I was hanging around facebook till midnight. I occasionally do so when I have a lot of burden. Actually, facebook is providing me a wonderful place for diversion and also many times, it is a leisure time activity. It is also facilitating my social networks. In fact, I have met many friends with whom I had lost the contacts.
However, the coin has the other side as well, the grimmer and darker side. Many people will be writing about the pros and cons of facebook or similar social networks in the days ahead or some of them are already pursued. Here, I would like to see some of the grim sides of it (actually we always see negative sides better than the other.)
For that, let me begin with some of the comments that I wrote for one of my friend’s picture in facebook:
We are having discourse about encoding and decoding, signifier, signified and signification and denotation and connotation. How are you stuck in the discussion of a spelling error? Look the other way around. And it will become -----(here I had reversed the letter order of the name- deleted for privacy).... Does it have any meaning- maybe but deeper. Look from critical discourse analysis and feminist studies.
In these comments, I invited some serious discourses about how we look the world. What is constructed as beauty, good or elite in this world? To use Roland Barthes’ words, what are the myths that have been naturalized so that we feel them as true and fear questioning them? How are the interests of the bourgeoisie or the dominant class imposed upon us and how do we respond to them? In this era of global capitalism, what are the truths imposed upon us? What are the colonial legacies that we are still used to and what are newly being imposed? These questions obviously seek explanations and it is bestowed upon the scholars to answer them (Of course, the meaning of scholars will have to be deconstructed here to mean for those who are real scholars, not the guards of the dominant ideology.)
Actually, I was inviting my friends to have similar discourses. It was the eve of one of my exams and I was spending the precious moments in facebook! Than one of my friends wrote that Name carries many things and spelling error matters. It was my comment:
I think attachment to name is also seeking identity in the signifier. You know the name (omitted for privacy) doesn't necessarily mean for you. It is just because we understand. If all NOMA Regional Masters Program people begin telling you Indra, you will be Indra. So name is nothing. The person who you are is very important.
You know, that's why, I am not anymore using my family name. It attaches you to certain caste, creed, religion and nationality. I don't want to be bound by these things.
Of course, this question is worth pondering. Here comes Foucault, who told that people don’t have an inherent identity. It is constructed or created. Same is with the name or any other identity we belong to. And, of course it is temporary and changeable. So, I can be identified with any other name in later days. Foucault has the similar view about power. He says power is not possessed, it is exercised. The society or the people give somebody the premises to exercise power. There is optimism in Foucault’s analysis that where there is power, there is resistance.
The discourse that can be linked with my decision to use only given name is contrary to Foucault. Of course, regardless of whatever Foucault said, we can’t live without identity- that is the bottom line. But to tell in Marxist terms, there are two classes in the world- bourgeoisie and proletariat. By not using my family name, I will be free from other attachments like nationality, religion, caste or creed (My given name also comes from Hindu God Indra, but there is the bottom line- I can’t live without identity.) With this decision, it will be easier for me to be identified one among these two classes. Then, I wrapped up the day’s comments and countercomments with the following:
I am indebted to facebook but sorry that it is an example of media imperialism. The owner of facebook is being richer and richer while millions of people across the globe are spending their precious hours hanging around facebook for no good reason. This is the thing we should very seriously think about.
I think this is the most important of the ideas. I want to work separately in the myths about beauty, religion and culture in later days – hopefully they will appear in these pages. Here, I have raised two of the important ideas the imperialism and the economic implications.
The comment speaks many things about imperialism – like televisions and newspapers with global coverage or circulation, the facebook is being one of the few such social networks - we can say there is condition of oligopoly between facebook and myspace (it doesn’t matter if there are a couple of others). They have imperialized the world. They have established that we can’t live without them and that they have the power to show us the path. They are the pioneers and we are the followers.
Each visit by its members is counted in financial terms and world wealth is being accumulated in the hand of a handful of persons. According to Forbes magazine (May, 2008), Facebook has the annual transaction of 5 billion and its CEO made USD 1.5 billion last year. It is unimaginable but possible only in this extreme world imperialized by the West and ruled by global capitalism. This is not being envious because Mark Zuckerberg makes USD 1.5b a year but that how the money is and can be accumulated in a few hands. It is obvious in any other businesses as well but it is, conventionally, no business at all. As Zuckerberg makes so big money, millions of people across the world are starving to death and suffering from malnutrition. Possibly, soon there will be time the capitalism will have to answer these questions- how long a few people can live happily when their fellow human beings are starving to death?
Here, I would like to deal with another economic implication. I have seen many friends and even fallen myself victim to such trend of spending hours and hours in facebook without genuine cause. I guess millions of people are falling victim to such trend and the precious hours that could be spent in many other creative works are wasted. Thus, in economic terms, there can be two possible meanings of facebook trend- to the one hand world wealth is being accumulated in a few hands while many others are deprived of economic activities because they devote these hours for facebook.
There are dozens other negative effects - the cultural implication can’t be exaggerated which I wish to write in later days. I will expect my friends to come up with their wonderful ideas. To borrow Stuart Hall, we will find meaning through discourse.