Ben Grosser (United States)
Social-media users have begun to recognize how they have been paying for the “free and always will be” service of Facebook. We “gift” our data to huge corporations that tantalize us with opportunities to share too much information—and encourage others to do the same. We also pay for such services in others ways, such as a decreased ability to focus.
Social media also sometimes encourages us to share disinformation, whether we’re aware of it or not. It seduces us with the possibility of affirmation in the form of likes, comments, shares, and followers. It can cause us to lose sight of how we sometimes participate in damaging our personal wellbeing, digital identities, and social lives. Social media has been linked to catastrophic events, including Brexit and the election of Trump.
Ben Grosser’s Safebook is a browser extension that makes Facebook safe—or, as safe as is possible. It does so by removing all content from the Facebook interface, emptying the site’s containers, so that potentially triggering image, text, video, and audio files are hidden. It takes care to preserve all interactive mechanisms of the site, leaving it fully navigable despite the missing content.
Users are then free to post statuses and to “like” those posted by friends, share content, scroll newsfeeds, friend and unfriend others, and everything else that other users can do. The only difference is that the space is “safe” since offending content has been hidden, so the probability of unpleasant emotions of fear or envy have been reduced.
Since Facebook’s infrastructure remains unchanged, Safebook users find themselves navigating the site as though they can see content. The interface has been burned into memory.
Imagine your life with content-free messages on Facebook messenger. Imagine Facebook defused of divisive content. Imagine Safebook.
Grosser’s projects have been featured in three previous FLEFF exhibitions: ScareMail in 2014, Computers Watching Movies in 2015, and in Tracing You in 2016.