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Wearing Theory Like a Versace Waistcoat

Cover Image for Wearing Theory like a Versace Waistcoat

The Acting Class

      Cover Image for The Acting ClassThe Acting Class
I know what I will do, that's it - got my weekends planned.  Living as I do in a sleepy shire, (one hour out from London). I decide I will attend an acting class each weekend in the ‘big smoke’.                       So I arrive in London, it is 9 a.m. and I stroll around Soho before the class begins,                                 soon I am hit on by the homeless like birds flapping for pickings around a land-fill;                               one in a surprising display of linguistics compliments me on my 'elegant attire’,                                  I tell him to cut the bollocks as I hand him my small change.
The tutor at the acting class is quickly revealed to be uber talented,                                                          speedily she puts her finger on the minutiae of one's physical over                                                           compensations and failings; ‘no frown acting’ she opines;                                                                       ‘stop trying to look concerned with that look at me                                                                                     I am really thinking face, no compensatory hand in the pocket acting;                                                   don't try to make yourself secure in that way and don't compensate by jutting out your chin,                and when you are trying to be casual don't lean against the wall, in that studied casual way and no eyebrow acting.’ Right.

Then she is on to the classics, and the iambic pentameter  of da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 12:   When I do count the clock that tells the time.       
The students try the Sonnet out; it doesn’t take our tutor long;                                                              ‘don’t  stop to admire your delivery, leave your inner critic alone                                                             and stop monitoring yourself  and don’t go on reset for the next line                                                       and don’t be scared by the sound of your own voice;                                                                               no need to get into character that's’ all  so Terence Rattigan 30s repertory acting’;                                a student tries an American accent ‘noo, no, no’ she chides, ‘American accents                                      always start  in a high register, ‘Hey, you guys’ she emits as if abseiling from atop a mountain.             "All these don’ts, what am I do?"                                                                                                              "Just be!" she advises me and you know she is on the money.
Earlier on she had talked about how she admired scientists                                                                     and how their discoveries are just paths to the next discovery,                                                                 'relative truths', then, I don't say because if I do argue with her                                                               I would probably do so leaning against a supportive wall in that                                                             self protective way with my hand in my pocket, to give out the                                                              appearance I am in control and casual about it too and there                                                                    would be my knitted brow to demonstrate I was really thinking                                                              about what I was saying and that chin of mine jutting out in a                                                                 display of compensatory assertion. So, I don't say anything as                                                                 I think of my day job in the ‘real’ world; of being harried on                                                             overcrowded trains on the way to and from work and compare                                                             it to the relevance of non eyebrow acting. 

Just be’, ho hum, easier said than done. I conclude this is a perceptive and very talented person,  until she muddies the waters and starts offering 'truths' on the current UK political landscape and what then becomes evident is the lack of rigour in her lazy argument and that                                                 easily arrived at claim to the 'truth' for her views.  No room then for ‘truths’ being relative, or truth being a precious commodity, just the claim that her views are the truth, that will brook no argument, her finger wagging response to my slight offerings on her views highlights the weakness of her argument.

‘We are all the same and that is that’ she avers, as she lays claim to some idealised universalism. I am amazed as she has already made it known to the class she is gay, so you are you the same, exactly the same as the person who wishes to throw you off a roof because of your sexuality but one gives up in the face of the mind numbing mantra 'it is the truth'.
The other 'actors' are a rag tag who appear to be almost manic in their desire to perform and be seen by their fellows to do so; no sensitive hesitation then from these 'actors'; rather cruelly I am afraid, it passes my mind that these people should be in therapy, when they are not seeking out job seekers allowance which I find out in a discreet census in the tea break that most of them are. It becomes almost unbearable to watch them and the talented tutor’s endless indulging of them. Astonishingly I find out at the lunch break that most of them have agents. Whaaat! Who said that the acting profession is replete with stupidity? What a scurrilous thing to say about that 'sensitive' group of people and their oh so perceptive agents. As for that truly talented tutor, if only she would have heeded ‘cobbler, stick to thy last’ and stuck to her remit.
I cut the class short and steal away, deeply disappointed, ah well, just have to think of something else to do for the weekends. Now, there is this Cookery class I have been looking at...

Sometimes I feel like a girl who is a boy and other times I feel like a boy who is a girl and...

In a heteroglossic outpouring of gender positions 'non-binary, gender queer, bigender, trigender, agender, intergender, pangender, neutrois, third gender, androgyne, two-spirit, self-coined, genderfluid and expressed in feelings of deep pathos such as, '...sometimes I feel a girl and a boy, a girl in a boy, a boy who is a girl, a girl who is a boy dressed as a girl, a girl who has to be a boy to be a girl.'

Is time's passage an illusion?

Some metaphysicians have claimed, the passage of time is an illusion

therefore  it cannot be irrational in practical thought to have no preference for one time over another, such as a preference for the near over the far. But this does not follow

 If time’s passage is an illusion, so is the flow of time apparently involved in action and deliberation themselves; relative to the metaphysical truth of the matter, the whole enterprise of practical deliberation, and all the various principles that might be brought to it, would alike have to be bracketed. 

If time’s passage is an illusion, we live that illusion, and finding out that it was an illusion would not provide us with a reason for deliberating in one way rather than another within it.

There is some special identity which is really me..well, no there isn't.

We should get rid of the picture that dominates us, or most of us, that there is some special identity that one has, some underlying item which is really me.

It would do well to realise that, as Hume believed, a person is no more than a collection of experiences held together by certain relations, such as those of memory and continuity of character. 

Does infinity have a beginning?

Why does the Universe exist? 
Why is there a Universe at all? 
Was there a 'time?' that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists. 
So, why does this Universe exist? Why is the Universe as it is?

Why there are any laws of nature, or why these laws are as they are?
These questions, some believe, may have causal answers. Suppose first that the Universe has always existed. Some believe that, if all events were caused by earlier events, everything would be explained. That, however, is not so. Even an infinite series of events cannot explain itself. 

Many people have assumed that, since these questions cannot have causal answers, they cannot have any answers. Some therefore dismiss these questions, thinking them not worth considering. Others conclude that they do not make sense. They assume that, as Wittgenstein wrote, ‘doubt can exist only where there is a question; and a question only where there is an answer.’

One is reminded of the aesthetic category of the sublime, as applied to the highest mountains, raging oceans, the night sky, the interiors of some cathedrals, and other things that are superhuman, awesome, limitless. No question is more sublime than why there is a Universe: why there is anything rather than nothing. 

 I am reminded here of the aesthetic category of the sublime, as applied to the highest mountains, raging oceans, the night sky, the interiors of some cathedrals, and other things that are superhuman, awesome, limitless. No question is more sublime than why there is a Universe: why there is anything rather than nothing. 

Others say: ‘There had to be some initial conditions, and the conditions that make life possible were as likely as any others. So there is nothing to be explained.

Evolution cannot explain the appearance of fine-tuning in the Big Bang.

Why, out of all possibilities, God chose to create our world. What is most baffling is the problem of evil. There appears to be suffering which any good person, knowing the truth, would have prevented if he could. If there is such suffering, there cannot be a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good.
To this problem, theists have proposed several solutions. Some suggest that God is not omnipotent, or not wholly good. Others suggest that undeserved suffering is not, as it seems, bad, or that God could not prevent such suffering without making the Universe, as a whole, less good.

Cosmic possibilities cover everything that ever exists, and are the different ways that the whole of reality might be. Only one such possibility can be actual, or the one that obtains.

Wittgenstein wrote, ‘not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.

Is there such a thing as unegoistic morality?

'Thou shalt not' ...still speaks to us (metaphysically)

 Is morality utilitarian? We should ask what characterizes “morality” 

Does morality have universal applicability

Is  rank the motive for which agents act.

Against the Free Will Thesis, Nietzsche argues that a free agent (that is, one sufficiently free to be morally responsible) would have to be causa sui (i.e., self-caused, or the cause of itself); but since we are not causa sui, no one can be a free agent. Nietzsche takes for granted — not implausibly — that our moral and religious traditions are incompatibilist at their core: causally determined wills are not free wills.
 a causa sui is something fundamentally absurd”, and that it is “the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far…a sort of rape and perversion of logic”
 “that a thought comes when ‘it’ wishes, and not when ‘I’ wish” (BGE 17). If that is right and if actions are apparently “caused” by thoughts (by particular beliefs and desires), then it follows that actions are not caused solely by our conscious mental states, but rather by whatever it is (i.e., type-facts) that determines the thoughts that enter consciousness

As with diets, so too with moralities, according to Nietzsche. Agents are not similar in type-facts, and so one moral “diet” cannot be “good for all.”  these are seductions under the seduction under the mask of philanthropy

Is there such a thing as unegoistic morality?

the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one's actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and…to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness

The self is merely the arena in which the struggle of drives plays itself out, and one's actions are the outcomes of the struggle 

This explanation of a person's moral beliefs in terms of psycho-physical facts about the person is a recurring theme in Nietzsche. “[M]oralities are…merely a sign language of the affects

Does this painting send tremors through you, or do you feel it is an act of free speech on canvas?


Painting of Statue of Liberty as Muslim woman in Democratic congressman’s office stirs controversy

In Comsological terns we are not at the heart of things - so do we have a purpose?

The biblical account of the origin of the cosmos in Genesis, for example, posits that a god created the physical universe particularly with human beings in mind, and so unsurprisingly placed the Earth at the center of creation.

Например, в библейском рассказе о происхождении космоса в книге Бытия говорится, что бог создал физическую вселенную, особенно с человеческими существами, и поэтому неудивительно поместил Землю в центр творения.
Naprimer, v bibleyskom rasskaze o proiskhozhdenii kosmosa v knige Bytiya govoritsya, chto bog sozdal fizicheskuyu vselennuyu, osobenno s chelovecheskimi sushchestvami, i poetomu neudivitel'no pomestil Zemlyu v tsentr tvoreniya.

Lìrú, chuàng shì jì zhōng yǔzhòu qǐyuán de shèngjīng miáoshù, jiǎdìng shàngdì chuàngzàole wùlǐ yǔzhòu, tèbié shì rénlèi de xīnlíng, suǒyǐ háo bù qíguài de jiāng dìqiú zhì yú chuàngzuò de zhōngxīn.
Modern cosmological knowledge has refuted such an account. We are living in the golden age of cosmology: More has been discovered about the large-scale structure and history of the visible cosmos in the last 20 years than in the whole of prior human history. We now have precise knowledge of the distribution of galaxies and know that ours is nowhere near the center of the universe, just as we know that our planetary system has no privileged place among the billions of such systems in our galaxy and that Earth is not even at the center of our planetary system. We also know that the Big Bang, the beginning of our universe, occurred about 13.7 billion years ago, whereas Earth didn’t even exist until about 10 billion years later.
No one looking at the completely random location of homo sapiens in the universe could seriously maintain that the whole thing was intentionally created for us

We would say it would not create the huge structure we see, most of it completely irrelevant for life on Earth, with the Earth in such a seemingly random location, and with humans appearing only after a long and rather random course of evolution.

But is evolution random?

    The debate between advocates of intelligent design and Darwinian evolution is one that  reflects an underlying dispute about the nature of science, and the innate appeal certain scientific stories over others.  

Randomness is at the heart of biological evolution.  It is integral to natural selection and genetic mutation, two of the cornerstones of the modern understanding of the evolutionary process.  While the bulk of scientific observations seem to support such randomness, many people find it unnerving and even improbable. 

One may hear the argument that 'Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. 

Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science, they argue.   This stance on the evolutionary process has come to be recognized as “intelligent design,” a subtle mixture of Darwin and religion.  The pro and contra explanations seem to provide security to some and anxiety to others.  

While many are reassured by the “hard facts” that support biological evolution, others see this enforced randomness as lacking in meaning and thus undermining human purpose.  Conversely, the supernatural beginnings of intelligent design provide security through order, while causing some people to question its narrow view of human potential and attending religious connotations.

Take the word 'God' and how we employ it

Take the word ‘God’, for example. The contemporary debate between atheists and believers is premised on the idea that the word ‘God’ either represents something in the real world, or it does not. Believers argue that it does (and tie themselves in knots trying to verify this claim), while atheists argue that it doesn’t. However, both parties to this debate unwittingly rely on a picture theory of language. On this theory, language represents facts about the world. What is says is either true or false. Never the twain shall meet.
A Wittgensteinian approach to the debate begins by pointing out ‘God’ is a word that has different meanings in the context of different communities. In the context of different linguistic communities, people use ‘God’ in different ways to articulate different facets of experience (consider ‘It’s in God’s hands now’ or ‘When the sun rose, I felt the presence of God’). Another way of thinking about the meaning of ‘God’, therefore, is to see peoples’ use of this term as a move in a social language game – a move that ideally has specific connotations for members of a community. Perhaps the term expresses fidelity to a way of life, as Karen Armstrong argues. Perhaps it expresses wonder in the face of existence. The bottom line is that using a term does not necessarily imply a belief in an entity that corresponds to this term. The meaning of a word hinges on its usefulness in context, not its ideal referent outside of all possible contexts.

Wittgenstein’s teaching has practical value. Why waste time arguing over issues that will never be resolved when the whole thing could be deflated with a simple question: ‘Are we even talking about the same thing?’ If you struggle to overcome the urge to define things too carefully, or find yourself becoming obsessed about the meaning of words and their ‘true’ definition, or if you are convinced, like many philosophers, that the existence of a word logically implies some metaphysical essence, or Platonic form, that corresponds to this word, remember that what gives a word meaning is the conventional social discourse within which it is employed. By attending to the ordinary language contexts that give words their meaning, we can avoid misusing them and trying to make them mean things that they aren’t made to mean. The more that we return words to their home, seeing them in terms of the ordinary language contexts that they work within, the easier it becomes to untie the knots in language and understand what is really being said

It is not what you say - it is the way that you say it

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. 
We can not get outside language there is no hill we can stand on and silently observe it
for even though we are silent we are still thinking in language so the argument goes that language is fascistic.
So, the great man himself.
Ludwig Wittgenstein made a major contribution to conversations on language, logic and metaphysics, but also ethics, the way that we should live in the world. He published two important books: the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (1921) and the Philosophical Investigations (1953), for which he is best known. These were major contributions to twenty century philosophy of language.
By the 1930s, Wittgenstein had decided that the picture theory language was quite wrong. He devoted the rest of his life to explaining why. ‘Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow’, he commented. ‘You doze off and die in your sleep’.
Wittgenstein’s shift in thinking, between the Tractatus and the Investigations, maps the general shift in 20th century philosophy from logical positivism to behaviourism and pragmatism. It is a shift from seeing language as a fixed structure imposed upon the world to seeing it as a fluid structure that is intimately bound up with our everyday practices and forms of life. For later Wittgenstein, creating meaningful statements is not a matter of mapping the logical form of the world. It is a matter of using conventionally-defined terms within ‘language games’ that we play out in the course of everyday life. ‘In most cases, the meaning of a word is its use’, Wittgenstein claimed, in perhaps the most famous passage in the Investigations. It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it, and the context in which you say it. Words are how you use them.

Air bnb where a trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.

We are homo mimeticus

Some argue that human nature is fallen. We don’t know what we want or who we are; we don’t really have values and beliefs of our own; what we have instead is an instinct to copy and compare. We are homo mimeticus. ‘Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and who turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.

In respect to your mind, are you a monist, or dualist?

In simple terms, monism is the belief that ultimately the mind and the. brain are the same thing, whereas dualists believe that the mind and. the brain are separate

Both approaches have theoretical and
philosophical implications. For example, if the brain is all there is
to us, th
en were does that leave religion and the concept of a soul
The argument is not just between the two extremes, as there are many
different stances that philosophers and psychologists adopt. For
example, Interactionists believe that although the mind and body are
separate, the body affects the mind just as the mind affects the body.
Psycho-parallelists believe that  the workings of the mind simply 
reflect the workings of the body, and vice-versa - mental and physical 
events are just correlated, there is no causal power in either part.
 The workings of the mind simply
reflect the workings of the body, and vice-versa - mental and physical
events are just correlated, there is no causal power in either part. 
Idealism can be classed as monism in the sense that it says that the
mental and the physical are not separate, but it is almost the reverse
of the typical monist approach in that it believes the physical is a
function of the mental. This concept almost seems a denial of physics,
but they claim for physical objects and events etc. to occur, they need
to exist in someones mind; they need to be perceived. (The tree in the
forest falls down with no-one around - does it make a noise?) The
typical monist approach is the extreme reductionist one which states
all that exists is the physical. Our mental experiences such as
thoughts and feelings can ultimately be explained by physical
processes, (neuron firing etc). Conciousness, and self awareness (2
things which seem to make people look for answers outside the physical)
are a bi-product of the biological process

The way open to new versions and refinements of what the soul is.

We should have the abilit to control one’s Pro's and Con's and dispose of them” in support of the larger cognitive project 

By way of example apparent claims about psychology should be heard instead as a kind of physiology of drives that rejects mental psychology altogether.

the belief which regards the soul as something indestructible, eternal, indivisible, as a monad, as an atomon:… Between ourselves, it is not at all necessary to get rid of “the soul” at the same time, and thus to renounce one of the most ancient and venerable hypotheses— But the way is now open for new versions and refinements of the soul hypothesis, [including] “mortal soul”, “soul as subjective multiplicity”, and “soul as social structure of the drives and affects”

'Art' the salve that helps us cope.

The substantive truth about the world might be disturbing enough to demand some artistic salve that helps us cope. Nietzsche raises a more specific worry about the deleterious effects of the virtue of honesty—about the will to truth, rather than what is true—and artistry is wheeled in to alleviate them, as well

This is not just one more case of the world’s being inhospitable to our values, but a special instance where the cultivation of a virtue (honesty) itself leads to the unwelcome realization that we can never live up to its genuine demands. In the face of such results, Nietzsche suggests, the only way to escape pessimism is the recognition of another, quite different value, suitable to serve as a “counterforce” against our honesty by showing that there can be something valuable about remaining content with appearances. The cultural value of art 

The basic conditions of cognition prevent our ever knowing things as they really are, independent of the epistemic case. We observe our Macro trains and planes, but we cannot observe the micro world that constitutes it, for this micro world is counter intuitive, 'things' being in two places at the same time et al.

Nietzsche insists on the value of bringing multiple perspectives to bear on any question and sometimes to oppose or limit one another, rather than being parts of a single, hierarchically ordered, systematic axiology.

The 'Self' is something to be achieved not something that is given

 Nietzsche’s psychology treats the self as something that has to be achieved or constructed, rather than as something fundamentally given as part of the basic metaphysical equipment with which a person enters the world. This idea of the self as achieved rather than given. On that reading, the project of individual self-fashioning, or self-creation, is located at the heart of Nietzsche’s philosophical agenda

Artworks present only an appearance of an appearance of what is really real.

  Plato holds in the Republic and elsewhere that the arts are representational, or mimetic (sometimes translated “imitative”). 

So Artworks are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, ordinary physical objects, which in turn are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, what is most real, the non-physical Forms. 

Grasped perceptually, artworks present only an appearance of an appearance of what is really real. 

Pressing your nose again the sweet shop of how others look

Below are extracts adapted from an excellent article by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books

You Are the Product

John Lanchester

  • BUYThe Attention Merchants: From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention Is Harvested and Sold by Tim Wu
    Atlantic, 416 pp, £20.00, January, ISBN 978 1 78239 482 2
  • BUYChaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine by Antonio García Martínez
    Ebury, 528 pp, £8.99, June, ISBN 978 1 78503 455 8
  • BUYMove Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us by Jonathan Taplin
    Macmillan, 320 pp, £18.99, May, ISBN 978 1 5098 4769 3

While in his first year at Harvard, Marc Zuckerberg suffered a romantic rebuff and out of that came an  idea

The idea was that people wanted to look at what other people like them were doing, to see their social networks, to compare, to boast and show off, to give full rein to every moment of longing and envy, to keep their noses pressed against the sweet-shop window of others’ lives.

At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month. It is hard to grasp just how extraordinary that is. Bear in mind that thefacebook – its original name – was launched exclusively for Harvard students in 2004. No human enterprise, no new technology or utility or service, has ever been adopted so widely so quickly. The speed of uptake far exceeds that of the internet itself, let alone ancient technologies such as television or cinema or radio

The principal backer of Facebook was one Mr Thiel who had became interested in the ideas of the US-based French philosopher René Girard, as advocated in his most influential book, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. Girard’s big idea was something he called ‘mimetic desire’. Human beings are born with a need for food and shelter. Once these fundamental necessities of life have been acquired, we look around us at what other people are doing, and wanting, and we copy them. In Thiel’s summary, the idea is ‘that imitation is at the root of all behaviour’.

Girard was a Christian, and his view of human nature is that it is fallen. We don’t know what we want or who we are; we don’t really have values and beliefs of our own; what we have instead is an instinct to copy and compare. We are homo mimeticus. ‘Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and who turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires

There was a a teleology emerging here - the capture and sale of attention

Zuckerberg, was very well aware of how people’s minds work and in particular of the social dynamics of popularity and status. The initial launch of Facebook was limited to people with a Harvard email address; the intention was to make access to the site seem exclusive and aspirational. 

For all the corporate uplift of Facebook's  mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic. It is perhaps for that reason that Facebook, more than any other company of its size, has a thread of malignity running through it.

which has an inherent tendency to fragment and atomise its users into like-minded groups. The mission to ‘connect’ turns out to mean, in practice, connect with people who agree with you. We can’t prove just how dangerous these ‘filter bubbles’ are to our societies, but it seems clear that they are having a severe impact on our increasingly fragmented polity. Our conception of ‘we’ is becoming narrower.

American context, where any whiff of explicit sexuality would immediately give the site a reputation for unwholesomeness. Photos of breastfeeding women are banned and rapidly get taken down. Lies and propaganda are fine.

This goes to the heart of the question of what Facebook is and what it does. For all the talk about connecting people, building community, and believing in people, Facebook is an advertising company
 We are keen to be seen as we want to be seen, and Facebook is the most popular tool humanity has ever had with which to do that.

Something similar has happened in the world of journalism. Facebook is in essence an advertising company which is indifferent to the content on its site except insofar as it helps to target and sell advertisements
If I want to reach women between the ages of 25 and 30 in zip code 37206 who like country music and drink bourbon, Facebook can do that. Moreover, Facebook can often get friends of these women to post a ‘sponsored story’ on a targeted consumer’s news feed, so it doesn’t feel like an ad. As Zuckerberg said when he introduced Facebook Ads, ‘Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.’
After a certain amount of boilerplate bullshit (‘Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people’), he gets to the nub of it. ‘Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 per cent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news 

 $20 billion industry in 1999 was a $7 billion industry 15 years later. He saw musicians who had made a good living become destitute, journalism (no bad thing) has also been decimated

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens.

 It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the companys users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. 

Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

 The paper was titled ‘Association of Facebook Use with Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study’. The researchers found quite simply that the more people use Facebook, the more unhappy they are. A 1 per cent increase in ‘likes’ and clicks and status updates was correlated with a 5 to 8 per cent decrease in mental health.