I have more than once been called an Anarchist and having read Noam Chomsky’s “On Anarchism”, I have found the A word a more accurate description of my disposition, compared to the other terms that have been used to describe the inner dynamics of the contents of my cranial cavity. I am an Anarchist. I get that. What does it mean, though, to be an Anarchist in the age of Capitalism? How can an Anarchist be involved in the use and development of Machine Learning, a technology that is destined to be the most severe blow to the dignity of the bottom of the pyramid of humanity?
A new friend, upon hearing that I have active presence on all major social media websites, suggested difficulty in understanding why I would not depart the latest manifestations of human exploitation instantly. I had, a few weeks prior to that interaction, heard Chris Hedges pose the rhetorical question “Why would anyone want to be on Facebook?”
Why am I on Facebook? And Twitter, and Instagram?
There are practicalities. The logistics of human survival in the second decade of the twentieth century makes it hard to leave Facebook. For example, I got to know about Chris Hedges’s talk through a message that I received from an acquaintance on Facebook. Moreover, the person in reference, who suggested that I should leave the sweatshop of human interaction, i.e. Facebook, was in fact introduced to me through a mutual friend whom I met on Facebook. The matter of fact is that I know many of the people in my life almost exclusively due to my presence in the online world. I am under the impression that if I categorize my acquaintances according to how I befriended them, then there will be a clear correlation between how I got to knew a particular person and the quality and longevity of my connections with her. I am aware that I have never executed a systematic assessment of my friendships as pertaining to how each one came about and was maintained. Nevertheless, I only need to look at my most fruitful interactions with humanity to recognize that I am indebted to the masters of human exploitation for the life that I live.
And that’s where the second important function of the social media in my intellectual well-being becomes apparent. I have seen multiple plays, watched numerous films, read shelves of books, only because I have received a pointer to them through the social media. Although sometimes implicit, for example when a “friend” on the social media refers to the book that she is reading, in many other instances the guiding hand has been explicit. I once received a package from a never-met “friend” who leaves in the northern shores of Europe. The package contained a book with a simple note that was delivered later on Instagram. “I read the book and liked it. I hope you like it as well.” The book in reference was Kader Abdolah’s My Father’s Notebook. Indeed one of the best books that I have read in 2018 so far.
Should we quit the social media in droves? Or, put alternatively, is there any justification for remaining on a platform that is built around the exploitation of the human urge for socialization and group bonding?
Important questions, indeed. Does the human predicament improve if every one of us reforms herself voluntarily in order to become a Daniel Blake? Before attempting to scratch the surface of a question of this magnitude, I would ask an alternative question: Four hundred years ago, Prince Hamlet contemplated whether existence is a binary situation, to be or not to be. The question whether or not one can hold up a life that has any touch of value while being an accomplice in the digitization and commodification of the human social tendencies is, to my understanding, a similarly complicated philosophical question.
Henceforth, I suggest a rephrasing of the question from “Should one use Facebook?” to “How can one be present on Facebook and still live a life of value?” This is, evidently, only a minuscule step towards attempting to understand the question. One important step, however, as it, correctly, to my understanding, opens up the list of potential options from the stay/leave dichotomy to a plethora of possibilities.
I would like to give this topic ample attention, pending, obviously, the availability of time. As the late Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlu wrote “If the lust for bread allows me to”.