Social Networking Sites in general and Facebook in particular

A World Between Commodification and Representation

The exclusion of praxis, and the false anti-dialectical consciousness that accompanies it, are imposed at every minute upon the everyday life that is subjected to the spectacle. One must understand that this is a systematic organization of the “weakness of the faculty for encounter” and its replacement by a hallucinatory social fact: the false consciousness of encounter, the “illusion of encounter.” In a society in which no one can any longer be recognized by the others, each individual becomes incapable of recognizing his own reality.

(Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, thesis #217.)


When Guy Debord wrote The Society of the Spectacle in 1967, his avowed aim was the construction of a theoretical weapon that would be able to describe the modern world and thus, once its mechanisms were revealed, overthrow it. In his “Foreword to the Third French Edition of The Society of the Spectacle,” he stated: “One must read this book with the idea in mind that it was deliberately written with the intention of harming spectacular society. It has never said anything else.”

Quite obviously, today many counter-fires have been lit so as to neutralize this thought, the relevance of which makes those who dominate have a premonition that it still contains an explosive potential that must be cleared out. Despite the Sollersian[1] enterprise to turn Debord into a monument of the arts and literature, or the government’s determination to make him a museum piece by buying his archives (with such difficulties!), no one is duped.

Nevertheless, for those who re-read The Society of the Spectacle the key to understanding the world remains operational. And of a cruel relevance. Which one can judge for oneself: “All of life in the societies in which modern conditions of production reign announces itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that was directly lived is set apart in representation”[i].

We can apply this thesis to a multitude of situations in everyday life, but the object of the present text will (more modestly) analyze what the social networking sites [in general] and Facebook in particular say about the modern world, because we believe that a new reality is emerging, born from this world, and that this new reality is also the continuation of that world by other means. This is why we will analyze Facebook for what it is, that is to say, a communications medium put into place by the Spectacle,[ii] and that, in this capacity, it isn’t only the concern of young people and city dwellers, even if they are the public that is the most represented, but is also the concern of the entirety of the population. Thus, we will analyze the place occupied by Facebook in the heart of Western societies, but also the significance of this phenomenon, before going on to study its social consequences.

A small reminder for usage by those out-moded by, disconnected from, or poorly adapted to the current world

For those who still believe that television is the preferred source of distraction among the French, one must recall that the situation is changing and that, henceforth and for the first time since its invention, the television audience of young people between 15 and 24 years of age is shrinking, surpassed by the use of the Internet. On the other hand, time spent in front of the screen in general hasn’t ceased to grow.[iii] And singularly concerning the time spent on so-called social networking sites [sur les sites dits communautaires] such as Facebook. More than a simple short-lived activity, this site has become a veritable social fact. Here’s the demonstration of this.

Facebook was created in 2004 at the initiative of Mark Zuckerberg, then a student at Harvard. At first the site constituted a social-networking site for Harvard students only, before becoming accessible to other American university students. On 24 May 2007, it was opened to the entirety of the Internet.

Facebook allows registered people to place online their profile (marital status, studies, hobbies) and to interact with other users, especially through sharing correspondence and multimedia documents. The personal information furnished by the users allows them to find other users who share the same hobbies, to form groups and to invite others to join them. This is why one classes Facebook as a social-networking site.

From a sociological point of view, these are the ideal-typical characteristics of a Facebook user.

The average user has 130 friends (+10 with respect to September 2009).
The average user makes 8 friend requests per month.
Average time spent on Facebook per day: 55 minutes.
Each user makes an average of 25 comments per month.
Each user becomes a fan[iv] of 4 fan or group pages per month.
Each user is invited to 3 events per month.[v]
The average user is the member of 13 groups.

For those who still contest Facebook’s character as a social fact because it only concerns a portion of the population: 15 million French people have a Facebook page (almost a quarter of the population); 70 percent of Facebook users are not American; 70 languages are in usage on the site. Furthermore, the site hosts 400 million active users[vi] worldwide and 50 percent of them log on to Facebook every day. Every day, more than 3 million photos are placed on-line through the site, as well as 5 million texts (links, news items, streams, blog editorials, notes, photo albums, et al). More than a million and a half firms have a Facebook page. Finally, only Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have more monthly visitors than Facebook, but, if one takes the number of page visits into account, Google is the only site that is more popular than Facebook.[vii]

Facebook: A means of belonging to the world

Facebook expresses a certain relationship with the world: mourning the possibility of living things directly, without the mediation of a screen, without representation, and this by means of technology. We do not deny that varied motivations account for the creation of a Facebook profile and we won't place on the same level the selective user who, hoping to be informed about the upcoming cultural events that might interest him, uses his profile like an email service, or the user who through this channel finds true friends, and those whose usage is dictated by technological fascination, the desire to be noticed, [or] the desire to live through proxies. One might object that, on the contrary, the social networking sites allow people to recreate sociability; that making contact, even arranging encounters, is easier due to them; that one can be in touch with friends wherever they are on the planet. We do not think so. At best, these sites allow contact that ends up in a real encounter. But this isn’t always the case, because it is difficult to meet one’s 200 Facebook friends. This fact especially reflects the difficulty of being together today, of creating a community that is not virtual, of allowing the flow [la dérive] and chance-guided encounters. Furthermore, if at this point the world is so padlocked that inter-subjectivity can no longer take place without the fear of the unknown arising, sites like Facebook can only reinforce problems and produce separation. If one thinks about the fate reserved for phone booths since the appearance of the cell phone, one can judge what will become of love and friendship[viii] in the years to come: no salvation outside of the social networking sites.

Nevertheless, we not believe that the membership of Facebook’s users in the artificial world that we are describing is without effect. On the contrary, it is this membership in artificiality that permits the perpetuation of the world such as it is, social organization such as it is, and domination such as it is [currently] exercised. Indeed, without prejudging the content of the entirety of the profiles, the overwhelming majority of the users display a very active adhesion to the dominant cultural values. The Facebook user is one of the modern youths[ix] who are proud to live in an era that is so rich in virtuality. We can even say that he is blissfully persuaded, in an unconscious manner, that he is in the world when he is distant from it, which is a characteristic of schizophrenia (and alienation). But this isn’t all, because, like every other pretentious nobody, he thinks that his narcissistic involvement in the web allows him to participate in the world, indeed, to reveal the world to itself, when in reality this “involvement” is only the conformism of the user who manipulates a tool devised by others to reinforce the spectacle of pseudo-communication. Far from being marginal or neutral, this attitude is extremely widespread. Furthermore, it was easily identifiable at the beginning of Facebook, when cooption was required. This mechanism allowed the rapid differentiation of those who were [co-opted] and the others. The pride of those chosen ones was well worth all of the attempts to explain. But what one must understand is that this superiority not only expresses a feeling of belonging to the dominant class, holder of the traditional capital of the bourgeoisie, but also a pride in making the world, in projecting oneself: in brief, the illusion of an emancipation from the common and trivial incarnated in reality thanks to technology. In other words, technological ideology was imposed on the first guinea pigs, who took it for a benediction, not knowing that “the spectacle is ideology par excellence, because, in its plenitude, it exposes and manifests the essence of any ideological system: the impoverishment, the subjugation and the negation of real life.”[x]

Facebook as a means of being in the world

As we have said, the use of Facebook implies a certain narcissism. If one believes psychoanalysis, “Narcissus is above all the speech [la parole] that not only repeats itself, but which also articulates itself with the sole end of commenting upon itself, of staging itself, to (as it were) enjoy itself.”[xi] This definition works for narcissism in general; one can say that it can in any case be applied to Facebook in particular. The site acts like a mirror in which the discovery of other people’s profiles and groups of fans has self-contemplation and the constitution of an always-more-perfect profile as its final goals.

This tendency isn’t new. As long ago as 1969, C. Lasch[xii] determined that narcissism was developing with great speed in the United States. It even took on the aspect of a social fact since, according to Lasch, one could speak of “collective narcissism.” This situation now exists in the entirety of the West. To explain this phenomenon, one might begin with the feeling of uselessness to the world doubled by the end of the inscription in a historical continuity. This new characteristic, which is as deleterious for the construction of a social movement as for the [mental health of the] atomized individuals, produces a previously unknown sensation of isolation. The withdrawal into the private sphere and the illusion that one recreates with the link to the interposed screen is thus possible. The disappearance of historical continuity pushes the individual to live in the moment, as if his existence was deployed in a perpetual present. As a result, encounters tend to be more and more fleeting, “zapped,” without consistency, producing in return a feeling of isolation, but also a still-more powerful [sense of] emptiness. The senses are, as it were, anesthetized and thrill-seeking becomes ever more important, without any of this passing through the test of the real, from whence comes the concomitant will to neutralize the world, to speak like [Gunther] Anders. One can thus understand that, today, the individual is isolated and distanced from reality, because of representation, which is the end of the world’s experimentation.[xiii] Not only does this signify that the discovery of the sensible and the real can no longer be made, except through the illusion of representation and the Spectacle, but also that – disoriented by this loss and plunged into a world that becomes totally foreign to him – the individual loses his individuation by desiring the neutralization of the world. Collective narcissism questions – and this is paradoxical in appearance only – the place that remains for the individual. Anders believes that the individual no longer exists because “the individual has been transformed into a ‘dividual,’ he is now a plurality of functions.”[xiv] It is individuals in pieces that we are dealing with, as we do when it comes to labor. This aspect is even more striking on Facebook, where a profile isn’t presented as a unity, but on the contrary as a succession of fragments within the “fan groups” to which the Internet explorer belongs, thus facilitating parceled-out friendships on the basis of several shared tastes.

Thus, only the most absolute confusionism can be spread by this method of functioning and its expansion passes through the neutralization of the world, that is to say, a formatted commodity is rendered “familiar” – Anders would say “pitted” – so that the user can recognize himself in it, can grasp it and no longer knows how to do without it. The multiple applications associated with Facebook accentuate this process.

This could only be possible in a world in which distancing reigns because it is necessary that the true and the false become out-dated categories so that they can be exchanged without difficulty. Of course, the user of Facebook doesn’t take the site for reality, but through this technological utilization he is no longer directly in the world. When this utilization becomes a given, the user becomes “served” at home by one potentiality that nevertheless presents itself as reality [as a whole]. This form of the commodification of existence by the splitting up of reality allows us to receive the world that is “calibrated” for the satisfaction of our needs and thus becomes “a phantom world”[xv] because the real world has become something strange, even foreign. To illustrate his remarks about distancing from the world and the beings that compose it, Anders writes:

While generally our next-door neighbor, standing before the door through which we pass every day all year, does not know us and doesn’t cross the distance that separates him from us, movie stars, these strange girls[2] whom we never know personally and whom we never meet in person […] are presented to us as old acquaintances […] we call them by their first names […] when we speak of them.[xvi]

Reality has hardly changed since then, only with the arrival of Facebook, our next-door neighbors remain strangers but present themselves as stars. The process of distancing is thus completed, since even the immediate reality that we might have taken hold of has become foreign in the first instance, before being transformed into a simple image in the second.

The “mid-level executive” on Facebook

Beyond narcissism, it is in the complete reification (that is to say, the transformation of living beings into things) of the individual that social-networking sites end up. And, once again, with the full and complete consent of their users, who adapt voluntary servitude to modern conditions. They desire to transform the reality of their lives into a real image of their desire. Doing so, they do not transform the reality of their being, but [only] the appearance, which is not without consequences.

Indeed, for Debord, “the spectacle isn’t an ensemble of images, but a social relation between people, mediated by images.”[xvii]

It is indeed a properly spectacular dimension that governs these [on-line] practices, and the first thing that one remarks about Facebook is the manner in which each person presents himself, devotes himself to being seen (so as not to say “in the Spectacle and unprotected”), as if the becoming-image of the individual was completed and one could no longer expect anything of the social relations that derive from it. This begins with the declaration of his mood for the day in a word. But – and this is a sign of complete reification – each profiler speaks of himself in the third person. On X’s page one can read: “Today X is cheerful.”

The tone is set and the distancing that the procedure implies favors the self-reification of each person, who is able to present himself like a valuable commodity on the market.[xviii] Thus, like good little mid-level executives[xix], everyone learns to sell themselves by means of cultural distinctions. As far as music is concerned, if it is good form to scorn Johnny Hallyday, it is truly expected to indicate one’s devotion to jazz, one or two operas, and the independent rock group that has only circulated a single extract but must create a “buzz”[3] in the months to come. But that’s not all. One of the implicit codes consists in being able to handle cultural dissonance with perfection. Indeed, after having indicated the best of good taste for the petit-bourgeois mid-level executive, it is recommended to confess – in the manner of a private confession – one’s weakness for a singer who everyone recognizes as the height of corniness and who, with a swing of the pendulum, could accede to the status of a trendy “vintage”[4] icon. The trick is knowing the right dosage. It is indeed too dangerous to present oneself (writing under one’s own name and wanting to guarantee one’s profile a certain seriousness) as a simple admirer of [someone like] Joe Dassin.

It is also indispensible to present oneself as a connoisseur of the film industry, always by adopting the tastes of the petit-bourgeois mid-level executive, [that is to say] the spectator. Thus, one must give the password by showing that one is interested in the New Wave, Dziga Dvertov and Buster Keaton, and yet has a guilty penchant for giallos and the Hooker TV series. Once again, it is under the appearance of individual liberty that this presentation of self offers itself to be seen, whereas it only obeys a game of codes that fools no one. Personal tastes are only a sampling [une moyenne] of the dominant tastes, and since one must fill the rubric of the passions by means of the groups to which one belongs, one finds (all mixed together) sushi, design, humanitarian concerts, ecology and hi-fi,[5] which are so many signs that confirm adhesion to the spectacular-commodity world of the mid-level executive. It is thus that, through his stereotypical choices, the alienated mid-level exec reinforces the world that has, nevertheless, created him by influencing the dominated factions of the salariat.[xx]

The spectacle, which is the effacement of the limits between me and the world by the crushing of the me that besieges the presence-absence of the world, is also the effacement of the limits between the true and the false by the repression of all lived truth under the real presence of the falsity that assures the organization of appearances. He who passively puts up with his strange daily lot is thus pushed towards a folly that illusorily reacts to this lot by resorting to magical techniques. The recognition and the consumption of commodities are at the center of this pseudo-response to a [form of] communication that can’t be responded to. The consumer’s need to imitate is precisely an infantile need that is conditioned by all aspects of his fundamental dispossession. Following the terms that Gabel applied at a completely different pathological level, “the abnormal need for representation here compensates for the tortured feeling of being at the margins of existence.” (Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, thesis #217.)

From social control to the commodification of private life: the securitization of the information on Facebook

We must now focus on the most-disparaged aspect of Facebook: the protection of private information. If at the beginning this question was only interesting to those who hold the site in contempt, consumers’ associations in Germany and Canada picked up the critique. It is rare that, under the heading of technology, the newspaper Le Monde doesn’t evoke this phenomenon in its own particular way.

Nevertheless, the problem is serious. In fact, the director of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (a multi-alienated multi-millionaire) believes that, henceforth, “the era of private life (is) over and we live in an era of exhibition that only worries those who have things to hide.”[xxi] “People have truly become at ease with the fact of sharing, not only more information, but also in a more open fashion and with more people. This social norm is simply something that has evolved over time.”[xxii]. At least things are clear here, but, while the enormity of these remarks covers the technophile with ridicule, the citizens (shocked though they are) continue to use this social network. Two aspects concerning the use of this information can be retained: social control and the commodification of data.

Social control

This is one of the major advantages of Facebook for those who suffer from voyeurism. The site in fact allows one to know about, in real time, the schemes of previously selected friends.[xxiii] Make a modification of “relationship status” and the entirety of one’s friends can be informed about a break-up, sometimes even before the other person finds out. For the jealous, it is possible to know that several new friends have appeared in the address book of an acquaintance. In the era of video-surveillance cameras, espionage has become a daily activity doubled by pleasure.[xxiv] Paranoiacs can find out if an event took place without them. Insidiously, it is a piece of private life that is discovered and that, due to the play of regroupings among the different profiles, allows one to know the evolution of the lives of selected close friends. A society that promotes transparency to such a point is a totalitarian society in which the most perfect social control reigns.[xxv] With Facebook, each user can play the role of miniature tyrant, which thereby creates a form of self-managing totalitarianism.

The commodification of personal data

It will surprise no one that, in a commodity economy, all the sectors subject to privatization are the object of covetousness. We have seen how commodification, so that it can integrate itself into our lives, must be rendered familiar through a form of neutralization. Therefore, commodification produces distanciation. Social-networking sites have rendered familiar the tendency to “manage” one’s loves, friendships and life on the Internet. Once this aspect has been neutralized,[xxvi] it only remains to transform it into merchandise. This is what Facebook has done.

One already knows that the site covets the personal data of its users so that it can reap a profit from advertisements, without this posing any difficulties, because the declaration of the rights and responsibilities of Facebook makes clear that the contents belong to it: “You accord us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free and global license for the use of the intellectual properties that you publish on Facebook.”[xxvii] And this license will last for a long time, since the termination of the profile will not changing anything.[xxviii] Death itself is not an obstacle, since Facebook can leave the profile of a dead person on-line. Facebook even speaks of “commemorative accounts.”

And those who will not be cooperative enough, the owners of the site declare: “So as to be able to furnish you with a useful social experience on Facebook, we must occasionally furnish general information concerning you to the pre-approved Web sites and applications that use our platform, even before you formally connect to them.”[xxix]

Facebook has thus positioned itself as the global leader of the transmission of information (rendered anonymous) to its advertisers. This is clearly explained in the confidentiality policy of the site. The details are many and fastidious, but in substance this is what the site authorizes itself to do: “We authorize the advertisers to choose the characteristics of the users that will see their advertisements and we can use all non-personally identifiable attributes that we might collect (especially the information that you have decided to not show other users, as such your birth date or other information or preferences of a similar nature) to target the appropriate public.”[xxx] Not stopping along such a good route, one has recently learned that, due to “error” [sic], Facebook inopportunely furnished all of its users’ data, including confidential information, to advertisers. If one believes the managers of the site, the “error” was promptly corrected, once the advertisers were able to benefit from the world’s largest client list.

And this isn’t all. One knows that, henceforth,

The true value that Facebook seeks to exploit and protect is situated in the simple structure of the network composed by the entirety of the friends and groups to which one is signed up. Let’s explain this. Each time one adds a friend on Facebook, one creates a link; each time one signs up to a page or group, one creates another link to this [page or] group. If one aggregates the entirety of these links for the entirety of the groups and people, one obtains a graph of relations. This graph situates individuals at the heart of their social network and their belonging to groups contextualizes the network through the individuals’ hobbies. Analysis of the structure of this simple graph thus permits Facebook to describe, with an astonishing precision, the social positions of individuals and their preoccupations […] It thus becomes possible to measure and analyze the relations on the totality of the network and to define with precision the profiles of individuals who nevertheless have placed the cursors of their private lives on Facebook to the max. Because whatever the parameters of one’s Facebook account, the apparently harmless information of who is a member of this or that group and who is who’s friend is freely accessible. From this simple information, it is possible – by measuring the structure of the network – to make decisions concerning the sexual orientation of each, to pose hypotheses concerning political affiliations, to pinpoint the most-central and influential individuals in activist networks, and to understand which people to target in priority so as to dismantle a contestatory network. One can easily see how this kind of information has inestimable value for the brands that want to deploy “behavioral marketing” strategies, but also for the organizations that seek to pinpoint and narrowly surveill the groups of individuals who are considered to be “structurally” risky.”[xxxi]

In addition to a marketing tool, Facebook is a tool of the police. Furthermore, the DCRI (Central Director for Interior Intelligence) finds Facebook to be a source of information so good that it wouldn’t have dared to dream it up. Of course, the affair goes beyond the individual responsibility of the members of this social network when any organization, any infrastructure, is turned towards the objective of profitability on the backs of suckers [gogos] who are avid for glory or recognition, [because they are psychologically] disturbed by their narcissistic wills and their ghostly wanderings in their ersatz existences. And it is thus that extreme naïveté alone no longer explains this stupidity; there is also confidence in an institution become [so] vital that it isn’t possible to find out if its disappearance would create a lack. An edifying example will explain our remarks: the investigation of Marc[xxxii] conducted by the journal Le Tigre, which, by gleaning information left on the Web by an imprudent Internet explorer,[xxxiii] was able to recreate his life on paper (leisure activities, vacation spots, marital situation, break-ups, address, moves, cell phone number, studies pursued, job. . . ). At that moment, carefree attitudes disappeared. Good souls cried scandal at this Internet hunt, and defended a new commandment: “On the web and in the virtual world, you expose yourself to the face of the world.” And there resides the paradox. Each person enjoys the right to celebrity but in anonymity. The Internet explorer who shines on his Facebook page and who shows the excellence of his existence on it acts as if all this was worthy of interest, even edification,[xxxiv] if not he wouldn’t deliver himself up in this way. The road taken, taking himself for a star, this unfortunate person forgets that he himself has nakedly exposed what he still calls his private life, that he is the quite real paparazzo of his own reified being. In an uncommon intellectual contortion, he thinks that one must have a quite-deranged mind to [want to] gain access to private information that its owner has voluntarily rendered public, but which mustn’t be gathered together by average users. It is as if an exhibitionist was complaining about an attack on his modesty because someone observed him doing his act.

The error, of course, would be to consider this person as a case apart whose particular madness doesn’t reveal a more profound phenomenon that is characteristic of the modern world. In fact, at this point innocence and candor have only hypertrophied on the social-networking sites, because they reveal the complete attachment, quite unconscious, of their users with the capitalist world, which is the one they live in like fish in water, without imagining that things could be otherwise. And this is because they feel themselves to be in harmony with the step of the world, with its values, with the technology and the values of the spectacular-commodity regime that they (like an uncontinent animals) do not hesitate to spread on these sites.

Thus, a modification of this state of affairs will not take place through education on the Internet, as the government’s ministers would like, or through a better confidentiality policy concerning data, but through a conscious modification of the conditions of existence, which cannot take place without the current world being taken down at the same time.

[Signed] La Boétie.[6]

[Author’s notes follow.]

[i] Guy Debord, La Société du Spectacle, Paris, Editions Gallimard (coll Folio), 1992, thesis 1.

[ii] Introductory specifications: it is important to recall here that we aren’t among those who deliberately try to reduce the concept of “spectacle” to the single question of the media. And if our analysis concerns a medium, we encourage the reading of the book by Debord to avoid any amalgamation of us with him, which would be false. It is thus as a critique of a medium that represents the current world in a reduced form that we offer these remarks. It isn’t a question of saving the baby from the bathwater or the reverse.

[iii] Many statistics on these subjects are available in Olivier Donnat, Les pratiques culturelles des français à l’ère numérique; enquête 2008. Paris, La découverte/The Ministry of Culture and Communication, September 2009.

[iv] In this neologism proper to Facebookers [“fan”], one must understand that a user signs up to a forum discussion, that is to say, adheres to a group of individual who possess a characteristic that he has. Thereafter, identification is immediate.

[v] An event is an invitation that a member sends to his network so as to cross [dépasser] the virtual barrier. This is perhaps the most likeable of Facebook’s functionalities, even if we are obliged to ascertain that these festive pseudo-events are in fact only a spontaneous and unconscious attempt to considerably neutralize the significance of a popular gathering, by reducing it to a “soirée,” to a “cool thing” in which one “encounters the world” and then returns home. However, it is this very possibility that most irritates the public authorities. The events that constitute giant cocktail parties organized by Facebook are beginning to worry the local and national authorities, which fear risks of “overflowing.” Their prohibitions aren’t generalized, but their desire to control these events, which are at the start spontaneous (as was the case at Rodez),[7] show that the State remains vigilant. We might reasonably think that in time a law will be passed that prohibits these types of gatherings or at least limits their scope. Furthermore, the Prefecture at Loire-Atlantique has revealed, with the greatest candor, that these events pose a problem because there is no spokesperson or negotiator to supervise [encadrer] the demonstration. We wager the unions will remember this.

[vi] Source: all of these statistics are taken from and confirmed by this site and that site.


[viii] The Facebook term “friend” merits an analysis of its own. On the site, relativism is absolute because, under the term “friend,” one brings together the close accomplice with whom one shares a certain intimacy, a family member, or the beautiful stranger one has never encountered but who is strongly desired. We must not forget that, on Facebook, you are what you show. As a result, everything participates in the valorization of your image. The number of friends is important. Their appearance is just as important, whatever the [actual] strength of the bond that unites the user with his friends, provided that they provide a supplemental value to the profile. Thus, there is a vertiginous redefinition of friendship because the conception of it, according to Facebook, is a negation of the traditional conception. This is all the more serious because, by making the real meanings of words disappear, little by little, one also makes what they designate disappear, too. Thus, one can legitimately wonder what will remain of friendship if the entire world adopts Facebook’s definition of it.

[ix] A détournement of the expression popularized by the newspaper Actuel in the 1980s to designate the groups playing “cold wave,” “post-punk,” etc.

[x] Guy Debord, La Société du Spectacle, Paris, Editions Gallimard (coll Folio), 1992, thesis 215.

[xi] Encyclopaedia universalis, Paris, Editions Encyclopaedia universalis 1989, entry on “Narcissism.”

[xii] Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism [1979], translated as La culture du narcissisme, Paris, Flammarion (collection Champs essais), reprinted 2006.

[xiii] Gunther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen [1956], translated into French as L’obsolescence de l’homme: Sur l’âme à l’époque de la deuxième révolution industrielle, Paris, EDN/Ivréa, Réed, 2002, p. 134. “Today, since the world comes to him, since it is brought to him in effigy, man no longer has need of going towards the world; the voyage and the experience have become superfluous; thus, since the superfluous always ends in disappearance, they have become impossible.”

[xiv] Ibid, p. 164.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid, pp. 138-139.

[xvii] Guy Debord, La Société du Spectacle, Paris, Editions Gallimard (Folio edition), 1992, thesis 4.

[xviii] Furthermore, this market is very extensive because one passes very quickly from the market in artificial friendship to the market in fleeting love, only to end up in the simple labor market. In fact, this era has succeeded in producing a new job: the Internet-profile coach. This new expert proposes his services to you, so as to valorize your trademark on the Web, by (to the extent possible) disappearing the photographs and messages that degrade your personality. Thus, he recreates a new avatar for you, so that you can present a worthy [rentable] image to your future employer or a headhunter who purchases human capital on the Internet.

[xix] Let us make precise here that we understand the term “mid-level executive” [cadre] in the sense that Debord gave it: “Today, the mid-level executives [les cadres] are the metamorphosis of the urban petit-bourgeoisie of independent producers who have become salaried workers. […] Their economic function is essentially tied to the tertiary sector, to the service industry, and quite particularly to the properly spectacular branch that sells, maintains and praises commodities […] The mid-level exec is the consumer par excellence, that is to say, the spectator par excellence […] The mid-level exec is the man of lack: his drug is the ideology of the pure spectacle, of the spectacle of nothing.La Véritable Scission dans l’Internationale, circulaire publique de l’Internationale Situationniste, originally published in 1972; reprinted Paris, Fayard, 1998; thesis 36.

[xx] “The image of the kind of life and the tastes that society has expressly fabricated for them, its model sons, greatly influences the strata of poor employees or petit-bourgeois [workers] who aspire to being converted into mid-level execs; and this is not without effect on a portion of the current middle class [la moyenne bourgeoisie].” Ibid.

[xxi] Le, 22 April 2010, “Facebook: de la nécessité de protéger ses données ‘relationnelles,’” by Guilhem Fouetillou (co-founder of Linkfluence, the Institute of Studies Specializing in the Analysis and Cartography of the Social Web).

[xxii] facebook.html.

[xxiii] In Facebook jargon, one makes a “request.”

[xxiv] Miyase Christensen, “Facebook is watching you,” Manières de voir, issue 109, February/March 2010.

[xxv] Works on this subject abound. Of course, one would have re-read Orwell’s 1984 and, for a more historical analysis, Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and its description of the “panopticon” inherited from Bentham.

[xxvi] One must understand that this movement is a self-maintained process, because if commodification produces distanciation, distanciation produces familiarization and thus the possibility for commodification.

[xxvii] -quitter-facebook.html.

[xxviii] The privacy policy of Facebook, section 3: “Even after having suppressed the information on your profile, or having terminated your account, copies of your information might remain visible in certain places, to the extent that this information has been shared with other users or even copied or recorded by other users. You understand that [your] information can be shared or copied anew by other users.”

[xxix] Le Monde, 9 April 2010.

[xxx] The privacy policy of Facebook, section 5: “Use of your personal information.” Date of last iteration: 22 April 2010.

[xxxi] G. Fouetillou, “Facebook: de la nécessité de protéger ses données ‘relationnelles,’” ibid.

[xxxii] Concerning this investigation, see the article entitled “Portrait Google” in Le Tigre #28, November/December 2008, and available online at page_37.

[xxxiii] All the same, he had posted more than 17,000 personal photographs on the Internet.

[xxxiv] This new process is the finishing touch upon the tendency, begun by the press at the beginning of the 20th century, to relate the lives of those with power or great wealth. Quite obviously, this stratagem of revealing has a triple advantage. First of all, it reserves for the grand bourgeoisie a place to withdraw, since the illusion of unveiling is in fact the most efficacious trick by which one orients peoples’ eyes towards what one has given them to see, hides the rest, and gives the impression that one has displayed everything, that nothing has been kept secret. Then, the strict imposition of protocol permits one to show that the grand bourgeoisie also has expenses. Finally, this permits one to fabricate the Bovaryism[8] that distances the dangerous classes of the revolution.

We note that this press still exists today, even if it has been supplanted by what one sadly calls the gossip magazines. The process is the same but now extended to the people whose abysmal vacuity no longer even has the pretext of “blue blood.” In 1968, Warhol prophesized that, “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” If the reality of his affirmation is contestable, one must recognize that the desire for 15 minutes of celebrity is, in any case, quite present. Personal blogs that proliferate on the Internet, presenting prefabricated selves, and the exponential development of social networks, are illustrations of this. This is why we speak of the finishing touches on a logic that was begun at the start of the 20th century.

This text, which was placed on-line by Jules Bonnot de la Bande on 16 June 2010, is scheduled for publication in two parts in issues 6 and 7 of Rodez La Rouge. Issue 6 will be published in July 2010. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! on 21 June 2010. Translator’s footnotes follow. Small corrections suggested by the author were made on 18 July 2010.

[1] Philippe Sollers is an author and media personality who, despite being spurned by Guy Debord, has devoted many of his public pronouncements to praising Debord’s style of writing.

[2] English in original.

[3] English in original.

[4] English in original.

[5] In this list, only “humanitarian concerts” and “ecology” were not presented in English in the original.

[6] Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563) was the author of The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude.

[7] Held 4 June 2010 in Rodez, France.

[8] See Madame Bovary in Flaubert’s novel of the same name.

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