I recently noticed an unsettling similarity between “likes” I garnered from a paid Facebook ad and ones I got trolling those “get free likes” sites that send you to click on stuff in return for the “likes.”
As I ran down the list of those who’d responded to my advertisement (selfie-taking Pacific Islanders in wifebeaters and gold chains, teenaged girls in various states of dishabille, and one Laotian family man with assembled clan peering expectantly out of the frame), it occurred to me that they were all the same . . . the paid ones and the random ones . . . or in cahoots.
When I finally got through to Facebook and explained that this was not the book-reading public I was after, I was met with haughty bureaucratic disdain: I had better define my demographic more precisely next time. In fact, “Memoir” is a social media app—not as I had incorrectly assumed, a literary sub-genre. And the people whom Facebook had targeted, though lacking any sort of biographical data or post history, were in fact bonafide persons.
Which is unlikely, I think; that’s what was really bothering me. I don’t believe in all these people.
It’s not that the numbers are beyond us in any computational sense (they are); we’re just not genetically programmed to take in humanity on this scale. It is not biologically adaptive. Not that the great mass of others is any less real than we are—this is the great existential lesson the internet has to offer: how improbable, redundant, and unremarkable each of us is—but our participation in their lives is false. Therefore, they are false, ersatz persons—abstractions, properly, whom we can only exploit in the course of our interactions with them. . . because we lack the imagination and the will to invest them with full personhood. (Which is pornography, really.)
While unwittingly supporting this sub-economy to inflate my social media statistics, I am, unbeknownst to myself, in its employ, too—though not, perhaps, in some backyard click mill under molding tarp, choking on fumes from a gas generator twelve, sixteen, eighteen hours a day, and clicking 10, 20, 30 links to earn a penny . . . but deceived, none the less.
It is the logic of capital, which knows only accumulation, that has brought us here. And it consents to use us as well.
As for the rest: The fix is in. Our days are numbered.
Like me on Facebook.