Culture Jam

Original Version of the Facebook Ad

In the age of digitalization, social media has changed the culture of consumerism. As of 2018, Facebook has reached an unimaginable 2.27 billion monthly active users1. Social media has become a platform of advertising that is replacing traditional means of advertising in a drastic rate. From the use of personal data to generate targeted ads, to companies hiring internet gurus to post contents about their products on platforms such as Instagram, social media has raised advertising to a new level of personalization and furtiveness. Yet social media companies continue to brand themselves as a platform for sharing with friends and connecting with like-minded people, deceiving their users from the companies’ true business model.

In the above ad that Facebook uses in their signup page, an image is shown with yellow icons of people spread across the globe connected via dotted lines, along with the slogan “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” With the emphasis of “people in your life”, Facebook suggests a sense of intimacy, as if the users will only be sharing with people that they are close to in their lives. The map gives a sense of excitement, implying users can connect and befriends with people from across the globe. Facebook brands itself as a platform for creating a global community. With its timeline and album features, people can share their lives with friends and family, and create memory by post photos and tagging friends in the photo. With its interests & groups features, Facebook enable users to meet new people that share the same hobbies. What the users are often unaware of is that all these information are not as private as they seem. Facebook collects personal data from users such as interests, birthday, and search history. These data are then used to generate targeted ads and sold to companies to generate enormous profit.


Jammed Version of the Facebook Ad

In the recent news, Facebook has been under fire for its shady practices involving the use of its user data to establish business relations with other corporates. In my culture jam above, I replaced the people icons with the logos of companies that are known to be involved in Facebook data sharing arrangements. The extend of user data that Facebook is sharing with other major companies has become increasingly alarming. The social media giant gave companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify exceptions to its privacy policies, bypassing its typical privacy protections for users. These exceptions include the ability to obtain email addresses of a user’s friends, and even read and delete a user’s private messages.

Before the Internet boom, retailers used methods such as TV and radio commercials, billboards, newspaper to reach their audience. It is often inefficient because the audience reached via these methods are usually broad. With the amount of data that Facebook has gathered via users’ likes, interests and other data put on Timeline, Facebook has the ability to slice and dice its users into target groups, and provide advertisers with informations such as location, demographics, and interests that allow advertisers to reach the particular audience they want. Facebook has become an advertising behemoth that knows far more about you than maybe even your close friends. With this culture jam, I hope to invoke the thought that while we’re seemingly enjoying the free products that lets us connect and share with friends, our data and privacy are manipulated as a price we pay, to the benefit of companies that are taking over our lives.