Santa is a legendary character, originating in Western culture, who is said to bring children gifts on Christmas Eve of toys and candy or coal or nothing, depending on whether they are “naughty or nice”. He supposedly accomplishes this with the aid of Christmas elves, who make the toys in his workshop, often said to be at the North Pole, and flying reindeer who pull his sleigh through the air. But who is Big Santa?

The name Big Santa is inspired by Big Brother from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the people are continuously monitored by live cameras as well as microphones. Most people rightfully abhor such breach of privacy, but how many can resist the call of the corporate Big Santa, who´s providing free internet services? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others offer all free access to their platforms and people are flocking towards them in droves.

Few users of those free platforms give it a thought that free services come with a price too: instead of being a consumer, they become the product. As the saying goes: there are no free lunches in life. There is always someone paying for it. In case of the free internet platforms, the real customers are the marketers, political parties, and advertisers. They´re footing the bill in return for information about other people’s private information. And some users of those “free” platforms are very generous with that information, with some of them throwing literally their whole life on those internet forums. When there are enough people doing this, those platforms become a real goldmine for corporate business. Ask Mark Zuckerberg: he became a billionaire by selling information he collected with his “free” Facebook.

By convincing users to give away valuable information about themselves in exchange for free services, firms can accrue large amounts of data at virtually no cost. In his book Who Owns the Future? (2013) Jaron Lanier calls those firms “Siren Servers”, alluding to the Sirens of Ulysses. Instead of paying everyone for their contribution to the data pool, the Siren Servers concentrate wealth in the hands of the few who control the data centers.

In addition, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have made their users cruder, less empathetic, more tribal. Lanier worries that reliance on social media platforms is reducing people’s capacity for spirituality, and that social media users are in essence turning into automated extensions of the platforms.

I´m aware that the social media are for many people a tool to manage some aspects of their life. Just don’t get sucked into a vortex of endlessly checking Facebook, Instagram, online news, Twitter, whatever… Be aware that your online content will be fragmented, chopped, and sold to advertisers by social media companies. Some entrepreneurs will add up all the time sucked from your life, and call it a metric – ‘user engagement’.

9 thoughts on “Big Santa.

  1. All true. Around 2010 Jaron Lanier saw all this and where it was headed, and began working on a simultaneous re-shifting of internet info silos and internet economic centralization. A main point of his idea was that people should by rights own all of their data, and should be compensated for it with carious kinds of micropayments.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a nice thought, but alas very impractical to implement. It’s also a knife that cuts on two sides. Imagine that all those Facebookers, Instagrammers, Twitter canaries, TikTokkers, etc… would be asked to pay 10 usd a month for using each of those social media? My bet is that you’ll get a revolution of discontented users. Most people don’t value their privacy as they should and those who do, just use those platforms with precaution.

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      1. Yes, all these challenges have at least partial validity, but Lanier is anything but naive. He was at the core from the outset, in the 80s when the web’s messaging package architecture was first being thought out. ALso you must understand: it is the advertisers, and the benefitters who would have the obligation, not the users in as far as they are ‘content’ creators. The idea that everything, info, is free — is the underlying lie which makes billionaires of Zuckerbergs ad Google. The simple insight is that if you as a platform ‘use’ data, you micropay the owner-originator of it. I know also that his team were looking at micropayments around ay access of data, but not to platforms, to originators.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The main issue may be that you would have to find an entrepreneur with sufficient funds and social media skills who would be interested to start up such platform. It won’t happen if he has to make his internet service available for free. Here on wordpress we’re contend providers too who pay to do so (that is if you don’t have the basic version)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. On a different tangent about social media and looking at an earlier variation , the church as supplier of a social platform and haven to discuss or confess ones information seems a precursor to the modern religion.
    In Charles Dickens travelogue ” pictures from Italy” Dickens witnesses a hanging and learns how the young man had murdered a female pilgrim and gifted her clothing to his wife whom recognizing the items tells this information to a priest who informs “Big Santa” and is put to death. And maybe rightly so in that case, but when it comes to executing on the grounds of differing views and practices, a completely different story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There are countless examples of criminals who brag about their crimes or ill gotten fortune on the social platforms and who were meeting their deserved fate. You also have the immigrants who’re running critical blogs about their home countries and who’re getting arrested (and sometimes executed) upon visiting relatives there. Both are either extremely naïve or just plain stupid. Even intellectuals as Salmon Rushdie (who probably purposely sought the controversy) underestimated the determination of some religious fanatics or dictatorial regimes. My point is: you put something on the social media, it’s also there for those who don’t have your best interests in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

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