Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facebook "Tracking"

 Oh man, have I lost sleep over this project. What was originally supposed to be a project about "Facebook stalking" turned into something way more personal. I have always realized but never totally acknowledged the ways in which Facebook makes me feel insignificant. For example, I look at what everyone else is doing all the time and I compare what people are doing to what I am doing. I compare how many friends people have to how many I have. I take very personally what people say about me on the internet. To narrow the message of my project down, it's that we DON'T need to know what everyone is doing all the time.

Had Facebook been around in 1994 when Philip E. Agre was writing about surveillance and capture, he would definitely have labeled Facebook as a "tracking" device. A few examples he gives of "tracking" are GPS devices that allow us to find directions while we are sitting in our cars, and package tracking using bar codes after we ship out of UPS. It's not that these systems aren't useful. My GPS has definitely saved my butt a couple of times, and tracking packages on the internet is a nice convenience as well. It's just that these systems are invasive. It's like we have given up our privacy in order to live a more convenient life. Facebook is the worst perpetrator. Now it's so convenient to track our friends that all we have to do is sit down at a computer and we can know every detail about their lives for the past 3 years.

Richard B. Woodward, a more contemporary writer, seems to share many similar ideas with Agre. While Agre compares tracking devices to Nazi Germany, Woodward states in is article, "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870:"

"In defiance of George Orwell's warnings, most people
seem unconcerned by the erosion of the wall between
a private and public self. Snapshots and home videos, once
confined to a family scrapbook or attic trunk, are now
indescriminately shared."

Both men seem to agree that the ability to track people should only belong to some sort of dystopic society, and that by allowing ourselves to be tracked so easily we are careening dangerously on the border of "Big Brother." Is Facebook a great way to keep in touch or are we sacrificing our privacy so we can be monitored by the ever watchful eye? And what about the smaller repercussions? What about our sanity? Can we stand to know every detail of our friends' lives and have them know every detail about ours? 


  1. Facebook is like a GPS which people put on themselves because some of them want to be tracked or get other's attention but lots of them don't even know sometimes things are out of control. It is like a gossip girl knows what everyone is doing and shows it to everyone. I have a friend who cheat on her boyfriend and got a photo taken by someone else and post on face
    book. That is how his boyfriend found out. From then on, she started hating facebook and delete her account.

  2. Your use of props throughout the series is fantastic. It provides a great critique of a social media phenomena that we all love to hate, and in a comical but also serious way. I enjoy the quote you used in your blog post about the "wall eroding," and it makes me wonder if the only reason those private items such as family portraits weren't shared before is because they didn't have the option to.

  3. I completely agree about Facebook being a "tracking" device, though I wonder if we use Facebook for convenience or to satisfy our curiosity. What kind of convenience does it really provide? But so many of us have the desire to know more than others, to know all about others, and to get a glimpse into someone else's life. Facebook allows us to know everything we want. I suppose it could be both a convenience and a source of information.
    I did really like your photos. They're humorous, but clearly have an intention and make a point. I especially like the handwritten aspect of the signs.

  4. Hey, thanks for the feedback. Nina, that is very sad about your friend, and I guess that is one of the reason that I hate Facebook the most: it has this power to manipulate relationships.

    Deborah, I think what I meant by Facebook being a convenience was that it makes it easier for us to keep in touch with people. Like, instead of going out and sending a letter or calling our friends to hear about their lives we just write on their walls or "stalk" them and we know what they're doing. No verbal contact required...we've become lazy, I guess.

  5. You are definitely on to something. Shoot more, take some out and then rethink how you are using black-and-white. Perhaps don't use it at all or just use it on the "mug shot" like images where you hold up the Facebook "mantras" in front of you. Your series underscores how strange it is to have the whole world focusing in on this one overly private/sharing/intimate social networking platform and makes us wonder what the real world fall out will be. In your magazine, keep pushing the rhythm you already having going in your set. It's all working, just do more more more! Your series seems inspired as it focuses on examining an issue you really care about.