Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fakebook IPO

A momentous event is about to happen, namely a social network is going to be publicly traded stock. Remember that close-knit gang of kids you hung out with in Junior High School? That's what just went on the auction block. Unfettered access to their trends and habits is valuable to manufacturers of acne cream and skinny jeans and that's what Fakebook provides. As one analyst said, "It created a better way to track social interests" which translates into: it created a better way to manipulate social interests. All the gossip, purchases, event attendance, loyalties and alliances add up to specific markets that manufacturers can target and Fakebook allows you to feed yourself to the lions via ego maniacal gossip. Narcissism is going for $38 a share.
For the first time, it isn't your fondness for Snickers that will secure Mars Inc.'s stability. No. It's more intangible. It's user generated content that maps out interests that allow Mars to better target individuals for their candy. Mars stock is based on the candy. Fakebook stock is based on your interest in candy. Your presence is what is valuable, and that leads to your purchase of candy...which bolsters a different stock. I understand that every user is worth $4 a year in revenue from advertising. As you confess your tastes you are volunteering market info that is used to understand you as a consumer. The manufacturers are free to do whatever they want to lure you to their product as long as they pay for access to your information.

I'm cynical and disillusioned, if you haven't figured that out yet. The trademark of a human civilization is the intentions of the institutions. I no longer see many intentions. I don't see causes. I only see effects and reaction. We're throwing our kids drugs and pretending it's ice cream. There is no intention, no philosophy, no debate. Economic factors ruled by digital pharaohs are the prime mover and that's influenced by international currency exchanges and faux property values manipulated by mysterious accountants in faceless buildings. It's not intentional but the results are pretty obvious. While silverback gorillas instinctively prepare their young for a world that is predictably wild, humans deliberately cultivate unpredictable designs into their affairs and then blindfold their kids like a game of pin the tail on the donkey. I'm not saying FB is useless because, let's face it, I'd still be debating the merits of a harpsichord, but to sell it as a commodity like grain or microchips is like selling Donald Duck's dreams. ("More likely, in the end, they will get teenagers to pay a monthly fee to host all of their party photos.")

Fakebook seems to be the culmination of the consumer age where users volunteer information as long as they can publicly promote their own agendas. Basically, the last people on earth you want to know things about you now buy your privacy for $4 a year...and as long as you get a 15% discount on shoes then that's ok.

It's impossible to tell right now if this is good or bad because those questions are not debated except by homeless bongoseros. Asbestos was hailed as a miracle invention. Lead Paint covered many walls. Subprime mortgages made houses affordable. People don't ask if an invention is good; they only ask if there are enough idiots in the world who will buy it. That's the original version of America before the photoshop techs get a hold of the picture and trim some belly fat off and brush out the cellulite and whiten the teeth with bleach. Packages are meant to be deceiving because the economy doesn't run on informed decisions.

Am I the only one who frowns when most news stories reporting on this IPO devote all their text to explaining how Fakebook is worth any money? Because we need to have this explained to us a day before we spend $104 billion. You know, we want to be informed. Hahaha. Still, most explanations fail to clearly explain why it is worth any money. I know why they allege it's worth money, but what is the exact commodity they provide? No one knows. Fakebook is selling you to back to yourself and taking a cut. That appears to be ok with everyone but I see it all as a collective value judgement. What is important to people? This social network is considered more important than water treatment facilities. It's more important than pharmaceutical companies that produce diabetes drugs. It's more important than Boeing, you know the plane you are flying in! It's worth more than your local grade school. Collectively, we're saying that bread can go stale and water can taste like piss and my plane can crash but as long as I can digitally gossip with my next door neighbor then everything is ok. That's not my value judgement but it's the collective financial judgement of everyone. A company is worth what people will pay for it and even though Fakebook is a depository of voluntarily entered data (I had an account under a fake name and listed my occupation as Astronaut), subject to change at any time, it's worth more than a basket of food. There are tangible and important corporations that are collectively worth nothing. And the one corporation that is totally intangible is collectively worth the most?? You might argue that if FB can manipulate the collective interests then that will be good when we all need to convert our water heaters to solar power. And my opinion is that people do not change behavior in that manner. You want corporate shortcuts and those don't work except to give fake value to corporate methodology. Common sense is not taught with uncommon techniques. I read that if, instead of buying a lottery ticket for that $600+ million purse back in March, everyone in NY alone had pooled their money instead they could've rebuilt three inner city grade schools. Don't quote me, but you get my point. What are we choosing to invest in?

My suspicion is that this is the beginning of the end because something can not appear so monumentally misguided from a common sense point of view (consumerism being elevated to narcissistic levels and brokered as a commodity) without leading to tragedy and because this tragedy will involve $100+ billion then this isn't going to be a little speed bump when people come to their senses. I feel that relying on the attention span of 15 year old girls to elevate and stabilize a $100 Billion corporation isn't a good idea, but I'm just a homeless bongosero so what do I know? My conclusion is that we're fucked because I don't think Fakebook will be around in a decade and $110 Billion will evaporate, and if it is around, if it grows and thrives, then we're really fucked.
The 99% finally have the power. If everyone deleted their fakebook account at once they could actually influence global economies. It would be a fight club moment I wonder if Zuck had that in mind. Genius.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.