“Your privacy is very important to us”: this is the first line of Facebook’s terms of service. It is no secret to either end of the social media panopticon (the small human faction of the Facebook company observing and collecting data from the comparatively giant number of users, similarly to Google) that privacy is at the forefront of Facebook’s both constructive and destructive uses. Facebook’s very purpose could not be effectively mined without it creeping beyond its function–to create a social environment that is as transparent as possible among friends, the environment must be transparent between user and mediator. And so while the Orwellian influence of the outlet seems and is rather intrusive, one does not need to read the terms of service to know what they are submitting to. As Mark Andrejevic emphasizes, the most common modes of self-expression in our age are inherently under surveillance.
After liking every Facebook post I came across for two days (with a few omissions in an attempt not to seem outright cruel, as Mat Honan notes), in a sweeping generalization I am obsessed with sports. Just as in Honan’s case, the majority of my feed is inhuman despite my only following a small handful of inhuman sources. It seems every other installment on my timeline comes from either ESPN or Bleacher Report. The algorithmic surveillance of the machine I use to secretly gain dirt on semi-unfriendly acquaintances and punctuate my loneliness in regard to friendly acquaintances has decided that sports the common theme of my interest. I do love sports, perhaps more than humans, but I am still much more interested in these humans. Given that I liked many, many more posts of pictures and status updates, the progression to a sports-dominated feed is somewhat illogical.
This is a description of some of the information that Facebook collects. In a read, it generally describes literally everything one could possibly engage in on the website. The “things you do and the information you provide” is an umbrella just about wide enough in diameter to lump in all of interactivity between people, on or off-line. This umbrella is the digital enclosure–a network that encourages and monitors participation. I am certainly encouraged to participate; I see what my friends are doing and I want to communicate with them or show them what I am doing. The hope and the ideal manifesto of Facebook is by monitoring this participation, greater participation is allowed–that the monitoring is a tool for us (again this strikes nearly the same note as Google).
But, at least empirically, this did not turn out to be true. When I participated at the highest, most thorough level, my reward felt diminished. Perhaps the ever-watching computer algorithm grows jealous when I favor my friends to its article-suggestions and tries to overwhelm with them to convert me. I am not particularly interested or worried about my privacy–I do not participate too heavily on Facebook, I am probably more akin to the aforementioned computer, watching and remembering and categorizing, than I am to my agreed-upon friends–but I am interested in my social hierarchy, and so the digital enclosure of Facebook is as telling as any arena in the way of bringing about this hierarchy.
Andrejevic, Mark. “Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure.” The Communication Review 10 (2007): 295-317. Print.
Honan, Mat. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.” Wired. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.