What's on your mind? Facebook, voluntary surveillance, and the global panopticon – The Socjourn

In 1948 George Orwell wrote the novel 1984, a novel about a dystopian future society where total control of thought and action was the name of the game. A docile worker population, a subdued under class, and constant and uninterrupted war meant total submission to The System. The whole thing hinged on the quick identification of subversives, thought control, and the elimination of thought crime. According to George there were a number of ways thoughts could be controlled, from the ongoing revision of history and reality to the surveillance of the population. The goal was to use “psychology [and] surveillance to find and eliminate members of society who are capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling authority.” (ref)

The first step towards policing thought crime is, of course, knowing what people are thinking. Since most of us haven’t bothered to develop our telepathic abilities, if we want to know we have to ask. This is exactly what Facebook does when it asks you to reveal what you’re thinking about. The entry box seems so innocuous, and innocent. It is all about the “social” after all. Or at least, that’s what you think. You see, the trick in surveillance and observation, the secret of the Panopticon is, as Jeremy Bentham pointed out, to hide the surveillance(ref). And Facebook has done a brilliant job of hiding it right under your nose, and making you excited about participating in it as well. But you should be careful. If you have any doubts about the true nature of Facebook, or what it is really being used for,  have a read of the article “Facebook’s Experiment and its CIA roots” (Martens & Martens, 2014).  In this article the Martens’s point to a recent study published in the  Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences under the title: “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks.” The implications of this study for mass emotional control should be clear, but if you have any doubts check out Segelken and Shackford (2014) who reveal that all you have to do to put people into a bad mood is make their news feed negative! It is not so hard, especially since, as Segelken (2014a) notes, people are drawn to revealing themselves and are indeed even coming to rely on on Facebook for their self-esteem needs (Kelley, 2013).

Thinking about this you have to be aware, that’s a lot of power. With billions of people being hooked to Facebook in the same way they are hooked to drugs and gambling, and with the officers of Facebook being above normal ethical controls, and possibly linked to military dollars (Editorial Board, 2014a, 2014b), we should be careful, or at least thoughtful, about the direction of our modern surveillance technologies.

So tell us, “what’s on your mind.”

Share with us your likes and dislikes.

Let us follow you around a bit.

If you listen to subsersive rock and roll, we’d like to know.

If you liked that critical social documentary you saw on Netflix, by all means tell us.

Come to us for your emotional need and remember, saccharine and non-threatening entertainment keeps you docile, and that’s good!

That’s what we like to see.

So don’t be afraid.

We’re only here to help and we can’t do that unless you tell us…

“What’s on your mind today?”


Editorial Board  (2014a). Correction for Kramer et al., Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(29), 10779-10779.

Editorial board  (2014b). Editorial Expression of Concern: Experimental evidence of massivescale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(29), 10779-10779.

Kelly, S. (2013). Facebook assures us we’re good enough, smart enough. Cornell Chronical(June).

Kramer, A. D. I., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.

Martens, P. (2014). Facebook’s Experiment and its CIA Roots. Wall Street on Parade. Retrieved from http://wallstreetonparade.com/2014/07/facebook%E2%80%99s-experiment-and-its-cia-roots/

Segelken, H. R. (2014). Facebook status: ‘Feel like disclosing innermost feelings’. Cornell Chronical(March).

Segelken, H. R., & Shackford, S. (2014). News feed: ‘Emotional contagion’ sweeps Facebook. Cornell Chronical(June).