Social Media Bullshit: What We Don’t Know About and Why We Should Care

John, Nicholas A.
Social Media + Society

If we live in media, then our knowledge of our social lives must, at least partly, come from those media. It is in this context that I analyze, a page that claims to show “how many new friendships formed just yesterday” between Facebook users from the opposing sides of three different protracted conflicts. However, the numbers seem unfeasible, leading to a series of attempts to try and evaluate them independently, as well as to ask Facebook if they could explain them. This article presents these failed efforts to verify the numbers published by Facebook, and the subsequent conclusion that they are, technically speaking, bullshit, and more specifically, social media bullshit. It is in reaching this conclusion that the article contributes to theoretical discussions around data, social media, and knowledge.