One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.  JRR Tolkien

While JRR Tolkien an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, is best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I believe that in writing these works of fantasy Tolkien went so deeply into the well spring of creativity that he perceived and recorded realms of mind/reality that otherwise remain hidden from our conscious/analytical minds.

As I sat down to write this post about Facebook and its ubiquitous searching/analyzing of human communication for commercial/political vulnerabilities of all of its 3 billion subscribers my thoughts kept coming back to Tolkien’s story of the ring and its magical ability to “bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

I would start to write and I would drift off to “one ring to bring them all…” Finally I had to ask myself, what my own consciousness was trying to tell me.  Then suddenly I was overwhelmed with a sense of personal discovery—Facebook is, more than any other human condition,  the one ring to bring them all… . No Tolkien didn’t prophesize the coming of Facebook. He simply went so deep into the patterns of human consciousness he saw the consequences of our all too human propensity to dominate and control all human and non human life around us. He foresaw that the struggle to know and control all of existence would, inevitably, turn on the bearer(s) of the ring. 

Despite Facebook’s apparent transparency about its intentions to bring all human experience into its algorithms designed to know and manipulate all of human experience, I don’t see/hear anyone talking about the consequences to our human spirit and to our perceptions of the natural world around us of seeking to control manipulate EVERYTHING.

The fascinating thing about Tolkien’s “Middle Earth”tale is that it so clearly warns us about the ultimate destruction of our world and our human spirit if we give into the idea that there is no inherent worth that we need to respect in each other and in the natural world in which we are inextricably enmeshed.

Like the ever-growing, irresistible urge to put on the ring of power, every time we log onto Facebook we give up an ever increasing part of our unmanipulated lives/our world to the corporate/political greed to control everything.

It is interesting that while wearing the ring corrupts the will of the ring bearer it also confers power to dominate the wills of other beings—whether or not they are wearing any of the Rings of Power. In Tolkien’s story the ring corrupts all it comes in contact with and corrupts the bearer’s consciousness so that he/she becomes ever more reluctant to give it up.

When I talk with friends who are on Facebook, it amazes me how utterly they are addicted to this manipulative social media.  Like the ring, they simply cannot give it up. They can’t even want to give it up. It amazes me the unrealistic stories about how you can just use Facebook to communicate with friends and family. They, very willingly, turn a blind eye to the ubiquitous corporate and political manipulative power of Facebook—despite the availability of other open source/nonmanipulative sources for sharing info and pictures.

Facebook’s manipulative power is likely beyond our ability to ever bring back under democracy valuing control. I bet you think I am about to offer a remedy to the conundrum of Facebook’s invaluable service at an unbearable cost to our individual and collective selves, but I can’t. I talk with friends about it but no one has any workable solutions. There are open source alternatives but none of them have the magic, the unfathomable power of Facebook to control our lives, our world, our democracy, our economy by offering a “free” medium for exchanging information and pictures.

I write these posts not to provide answers but to engage in discussion. What do you think? Can you imagine a world beyond Facebook? If so how can we get to a Facebook free world or at least escape a world where one platform has the power to “bring them  all and in the darkness bind them”?

Norm Reynolds