We’re forever blowing bubbles
FORTUNE – I don’t like Facebook. There, I said it, and you know what? It felt good. I don’t like Facebook I don’t like Facebook I don’t like Facebook. I have a feeling there are a lot of people who feel the way I do but are ashamed to say so. Our pop culture machine has come together with the greedy engine of post-industrial capitalism to produce a gigantic bubble of consensus, and we’re all inside that bubble looking out. But there’s no reason for it, not really. Bubbles just like it have popped before. In fact, in the end, all bubbles pop. That’s what bubbles do.
Men all used to wear fedoras. Now only hipsters do, with irony. Hula-Hoops are gone, as are suspenders for mid-level executives, ubiquitous smoking, drinking at the office, hair metal bands, and free love. Call me a reactionary. Call me a Luddite. Call me late for dinner. But I can’t believe that in the future everybody is going to continue to want to share things.
In fact, I hate sharing things. I don’t share my toothbrush. I don’t share my pork chop, although if you ask me nicely with big eyes and a trembling lip I might give you a bite. I don’t share my thoughts, except for love or money. I don’t want you to see my pictures of Bob’s birthday party. I don’t want to see your pictures of Cassandra’s first steps, or that video of you on that panel at South by Southwest about social media. Particularly not that.
My Friends are not my friends. In reality, I have maybe four or five actual friends. They know who they are, because now and then I see them, usually over drinks. My Friends, on the other hand, are a ragtag bunch of former associates and failed loves from various phases of my life, in whom I have no interest whatsoever. Yet there they are on my Facebook wall, with their observations and grainy little photographs and professional extrusions of one sort or another. I hate myself on my wall, too. Who is that person? Is he really that bogus?
I hate being Marketed to, too. That’s Facebook (FB) all over, just one gigantic tool. Maybe in the beginning it had something genuine about it, like Harvard students looking for sex. But now? Now it’s all about Marketing, like hip-hop and psychotropic medication and who’s going to be your next senator. If you want to sell something, you gotta be on Facebook! Well, I don’t want to Like Burger King, although I do like Burger King.
I was at a lunch the other day with some people in San Francisco, where bubbles are born and monetized. Everybody was on his third or fourth startup, most worth hundreds of millions of dollars from business activity that had produced nothing but an entity that had been acquired at great cost by another that immediately diffused or abandoned it. “We raised $1 billion on that deal,” said one proudly as the tiny cookies were passed around over the decaf espressos. “About $250 million went to the business. And $750 million went to investors!” Then there was a bunch of chuckling and nodding.
And now we have the Facebook IPO. More than $100 billion poured into the gleaming silicon surface of this, the most powerful bubble of our time. And all those smart guys who put their money in at one point or another — venture capitalists, corrupt bloggers, Russian oligarchs — will get even richer. And the rest of the business universe — those who work like dogs to produce actual operating profit, earnings per share, and the occasional bump in their stock prices — will look on in wonder and frustration. And in their hearts, they will hate Facebook too, even as they are scuttling on the ocean floor looking for people to Like them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call my broker and put in a buy order at $10. I know it’s a risk. But all that bullshit has to be worth something.
This story is from the June 11, 2012 issue of Fortune.