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May 22, 2012
Egg on whose face?
By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *

It is hard to be wrong 104 billion times without feeling a little defeated. However, there was some vindication for the Facebook naysayers on Friday as the “the most anticipated IPO ever” went out with whimper rather than a bang. And, now that the stock has to stand on its earnings rather than its media hype, there will be time—time to scrutinize the stock more rationally. This should embolden would-be Facebook slayers as well as attract the ever-feared shorts to the stock.

I continue to believe that neither Facebook nor the hoodie, by association, will fare well over time. This is neither a stock tip nor a fashion tip. It’s a statement of faith in human character. We are not built to suffer exploitation indefinitely. We are hard-wired for freedom. We throw off fashion as soon as becomes accepted style; we revolt once we feel the tug of the chain. Facebook is too overplayed and overtly manipulative to survive.

As its founder is quick to point out, Facebook was raised up by the people from nothing to something. It can just as easily be thrown asunder by the same people. And, I believe the people will choose privacy over virtual friendship and bolt from friending and liking. I see people leaving Facebook in the same manner they came to it—in droves. Hoodies will go the way of Members Only jackets; Facebook will join pet rocks on the list of inexplicable fads.

The increased public discussion of Facebook’s business model will only accelerate the pace of defection. Putting Facebook into the light of the marketplace will make it repugnantly clear to the platform’s near billion members that they are worth more to Facebook than the company is worth to them. This will tarnish the company’s glitzy, hip persona and expose its greedy, pathologically driven underpinnings. After feeling invaded, feeling used has the highest revulsion factor, especially among teenagers and young adults. Transparency will not be kind to Facebook in the end.

Already, the financial chatter about Facebook is exposing the true, exploitive nature of the company. In defense of its valuation, the stock pundits are quick to point out that the company made a billion dollars in 2011 by selling targeted advertising based on the personal information provided by its clients. With Cheshire-cat like smiles, Facebook-enamored market gurus have fallen into a mantra claiming that Facebook will only become more successful with time at monetizing the personal information of its clients. Stating over and over again that Facebook will soon be even better at turning its members into money sends a starkly different message than Mr. Zuckerberg’s friendly claim that the company’s mission is social.

The hoopla over the IPO is not the only thing that is self-referential about this company. Ultimately Facebook is a social cul-de-sac. Looped feedback is at the core of Facebook’s meteoric growth as a social media format. It is fundamental to its operation. Afterall, friending is not an outward act; it is a veiled request for affirmation. It is a boomerang of emotion meant to feed back to its source. A cycle that feeds into itself will die just as assuredly as a dead end’s end.

When I hear Zuckerberg’s grandiose claims that he will reengineer society, I cannot help but think of Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein. The similarity between the real inventor and the fictional character is striking. Hubristic and self-absorbed, Frankenstein withdrew from his colleagues to create his masterpiece in defiance of the natural order of things—sound familiar? He claimed god-like success—at least until he realized that, driven by his pain, he had created something grotesquely unnatural, not a man at all. His creation turned on him and mocked him, making him feel even more inadequate. If the public turns on Facebook in disappointment and horror, Zuckerberg may be in for the same lesson. 

Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.
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