Would the Sex Pistols have had a fan page?
While the cultural mainstream is happily feasting on a high-fructose corn syrup media diet of "Kate and Wills," a single autocratic entity is rapidly realizing its plans to take over the world. And no one is doing anything about it.
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If the Sex Pistols and their punk rock brethren have taught us anything, it's to take aim at our culturally entrenched power structures...and fire. In this case, we're not talking about the British monarchy or free-market capitalism, but a cultural institution of another sort: the Silicon Valley "untouchable" and everyone's favorite social network...Facebook.
But why should we be worried about Facebook? It's not evil - it connects friends and communities (600 million strong!) across the world with pithy status updates, photos and like buttons. But that's precisely the point. Everyone and everything is on Facebook - from bands, to the corner coffee shop, to every brand on the planet - all with the hope of reaching the viral promised land. But while everyone is driving audience to Facebook, too few seem to be taking stock of the repercussions.
Sure, Facebook has ventured out into the "open web" to make it more personal and connected (e.g., Facebook Connect, the like button and more recently, Facebook comments). But beyond the outwardly "social" elements of Facebook's connectivity platform lurks what Todd Sawicki, chief revenue officer of Cheezburger Network, calls a "data Trojan horse." According to Brian Morrissey's recent DigiDay article, aptly titled Fearing Facebook, more and more publishers are choosing not to carry Facebook's omnipresent like buttons out of concern they're being used by Facebook to collect more data on their audiences.
Facebook has fundamentally changed readers' content discovery and consumption habits. If someone shares a headline on Facebook and their friends read and interact with that headline within Facebook's well-tended garden, they have no reason to visit the publisher's site. Under the guise of sharing, Facebook is essentially co-opting time and attention away from the publishers who actually publish it in the first place. This, coupled with Facebook's growing data stockade, has the potential to massively disrupt media economics.
For publishers, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they're worried about Facebook hijacking their readers' attention and interaction. On the other hand, they're seeing an increasing portion of their traffic coming from social media, with Facebook leading the way. Meanwhile, more and more people are moving their everyday communications with friends and family to Facebook. "Email me" has turned into "Facebook me."
Bands like the Sex Pistols changed music history and altered the course of popular culture by stripping rock and roll down to its DIY essence and rebelling against the sentimentality of standard 70s FM radio fare. If Facebook, with its regimented white and blue and its ever-present like buttons is today's 70s FM music, then where are today's media rebels? Where are the web punks, the ones shouting "NO FUTURE FOR YOU" to Facebook's 600 million?