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  • As Facebook and the social Internet grew
    even bigger, I wondered whether what we
    were building was fixing our loneliness, or just
    becoming another addiction, like the social
    games that would soon begin to be pumped
    out by Zynga and others, that dull or distract
    us from deeper feeling. I was not sure if we
    were enabling love, or its illusion.

    Katherine Losse, in “The Boy Kings: A Journey
    Into the Heart of the Social Network.”

    When Katherine Losse resigned from Facebook, she left her prestigious job as Mark Zuckerberg’s ghost writer, the voice of the Boy King. She moved to Marfa, Texas, to get as far away from the grid as possible, and wrote this book. In many ways, this is the book I have been waiting for.

    Facebook has always made me feel uneasy, even when millions and then tens of millions and then hundreds of millions signed up.

    I could never quite put my finger on it. Perhaps I take George Orwell’s predictive novel, 1984, too seriously. Perhaps I am too much of an outsider. Perhaps I just value my privacy too much.

    It has just always seemed to me that something in the Facebook DNA was not quite right.

    About five years ago, I signed on briefly, using minimum personal information, to see what all the excitement was about, and I lasted about a month, then fled.

    It took another month to deactivate my account, and Facebook kept posting photos of my “Friends” making sure that I knew they would miss me. Miss me? I didn’t know half of them.

    I appreciate the fact that for many users, Facebook fills a need, serves a purpose, and creates a sense of community. I just found that the system made me uneasy, seemed full of fakery, was rife with grade school level nonsense, provided a forum for egotists and disturbed souls, and wasn’t going anywhere I wanted or needed to go.

    Losse writes: “What I was seeing was that social websites were playing upon the biggest open and unsolved wound in our society: the need to be known, the need to be loved. It was unclear if they were meeting this need. This need is so naked, so huge…”

    It is fascinating to watch Losse rise from being the 51st Facebook employee, working in Customer Service, to a desk in the pod where Zuckerberg gathers his closest allies, and translating his grandiose visions into readable prose.

    What makes Boy Kings special for me is her keen observations, and her relentless questioning of what became known as “the cause,” technology, and social networks in general.

    Losse began to wonder what this brave new medium meant, and would mean, for our real life relationships, and concluded, not much.

    Her observations, being those of a humanist in the midst of engineers, should be of interest to us all, especially as Facebook and other social networks are on a mission to take over our lives, our lives being synonymous with our information about who we are, where we live, what we are doing, what we are thinking, where we go and who we know.

    I recently read a news item which reported that employers are increasingly suspicious of employees and job applicants who do NOT have a Facebook Profile.

    You read that correctly. There is an idea out there that if you do not have a Facebook Profile, you are hiding something, and may be dangerous.

    Is this really what we want, this total domination by technocrats and their toys?

    “The Boy Kings” lifts the veil on what went in to the making of Facebook, and provides a lot of provocative information about where it may be going, as pressure to make money for shareholders increases.

    Caveat Emptor, as the Romans used to say. May the buyer beware.

    ("Kings" - Digital art by Alex, 8/12/12)
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