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Meta: Facebook's new name has been torn to pieces online

A Facebook logo on a screen

Facebook hasn't developed a great reputation in recent years. Image: ShopCatalog/Flickr

Let’s be honest, we all like a makeover. Whether it’s a new year’s resolution, a full-body spray tan, or just a new suit, some form of rebrand is a chance to emerge from the ashes of our past selves, to present to the world with new resolve and ambitions, to cast off the chrysalis of youthful naïveté and be the badass butterfly we were always meant to be. And so Facebook is now called Meta.

The last six years have not been kind to Mark Zuckerberg’s hopes and dreams. The man might be a muli-billionaire but his stable of tech platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, have stood accused of facilitating everything from cyber-bullying and eating disorders to state-run interference in democratic processes, the sale of drugs and weapons, countless online scams, police surveillance, data harvesting, hate speech, riots, and genocide.

It’s little wonder, then, that the latest iteration of Facebook is a step into fantasyland. The “Meta-verse” of virtual and augmented reality will be a space where users can don a headset and drift out into dreamspace, oblivious to the slow-burn horrors of the real world.

That’s not the marketing pitch of course — Zuck called it “the next evolution in social connection” — but the cynicism of the online world is not to be underestimated.

Let’s start with the logo. This being the internet, many users were quick to add certain body parts to the graphic in a way which — for matters of taste — is best left to the imagination.

Variations on the name “Meta” are more family-friendly. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a pun-tastic political point, tweeting “Meta as in ‘we are a cancer to democracy metastasizing into a global surveillance and propaganda machine for boosting authoritarian regimes and destroying civil society… for profit!'”

And then there are the dumb internet jokes which make one of mankind’s greatest technological achievements worthwhile. Like changing “Meta” to “Feta”. And putting feta in Zuckerberg’s hands. And turning his head into cheese.

Comparisons to dystopian sci-fi series Black Mirror were out in abundance, with one scene from season 1 bearing a striking similarity to Zuckerberg’s vision of the future.

Brands got in on the act as well, such as Kraft, global purveyors of pasta ready meals and processed cheese.

Responding directly to the Meta announcement, the Kraft Dinner brand account wrote “Announcing Noodle. We’re changing our name to usher in the next chapter in social connection.”

They even included a new logo made out of macaroni.

Burger chain Wendy’s, which has developed a reputation for having a particularly sassy social media manager wrote simply “Changing name to Meat”.

There were more serious takes as well, of course. The Twitter account for the American satirical programme The Daily Show took the announcement video and morphed it into footage from the Jan 6 riots at the US Capitol, with the caption “Nobody asked for this new Facebook feature”.

And technologist Evan Greer took it further, explaining how the development from social network was in fact “a play to control the future of the internet”.

“With his push for Facebook to build and dominate the ‘metaverse,’ and colonizing forays into digital currencies and NFTs, Zuckerberg is co-opting the terminology of decentralization and attempting to solidify his stranglehold on the future of human attention and interaction,” she wrote.

For years Facebook has been bringing the internet to parts of the world which were not yet connected. The effect, according to a 2015 survey, is that more people in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines said they were Facebook users than reported using the internet.

“It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” wrote researcher Rohan Samarajiva as far back as 2012. If the leaders of Facebook — sorry, Meta — have their way, the same may be true for all of us.

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