Earlier this month, all eyes were on Facebook. On April 10th 2018, Facebook’s chief executive and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, began a two day gauntlet of US congressional hearings in the wake of global controversies with the social media platform: Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, an epidemic of fake news, the Cambridge Analytica data privacy breach, and the looming debate over regulation of free speech and radicalization on the internet. Zuckerberg appeared before weary lawmakers, in over his head, amidst the growing pains of an empire which has spread like a new digital virus replicating through the social sphere beyond all imagined limits.
After the news broke that data from 87 million facebook users had been mined for political profiling during the last US presidential election, anxiety at the juncture of the private and the public erupted. The techoutopian ego ideal, ‘Connected’, has quickly become a form of the superego as death drive, ‘Share!’ We have arrived at yet another moment of the loss of belief in the function of the limit. The crisis of data privacy exposes the faulty separation of our digital bodies from a wicked Other. This produces paranoid effects in the social media discourse. Yet there is a larger problem – the anxiety encountered at the edge of the semblant of ‘privacy’ itself. At a certain moment in his teachings, Lacan implied the body of language. We are now in the paradigm of the body of data.
We can interpret the facebook crisis with the following question: where does my body of data end and the body of the digital Other begin? It is a new phenomenon of the imaginary body that has blossomed, outside of comprehension, fertilized by technology and capitalism. The Congressional Hearings demonstrated that not even Facebook knows how Facebook works.
There is a strange transference to social media. It is not the transference first discovered in the analytic setting. Many have called it a new form of addiction. However, the impulse to share one’s intimate experiences instantaneously with the social internet, has produced a powerful global phenomenon of pseudo-transference. Analysands may first dream for their analysts; instagramers live ‘stories’ for their photostreams. It is the Imaginary capture of the subject converted into profile. The economic value of Facebook lies in the principle that each profile is like a snowflake, a unique collection of data. Here we must recognize the distinction between the individual and the singular, as understood from the analytic perspective.
During the XI Congress of the AMP in Barcelona, Gustavo Dessal referred to the problems of transference in a ‘liquid world’ of ‘algorithmic spirituality’. He evoked the transitional states of matter, from solid to liquid to a world ‘without gravity’. Facebook hails the era of volatile love. As liquid love evaporates into gas, it forms the digital ‘cloud’ that stores our social connections in ether. Where the signifying chain once was, a cloud of images has come to be. The latest iPhone uses facial recognition software as a security protocol. This is the face of data.