) to build a accurate portrait of millions of users, which you can then directly or indirectly sell access to to potential advertisers. Throw in some psychology in order to develop a sense of fear about security. Then build a sense of trust and approval in all steps to encourage people to share more about themselves while re-assuring them that it’s all secure and for their benefit. But at the end of it all: build the biggest, most detailed, marketing list possible.

I can already hear the indignant screams of, “oh, but they’re selling a service!” and “The ads generate revenue to support all the things that you use for free on the ‘net!”, and i say what a pathetic use of human effort. Don’t be so mind-numbingly naive.

Since the start of the twentieth century, the early stages of industrialisation of the west, it has been known that advertising is necessary to stimulate the desire for consumption that is not driven by need. The ‘captains of industry’, as they were once so cutely called before becoming ‘masters of the universe’ need the workers to buy the crap that they produce regardless of how little of it they really need – there would be no point in paying them to produce if they couldn’t get their money back…

All that sounds so ‘last century’, like a throw back to class struggles of the 1930s, or industrial strife in the 1970s, and that’s because nothing has really changed. The last couple of decades have been an orgy of credit based consumption that have opened up the gaps between the rich and poor to Victorian levels, but now the tide of credit is rolling back, it’s going to become increasingly obvious that we’ve all been playing the same old games, just with an increased average standard of living.

We’re still the suckers, and i’m guessing we always will be!

Hmm. That didn’t end up where i expected at all… but it was great fun to spew out. In summary, i think Social Networking sites are a scam, driven by the boom in advertising that Google has fostered in the ‘net content business. My views on advertising seem to be pretty self-explanatory.

I wonder if i’m a communist?


5 thoughts on “Social Networking

  1. “I’ve come to the conclusion that this social networking thing is nothing more than a front for advanced marketing data collection.”

    i can think of no way a t a l l that this isn’t the case.

    • i know what you’re saying… but guess i’ve given up on it even having value to compensate for the feeling of just being used, bought, and sold.

  2. Social networking lives on because it’s doing something that people want. It’s being exploited for commercial gain because we live in a capitalist world and that’s what you do in capitalism – make products that people want (or can be convinced they want) and make money off them, one way or another.

    Like you say, it’s not any different from what’s gone on in other eras (or areas). So why pick on any specific case like social networking? If social networking is a scam then most of the internet’s a scam. In which case it’s the over arching system itself that offends.

  3. That’s a fair question. I think social networking is probably the most offensive because it has the potential to be the most offensive, and easily abuse pretence at being a service.

    You are probably right that people did want a service that they could use to keep up with their friends… but as we’ve already noted, they didn’t want it enough to pay for it. The perception that it’s a ‘free service’ is obviously out there, and people, being what they are, don’t really give much thought to the faustian bargain into which they are entering.

    Out here in the badlands of tech workers, we’ve sat down and thought about these issues, and we’ve made (somewhat) informed decisions about what we are giving in order to use some service for ‘free’. I don’t think that’s the case with the majority of the kids on Facebook… tell me if i’m wrong. Perhaps it doesn’t matter to them that they are signing up for a lifetime of having shit stuffed down their throats… yet.

    Don’t really have a means to express why this has suddenly surfaced as an issue for me… It might be related to the feeling that i have that we are going to begin to see a massive back-lash against consumer capitalism over the next decade. Hard to see how that isn’t going to be co-opted as a ‘consume for sustainability’ or ‘get you anti-capitalism goods right here!’.

Wise words...

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