“I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing a name for me, but I told him he must not take the name ‘Frederick’ from me. To preserve my sense of identity, I must hold on to it.”
Frederick Douglass, The Story of the Life of Frederick Douglass
You write something, you attach a picture, and the computer attaches your name to it. It is recorded in a database.
You have an image in your mind: That database entry, somewhere in a server farm you can’t see, is you. People respond to your writings and your pictures, so they confirm your existence. You are in cyberspace.
Except you don’t.
Personality illusion, a type of mass delusion, is the belief that a database entry creates one’s existence.
Generally, one’s existence is affirmed by autonomy or lack thereof. You know you are present by using the pronoun “I” and by the experience you remember. You know that you exist because you can make choices and you know when you are being restricted from making those choices, whether walking down the street; You know when you’re under duress.
You have no autonomy on social media like Facebook, Snap, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram. You are not free to choose. You’ve got an entirely platform-owner-defined menu from a few functions like Post/Tweet, Like, Retweet, Follow/Follow; If you’re lucky, there are two settings for who sees you, the whole world, or “friends.”
Those little options, a menu of buttons you can press, are your only action. Beyond those few buttons, you have no control over how your name and your likeness are endlessly distributed throughout the social realm. The database controls everything, and the database is owned and operated by the platform owner, be it Meta Properties or Twitter or Python.
Unless you’re superstitious and believe that your name appearing on a profile page is a “presence”, there really isn’t a “you” just like there isn’t an “I” due to lack of autonomy. “I” or “you” is an illusion of a database constantly reorganizing the text and images you type.
Some would say that the ability to use the same profile name on multiple sites, in multiple places, creates an identity. You have “linktr.ee” – as the saying goes, “everything in one place” – and it allows you to be one person in many cases.
It’s not autonomous, it’s just a layer of databases, except that you don’t own another database that stores pointers to all the other databases with your name that you don’t own.
Frederick Douglass, the great American philosopher and public intellectual, As observed in his memoirs Free choice of one’s name is an essential part of one’s identity. But that was not enough for identity, as Douglass well knew. Taking one’s name is the pinnacle of hard-won freedom, not a means to freedom. To believe otherwise is to live in an illusion or a state of extravagant luxury or both.
Because social media or linktr.ee and lurking under the illusion of personhood is a downward spiral of total agencylessness.
Lack of autonomy means many things. Your data, the items that make up who you are, to the extent that you are, do not belong to you. It belongs to the database. While Facebook and other places promise not to sell personal information, that’s just a vendor product promise. That means your personal information, and, in a sense, your identity, isn’t protected by law, it can only be secured through a potential contract, and it’s pretty shaky.
And you have no right on social media Not to be deportedEven if it is a human right According to the United Nations. Exile is a strong term for what appears to be a shopping mall, when it comes to social media. After all, Bidens and Meta and Twitter are the equivalent of an online shopping mall. If you have a sign in a shopping mall, you may think that the shopping mall owner or the real estate owner who leases the mall should remove you from mall security. Campus.
But, as mentioned above, if you get banned from a social media site because your information isn’t yours, you lose all of that information and thus, you lose a good chunk of what you consider your presence online. Because your information doesn’t belong to you and is taken out by mall security, in this case, your life and your identity are being asked to take away from you some part of you.
And you can definitely get banned, people have been. Like Facebook Terms of Service “If, in our sole discretion, we determine that you have clearly, seriously or repeatedly violated our terms or policies, including specifically Community Standards, we may suspend or permanently disable your access to the Meta Company Products, and we may permanently disable or delete your account.”
A lot of people can think of one or two people who want to deport. Deportation, however, is a measure not to be taken lightly and should be the province of sovereign peoples to decide what to do with themselves rather than a product vendor.
Lack of autonomy with respect to one’s data leads directly to lack of autonomy in the deeper matter of digital existence, which threatens basic human rights.
You don’t have a right to speak in the realm of social media, even though it’s a right in many countries, including the United States — and, again, A right affirmed by the United Nations. Lack of autonomy means that platform owners like Meta decide what is acceptable. All that falls under what is generally referred to as “content guidelines”. All speech is actually replaced by “content”.
Again, at first, it might be hard to see what’s wrong with that. It seems strange to claim freedom of speech if your speeches are strictly the result of a database recycling your posts and tweets. A property owner can manage their property, including said database.
By increasingly turning all speech into content, the marketer of a social media platform like Twitter claims the power to create and exclude your speech. Until the social network in question accepts your text and images for publication, you have no “speak” in the world of social media. The speech would have been, in other words, nothing more than the creation and property of a social media owner.
For a property owner to list your work as their content and then have unquestioned authority over your work, including the ability to control your speech, is a violation of autonomy. It seeks to control the most valuable human cognitive abilities.
Worse, platform owners are forever creating a stratified society to privilege the content of “creators” – the content of the most desirable and popular name brands on the platform – as the platform owners want more. Platform owner.
Some brands rank and rate better than others, a bitter irony these days in what is referred to as the “created economy.” Because another potential violation of human and civil rights in social media is the lack of the right to property, again, a fundamental human right declared by the United Nations.
Nothing on social media is actually yours, it all belongs to the platform owner as stated in the terms of service. You type things into a database, your name is attached to those things, and you are a creator, but not an owner.
Behind that facade, the terms of service mean that there are no real rights to essentially unpaid “work-for-hire” on the part of creators. It’s like the old debate in the pro sports world: Who creates more value, the players or the team owner? Besides, in social media, players, creators, and their efforts don’t even have a share. They are only the creation of the owners.
Therefore, creators, being the most privileged among social media participants, are still a name that is used by the platform for its own purpose. Their claims are a highly rated asset of the site. Creators sit a couple of levels above those who have no privilege, but creators still belong to the exploited. Exploitation on social media has levels of distress.
Increasingly, the illusion of individuality that makes you think you have an identity and presence is a facade to hide a narrow set of user capabilities” that are offered under a highly restrictive commercial license.
The more you are in that world of personality illusion, the more you are absorbed into a world where you have no rights, and therefore, no autonomy, and therefore no existence.
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