(Why The Varnished Culture is leaving Facebook)
Google has a link to a post on leaving Facebook, that suggests as reasons to leave, “its echo chamber effects, avoiding time wasting and procrastination, and the negative psychological effects of perpetual social comparison.” That is more a salutary warning to addicts rather than a shot at the product.
From its o so humble beginnings, Facebook has become a monster, the Standard Oil of our age, a virtual monopoly allowing global networking of personal, commercial, and political content, along with news, a salad of actual old-time reportage and a trove of ‘fake news,’ gossip, tittle-tattle, rumour, scandal, and exposé. In exchange, the consumer offers-up his/her online DNA for farming and commercial exploitation, inter alia. However, last week, Facebook blocked all news content on its site in Australia. The Washington Post reported: “Following Facebook’s move, hundreds of publishers lost access to revenue and readers previously gleaned from the site. The social network also erroneously blocked dozens of government and charity websites as well, including public health sites containing critical information about the pandemic during the first week of its coronavirus vaccine rollout…That offensive strategy is led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his top policy adviser, former U.K. deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.” David Penberthy in the Adelaide Advertiser observed that Facebook “moved faster and wider in disabling Australian news content…than it did to prevent the live streaming of the Christchurch mosque massacre.”
Facebook’s move is a ham-fisted attempt to intimidate Australia – and more importantly, larger markets – into dropping the introduction of bargaining codes designed to require Facebook to pay for the content it has hitherto stolen. Google did a deal, but ‘Z-berg’ is a hold-out, despite gulling the Australian Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg (‘F-berg’) into thinking that a settlement was at hand. Z-berg has a lot of money (estimated at $100 billion) and a lot of power – Facebook cancelled a US President and his retinue, and many lesser online combatants, including people simply expressing or sharing opinions, just not the right one. And the more a man has money or power, the more he fights to keep it. It is ironic that F-berg is playing the part of a crusader for the common blogger when he is really carrying the battle standard of old news moguls such as Rupert Murdoch. But since Facebook also plunders from ABC news (“The People’s Medium”), you could say battle is also joined on behalf of the put-upon, long-suffering Aussie taxpayer. One answer by Z-berg to the current opprobrium Facebook is copping at the moment might be that unlike Google, Facebook is primarily a social network that allows users to link stuff, and it is contrary to the ‘open-mike democracy’ of the internet to put up a paywall for that. Facebook official Clegg likens the code to buying a car but paying extra for the radio as it might broadcast premium content (a false analogy, possibly). [Update: Z-berg and Z-berg have now done a deal and FB is paying Rupert for content.]
In any case, these matters have been, for TVC, a catalyst rather than a cause. The Varnished Culture has been quite successful on Facebook since 2014. We have noticed that, increasingly, our more thoughtful pieces (i.e. more words than images) are generally bypassed in favour of the odd cat meme. And while Facebook is less pungent than the sewer that is Twitter, it still presents an array of human expression from ignorance to hate. Our leaving is thus both a quality control issue and the conclusion of a successful experiment: whereby we proved our thesis of cultural atrophy.
We will miss it and all of you wonderful people out there. But we’re still alive and kicking, still not elegiac but informed by the past, still online, for free, 24/7. And ‘Our Week Still Beats Your Year.’
And so, so long, and we sing, (with apologies to Dino Fekaris and Frederick J. Perren):
At first we were afraid, we were petrified
Kept thinking we could never live without you by our side
But then we spent so many nights thinking how you did us wrong
And we grew strong
And we learned how to get along
And so you’re back
From cyber space
We just logged on to find you here with that sad look upon your face
We should have changed that dumb password, we should have deleted our account
If we’d known for just one second you’d be back with a discount
Go on now, go, deactivate
Are simply changing far too late
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt Oz with goodbye?
You think we’d crumble?
You think we’d all lay down and die?