Science

Swimming With the Sharks in Facebook’s World


But I have come up with a nearly foolproof plan. In the language of venture capital, it is a small-bore but potentially scalable one-on-one entertainment monetization system.

More simply, I will try to get people to pay me for amusing them. As they say in Hollywood, “Funny is money.”

Maybe we could combine laugh remuneration with the cybercurrency phenomenon: Twitcoin? Gigglebucks? I mean, so much of the buzz around online currencies is laughable, especially when it comes to people who might lose millions of dollars because they’ve lost the passwords to their digital wallets.

I tried out this gem of an idea with Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at the University of Virginia and an expert on social media and especially Facebook, which he wrote about in his book “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us And Undermines Democracy.” But he said only a comparatively few people in social media make real money, or even enough money to pay the rent.

The result, he said, was a “race to the bottom,” which he assured me was not a reference to those suddenly ubiquitous rear-flap pajama ads that show a flash of the model’s derrière.

Nonetheless, I decided to try out my one-to-one humor model in a phone conversation with him.

I mentioned that Facebook, with its huge power and resources, “really knows how to lean in,” a reference to the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote a best seller about, well, leaning in.

Professor Vaidhyanathan is a kind man, and he laughed.

“You chuckled!” I said, putting my plan into action. “Would you be willing to pay me for that? I mean, you could Venmo it to me — ”



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