Evan Selinger:

Let’s examine the most egregious Facebook ad of them all: “Dinner” (in the video above). On the surface, it portrays an intergenerational family meal where a young woman escapes from the dreariness of her older relative’s boring cat talk by surreptitiously turning away from the feast and instead feasting her eyes on Facebook Home. With a digital nod to the analog “Calgon, Take Me Away” commercials, the young woman is automatically, frictionlessly transported to a better place: full of enchanting rock music, ballerinas, and snowball fights.

But let’s break Zuckerberg’s spell and shift our focus away from Selfish Girl. Think off-camera and outside the egocentric perspective framed by the ad. Reflect instead on the people surrounding her.

Ignored Aunt will soon question why she’s bothering to put in effort with her distant younger niece. Eventually, she’ll adapt to the Facebook Home-idealized situation and stop caring. In a scene that Facebook won’t run, Selfish Girl will come to Ignored Aunt for something and be ignored herself: Selfishness is contagious, after all. Once it spreads to a future scene where everyone behaves like Selfish Girl, with their eyes glued to their own Home screens, the Facebook ads portend the death of family gatherings.

Remember what I was saying about Hume and his connexions? This is a good example. If you’re already inclined to believe that most social media activity is frivolous, it’s very easy to thoughtlessly nod along with the next few steps in his reasoning. But people are not integers. Silly ads are not chains of logical propositions understood as literal commands. The Great Unwashed are not blank slates incapable of resisting or criticizing suggestions without the help of a philosophy professor. And when it comes to human behavior, like does not necessarily beget like. Ignored Aunt might very well possess the wisdom of several decades’ experience and be gracious enough to realize that Selfish Girl will eventually outgrow her moody adolescent self-absorption, as adolescents always have, without bearing her a grudge over it. Like most humans ever, Selfish Girl will likely become bored by her normal routine — in this case, frittering away spare moments on Facebook — and go looking for greener grass elsewhere. Perhaps even in flesh and blood relationships.

It’s typical of intellectuals, in their drive for logical consistency, to trick themselves into seeing logical necessity where none exists. Overthinking things, basically. Really, the idea that millions of years of social instincts honed by evolution will be destroyed or reshaped in a couple decades by some cool new gadgets is only fit for laughing at.