New Criticals

Code on Screen

In many respects, Facebook is the digital banal: it is a daily habit through which life is experienced mediationally. Founded in 2004 by then Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, Facebook has approximately 1.28 billion users who access the site daily. It was perhaps the first Web 2.0 platform that made the web feel like real life for nonspecialist users. At its inception, Facebook was a site that verified users through their preexisting social networks and replicated those real-world networks exclusively. Since 2004 Facebook has become a default mode of social connection across the globe—85.8 percent of daily active users are outside of the United States and Canada. As Kember and Zylinska argue, “With its constant flow of data, its shaping of human and nonhuman experiences and events, and its reworking of what we understand as a ‘relationship’ and a ‘connection,’ we could perhaps go so far as to suggest that Facebook is a modulation of ‘life itself.’ ” The banality of Facebook in the context of its users’ lives—its everydayness—is both the means by which, and the block to recognizing how, Facebook becomes a modulation of “life itself.” As an interface for social interaction, Facebook works by disappearing; it is a tool for connection. The affective novelty of Facebook is its uncanny re-presentation of your life, but this is effaced and appears instead as efficiency. In practice, Facebook is a program that determines the parameters and quality of “connection” as a reified concept, but in everyday life, it is mostly an icon that users tap to see what their friends and family (and not-so-close connections) are up to. In these ways, Facebook conforms to the operation of the digital banal; the condition by which we don’t notice the affective novelty of becoming-with digital media. In other words, the way we use media makes us unaware of the ways we are co-constituted as subjects with media.