Meta, Facebook’s recent rebranding, reminds internet users more of a famous idiom than the futurization it meant to inspire.
Opinion by Matthew Royer, Political News Editor
At the beginning of October, Facebook and its subsidiaries disappeared from the internet. For a moment, there was peace. But a few weeks later, instead of peace, we have Meta and a Mark Zuckerberg digital avatar available to haunt dreams at night.
“Nobody asked for this,” cried anybody who watched Zuckerberg’s Thursday press conference where Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta. A play on metaverse, the new name represents the digital world the multi-billionaire plans to build through his technology, hoping to display a reboot for those working at the company. However, for the consumer, the name Meta will not make the world forget how the company deceived users into viewing waves of misinformation on their platform, sewing distrust into an already misguided American society. The word itself comes from Greek origin, meaning beyond, but instead can remind people that if you put lipstick on a pig, at the end of the day, it is still a pig.
By designing a press moment for the technology conglomerate, Zuckerberg succeeded in making cosmetic changes to the brand that seems to spend more time testifying in front of Congress than making actual progress in correcting past misgivings.
While the company itself could be the focus of the distrust created over the years following the 2016 Presidential Election, in which Facebook was cited as being used by foreign agents to create chaos within the American populace, the man behind it all is most to blame. Zuckerberg, the only major tech executive with a film serialization of his life, is closer to representing the character written by Aaron Sorkin in 2010’s “The Social Network” instead of the hero once believed to have what it takes to bring the world together through communication.
This transformation for the Facebook company may be more of a personal ploy for Zuckerberg than a corporate one. With Facebook becoming a net-negative in the public social lives of Americans, by giving himself a new title, the Harvard dropout paved a new path for himself. Zuckerberg is choosing to focus on the possibilities of a three dimensional virtual reality world to live in, rather than the current reality which has painted him as a supervillain in the style of DC Comics’ Lex Luthor.
One could believe that Facebook looked to pivot after whistleblower Frances Haugen came out against the company. She reflected on the years of lies the company crafted to protect their profits, providing materials along the way.
“[Haugen’s] key revelations included how Facebook executives handled politicized lies, including Donald J. Trump’s claims of election fraud,” wrote Ben Smith of the NY Times. “Often, the company chose to let misinformation spread widely to keep more people logging on. The series also noted the lengths that Facebook went to in its desperation to hang on to its audience as young people drifted away from its platforms.”
The company’s allegations and proven misconduct would be enough for any ordinary executive to curl up and resign. Still, for Zuckerberg, it allowed an opportunity others would not take. Zuckerberg twisted the bottom of the lipstick tube, told the pig that is Facebook to pucker up and messily smothered the area below the snout. Instead of going beyond, or meta, Facebook went for the media attention, which ultimately succeeded. Although, the company now exists in infamy, just as Sorkin’s characterization did more than 10 years ago.