According to Jose van Dijck the mantra of Mark Zuckerberg that we have one identity is a conscious ideology aimed at manipulating us. Van Dijck counterposes this ideology with an image of us based on Goffman, in which we play different roles in front of different audiences.

In line with Zuckerberg’s ideology Facebook has worked hard to squeeze us into a uniform interface. Facebook’s current interface “is an attempt at smoothly integrating self-expression and self-promotion, connectedness and connectivity, and nar­rative and database logics into its uniform interface strategy.”

Why would Facebook do that? Van Dijck: “The linear, narrative structure dominating the visible user interface not only cajoles more information out of the user but also channels data input into a more uniform format. The introduction of standardized presentation formats on users’ homepages benefits the development of apps.  Moreover, algorithms work better if input is uniform; by forcing users to encode their information homogeneously, it is easier to automatically detect pat­terns of behavior and manipulate them. Platform owners are interested in standardization as well as in customization: if personal data are inserted and presented uniformly, it is easier for advertisers to mass-customize and personalize their marketing strategies, while real-time statistics help them keep track of their success.”

As a result the uniform interface is “playing into the hands of agencies and governments who want to control individuals’ conduct”.

Van Dijck’s conclusion: “The conflation of self-expression, self-communication and self-promotion into one tool, which is subsequently used for personality assessment and manipulating behavior, should raise the awareness of users in their different roles as citizens, friends, employees, employers and so on. After all, social media are not neutral stages of self-performance – they are the very tools for shaping identities.”


Thanks to @biebster and @joix for the article.