Social networks exist to sell you crap”

The Social Graph is Neither, an essay by Maciej Ceglowski on the Pinboard Blog lays out eloquently many of the thoughts about current Internet trends that I’ve intuitively felt for a long time but have never been able to express; the essay deserves to be read in its entirety, but in you want to skip ahead to the punchline, for me it is this:

Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.

Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends (and staffing it, of course, with that Mormon bartender).

There much more in the essay, including a cogent argument for, as the title says, “the social graph is neither.” Go read it.


Joshua Biggley's picture
Joshua Biggley on November 9, 2011 - 15:54 Permalink

A few comments — some related, some not. 

First, the idea of a Mormon bartender is absolutely riotous.  Moreover though, it is a rather poignant comment about the acceptance of Mormonism into the mainstream dialogue.  As a lifelong Mormon, I find this acceptance interesting to observe — and I enjoy the good natured pokes at our dogma.

Second, as a logophile I&#39m intrigued that the word &#39cogent&#39 is floating around our common consciousness.  Perhaps we both read the same blog that inserted &#39cogent&#39 into our individual lexicons, but I&#39ve used that word at least twice this week, that I can recall.  I smiled to myself when I saw it in print.  I suppose that reaffirms the legitimacy of my confession as a logophile.

Third, amen.  The internet, for all it does to empower our lives, is a profit machine now.  From infrastructure to the applications that float on it, profit is the most powerful driver.  What piques my curiosity is how the idea of a &#39free&#39 internet is going to navigate the global financial crisis that is still barrelling towards us.  If 2008 was only the swell before the tsunami, then this &#39access for profit&#39 model is not going to continue to provide us with ubiquitous  access to our online lives.  What will become of &#39social media&#39 and the massive fiscal bubbles that it has created?

Excellent commentary.

Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on November 9, 2011 - 16:47 Permalink

Everything, including things you heartily approve of, exists to sell us crap. That&#39s kind of the point. The thing is, you don&#39t have to actually buy the crap. In fact, a very subversive thing to do is not buy anything.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 10, 2011 - 20:16 Permalink

That’s a fine subversive thing to resist as an individual. It doesn’t solve the societal issue though.