Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection
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Social networking has grown into a staple of modern society, but its continued evolution is becoming increasingly detrimental to our lives. Shifts in communication and privacy are affecting us more than we realize or understand. Terms of Service crystalizes this current moment in technology and contemplates its implications: the identity-validating pleasures and perils of online visibility; our newly adopted view of daily life through the lens of what is share-worthy; and the surveillance state operated by social media platforms—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others—to mine our personal data for advertising revenue, an invasion of our lives that is as pervasive as government spying.
Jacob Silverman calls for social media users to take back ownership of their digital selves from the Silicon Valley corporations who claim to know what's best for them. Integrating politics, sociology, national security, pop culture, and technology, he reveals the surprising conformity at the heart of Internet culture—explaining how social media companies engineer their products to encourage shallow engagement and discourage dissent. Reflecting on the collapsed barriers between our private and public lives, Silverman brings into focus the inner conflict we feel when deciding what to share and what to "like," and explains how we can take the steps we need to free ourselves from its grip.
Facebook architecture—just choose the appropriate emotion from a list—meaning that they can not only be expressed but used for finely targeted advertising. Feeling sad? Perhaps this cute puppy video, brought to your timeline by a pharmaceutical company, will cheer you up. The trend toward presenting feelings as structured data presents new possibilities for advertising. In the eyes of Facebook, clicking Like essentially serves as a commercial endorsement, an indication to the company that you
“Harlem Shake” video, 88 Hartzog, Woodrow, 216 Harvard Business School, 183, 189 Harvey, Adam, 356 hashtags, 94–95 hate speech, exposing, 170–72 Hayden, Michael, 144–45 Hayes, Danny, 105–6 headlines, 123–24, 125, 127 health insurance rate and biometric or genomic testing, 282 Hell Is Other People antisocial app, 358 Henderson the Rain King (Bellow), 59 Herrman, John, 110–11 Herzog, Werner, 184–85 hierarchies in social networks, 53–55 Hilton, Paris, 67 Homeland Security
providers or mortgage firms. A June 2012 story from the Economist recounts how Rigi Capital Partners, a Swiss insurance company, decided not to purchase the life insurance policy of an elderly woman with dementia. The reason? Her Facebook profile “suggested she had a vibrant social life, not dementia.” Perhaps the insurance company employee who examined the woman’s profile was correct. Or perhaps, as Jaron Lanier proposed, “information underrepresents reality,” and the Facebook profile was
celebrities’ Instagrams go viral. A similar concordance exists with politicians—that other form of celebrity—who have learned to use social media as a bully pulpit and as a way to provoke media coverage. We follow in their wake. “Merely being on social media is sufficient to make users feel micro-famous,” Rob Horning writes, “regardless of the particular number of likes or reblogs attracted.” Managing an audience, managing a self for an audience, speaking in the language of branding and PR—we
having a single identity, a single log-in associated with your real name and all of your social-media accounts, with being a safe and good citizen of the social web. The corollary is that, as Mark Zuckerberg has said, people with multiple online identities can’t be trusted. Never mind that digital life should be much like analog life: a place for identity play, where we can find refuge in anonymity if need be, where we don’t always have to expose ourselves as this person with this account living