During the last session of Unlike Us #3 on the 22th of March, the focus turned to the relevant role of art in providing a critical response to the socio-political implications of social media monopolies and their centralized software. In this context, new media artist Benjamin Grosser introduced the Demetricator: a free web browser extension that hides all the metrics on Facebook.
We all recognize the ‘desire for more’ that is embedded in our capitalist society and cultivated on social media such as Facebook. As a result, most of us are obsessed with numbers, explains Grosser. “We are more interested in how many likes and friends we have, than in what our friends say and who they are. In this ‘social’ system the exchange value becomes your personal worth.
Facebook thrives on the distribution of its users ‘private’ data and is therefore highly dependent on a gratification system and competitive sphere that ensures user engagement on the platform. Furthermore, Facebook relies on the fear of missing out, which can only be relieved by boosting statistics related to our social value and activity. Grosser also considers time stamps as metrics – they present the news feed as a running and never-ending conversation. If we leave, we get the sense that we will be missing out. In this way, the focus on metrics that is woven into the architecture of Facebook becomes a powerful tool of control that disciplines its users and cultivates their need for consumption.
With this in mind, Grosser wondered how the focus on metrics influenced what people were sharing and saying on Facebook. At present, people only seem to share that which they think will result in the most ‘likes’. In an attempt to create a different experience of Facebook, Grosser created the Facebook Demetricator which makes all the metrics on Facebook disappear. “You still know that ‘people’ like it, that your post is shared and that there are comments, but not how many”, explains Grosser. For example; if the text under someone’s photo says ‘You and 4 other people like this’ Demetricator will change it to ‘You and other people like this’. In the same way, under an ad ’18.485 people like this’ changes to ‘people like this’. The time stamps are also turned into two categories: ‘recently’ (up to a few days) and ‘a while ago’ (week or two ago).
Grosser categorized the feedback from people who tried out the Demetricator as follows:
- Removes addictive behavior: numbers are like drugs, and users are looking for certain kind of reaction.
- Blunts competition
- Lessens emotional manipulation
- Relaxes (self- imposed) rules
For those who are interested to try the Facebook Demetricator, don’t hesitate to share your personal experience and thoughts via e-mail. Below is a video by Grosser about the Facebook Demetricator on Vimeo.