They say it’s friendship. We say it’s unwaged work. With every like, chat, tag or poke our subjectivity turns them a profit. They call it sharing. We call it stealing. We’ve been bound by their terms of service far too long—it’s time for our terms.
To demand wages for facebook is to make it visible that our opinions and emotions have all been distorted for a specific function online, and then have been thrown back at us as a model to which we should all conform if we want to be accepted in this society. Our fingertips have become distorted from so much liking, our feelings have gotten lost from so many friendships.
Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfilling activity to make us accept unwaged work. In its turn, the unwaged condition of facebook has been a powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that facebook is not work, thus preventing us from struggling against it. We are seen as users or potential friends, not workers in struggle. We must admit that capital has been very successful in hiding our work.
By denying our facebook time a wage while profiting directly from the data it generates and transforming it into an act of friendship, capital has killed many birds with one stone. First of all, it has got a hell of a lot of work almost for free, and it has made sure that we, far from struggling against it, would seek that work as the best thing online.
The difficulties and ambiguities in discussing wages for facebook stem from the reduction of wages for facebook to a thing, a lump of money, instead of viewing it as a political perspective. The difference between these two standpoints is enormous. To view wages for facebook as a thing rather than a perspective is to detach the end result of our struggle from the struggle itself and to miss its significance in demystifying and subverting the role to which we have been confined in capitalist society.
If we take wages for facebook as a political perspective, we can see that struggling for it is going to produce a revolution in our lives and in our social power. Not only is wages for facebook a revolutionary perspective, but it is a revolutionary perspective from a contemporary viewpoint that points towards class solidarity.
It is important to recognize that when we speak of facebook we are not speaking of a job as other jobs, but we are speaking of the most pervasive manipulation, the most subtle and mystified violence that capitalism has recently perpetrated against us. True, under capitalism every worker is manipulated and exploited and his/her relation to capital is totally mystified.
The wage gives the impression of a fair deal: you work and you get paid, hence you and your boss are equal; while in reality the wage, rather than paying for the work you do, hides all the unpaid work that goes into profit. But the wage at least recognizes that you are a worker, and you can bargain and struggle around and against the terms and the quantity of that wage, the terms and the quantity of that work.
To have a wage means to be part of a social contract, and there is no doubt concerning its meaning: you work, not because you like it, or because it comes naturally to you, but because it is the only condition under which you are allowed to live. But exploited as you might be, You are not that work.
To ask for wages for facebook will by itself undermine the expectations society has of us, since these expectations—the essence of our socialization—are all functional to our wageless condition online. In this sense, it is more apt to compare the struggle of women for wages than the struggle of male workers in the factory for more wages. When we struggle for wages we struggle unambiguously and directly against our social exploitation. We struggle to break capital’s plan to monetize our friendship, feelings and free time, through which it has been able to maintain its power.
Wages for facebook, then, is a revolutionary demand not because by itself it destroys capital, but because it attacks capital and forces it to restructure social relations in terms more favorable to us and consequently more favorable to working class solidarity. In fact, to demand wages for facebook does not mean to say that if we are paid we will continue to do it. It means precisely the opposite.
To say that we want money for facebook is the first step towards refusing to do it, because the demand for a wage makes our work visible, which is the most indispensable condition to begin to struggle against it. Against any accusation of ‘economism’ we should remember that money is capital, i.e. it is the power to command labour.
Therefore to reappropriate that money which is the fruit of our labour—and of all our friends’ labour— means at the same time to undermine capital’s power to command forced labour from us.
And from the viewpoint of work we can ask not one wage but many wages, because we have been forced into many jobs at once—we also work for google, twitter, microsoft, youtube and countless others. From now on we want money for each moment of it, so that we can refuse some of it and eventually all of it.
Wages for facebook is only the beginning, but its message is clear: from now on they have to pay us because as users we do not guarantee anything any longer. We want to call work what is work so that eventually we might rediscover what friendship is.