Should Adbusters be anti-Facebook?

Micah White’s article in Adbusters issue, #77, Facebook Suicide, has provoked spirited argument on the comments page. I like a good argument, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to blog about my take on all this social networking stuff.

Here at Adbusters we advocate “unmediated experience” and encourage ourselves and others to...you know...take a break from the TV and the computer once and a while. It's not much more complicated than advocating a healthy life. Step away from the Big Mac; take a walk in the woods—that sort of thing. Steering people away from the google box may be uncontroversial wisdom, but personally I don’t take it so far as to ignore the obvious power that sites like Facebook, Digg, and Del.icio.us, and other social web technologies have to promote progressive politics and activist campaigns.

The argument seems to be between those who advocate a purist position ('Facebook is a huge evil corporation that violates people’s privacy and should be avoided like the plague') and a pragmatic position ('we can use Facebook for our own purposes and take steps to address our concerns about privacy'). Among Adbusters staff, there is no consensus. Some of us are on Facebook, some aren’t. Myself, I don’t have a Facebook account, but I have no problem with those who do, and think it’s fine that people have spontaneously created unofficial Adbusters groups on Facebook. I guess that makes me a pragmatist. As far as I’m concerned, groundswell technologies are ideally suited to getting the word out about media rights, alternative economics, the cult of advertising, and so on.

The Digg, Reddit, and Facebook buttons will remain on the bottom of our article pages. Let the debate continue.

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16 comments on the article “Should Adbusters be anti-Facebook?”

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summer

But is it not ironic to be campaining against "passive consumption" when your means of doing it is on a website which promotes just that?

it is not our talents nor our possessions that make us what we are, it is our choices

summer

But is it not ironic to be campaining against "passive consumption" when your means of doing it is on a website which promotes just that?

it is not our talents nor our possessions that make us what we are, it is our choices

Elysia

Crackbook is my best name for it. Just like any drug it takes you away from healthy human contact.

Elysia

Crackbook is my best name for it. Just like any drug it takes you away from healthy human contact.

Andrea

There are only two methods of advertising on facebook that I can think of, both relatively unobtrusive. The first are the side panel advertisements, easily enough ignored. The second is the free daily "gift," which has recently enjoyed corporate sponsorship (i.e., you can post a bottle of Coors Light on your friend's page) but giving a gift remains, of course, an option and not a mandate. I remember the gift on Earth Day was a green patch that said "GE - Earth Day." My friend gave it to me as a joke and included her own caption; "A gift with a disingenuous corporate moral message, it doesn't get better than that!"

Compare these two low-key methods to those of MySpace, a veritable torrent of aggressive commercialism, whose entire home page wallpaper on a given day will promote a new film or musical group.

From a sheerly social perspective, however, Facebook is of course a simulacrum. Despite all my best efforts, any activity carried out over this website has no bearing in the real world at all. I am even suspicious of so-called political activity on Facebook because it's possible to talk the talk without actually participating in the process.

Just my thoughts.

Andrea

There are only two methods of advertising on facebook that I can think of, both relatively unobtrusive. The first are the side panel advertisements, easily enough ignored. The second is the free daily "gift," which has recently enjoyed corporate sponsorship (i.e., you can post a bottle of Coors Light on your friend's page) but giving a gift remains, of course, an option and not a mandate. I remember the gift on Earth Day was a green patch that said "GE - Earth Day." My friend gave it to me as a joke and included her own caption; "A gift with a disingenuous corporate moral message, it doesn't get better than that!"

Compare these two low-key methods to those of MySpace, a veritable torrent of aggressive commercialism, whose entire home page wallpaper on a given day will promote a new film or musical group.

From a sheerly social perspective, however, Facebook is of course a simulacrum. Despite all my best efforts, any activity carried out over this website has no bearing in the real world at all. I am even suspicious of so-called political activity on Facebook because it's possible to talk the talk without actually participating in the process.

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous

The value of an idea increases when it can be spread by as many people as it is could. I'm also against Facebook and the other tools, because they change people into machines of consumption, but there is also another side of the medallion: If Adbusters haven't have a web page or a group in Facebook, I could not be able to keep up with news and what Adbusters is doing, because I live in Turkey.

Anonymous

The value of an idea increases when it can be spread by as many people as it is could. I'm also against Facebook and the other tools, because they change people into machines of consumption, but there is also another side of the medallion: If Adbusters haven't have a web page or a group in Facebook, I could not be able to keep up with news and what Adbusters is doing, because I live in Turkey.

Anonymous

I also faced a personal dilemma when it came to Facebook. I held off for a year while my peers lauded its networking merits. I told myself I didn't need it. Then, as you mentioned, the pragmatist in me set in. After a while it became a hindrance to not know that the time/date of a camping trip had been changed (because it was on facebook), or that people had posted photos of me without my consent (because they were on facebook) and so I too signed up. I view it as a tool, and simply that. I mainly use the message features, which resemble normal e-mails. And goodness knows that those are also inundated with ads.

Anonymous

I also faced a personal dilemma when it came to Facebook. I held off for a year while my peers lauded its networking merits. I told myself I didn't need it. Then, as you mentioned, the pragmatist in me set in. After a while it became a hindrance to not know that the time/date of a camping trip had been changed (because it was on facebook), or that people had posted photos of me without my consent (because they were on facebook) and so I too signed up. I view it as a tool, and simply that. I mainly use the message features, which resemble normal e-mails. And goodness knows that those are also inundated with ads.

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