Tom Hodgkinson: Evaluating “Friends Like These . . .”

Tom Hodgkinson’s essay “Friends Like These . . .” is flawed and his argument is profoundly ineffective

I pity Tom Hodgkinson; reading his article “With Friends Like These. . .” beckons the same profound annoyances as an argument with a stubborn child. In the essay, Hodgkinson persistently attempts to slander Facebook and the “[500] million suckers” who use it (326), but his work quickly develops into a faulty and ineffective argument. Moreover, his claims rely on hilarious warrants that establish his lack of credibility and experience in the subject field. Authors like this are writing in styles unexpected of middle-aged writers, and seemingly imitating the pesky manners and insecurities of a quarrelsome adolescent. Here’s an author whose jealousy and social anxieties instigate his offensive language and deceitful manipulation of sources.

In starting “With Friends Like These. . .”, Hodgkinson protests, “I despise Facebook”, and suggests that the application disconnects people, for time is better spent “eating and dancing and drinking with my friends”. He carries on with these sentiments by relating an anecdote of his friend who spent Saturday night on Facebook, drinking without him. Hodgkinson sketches opening conclusions from his aforementioned “grandeur” evidence, insistent that “Facebook actually isolates us”(326). However, these novel remarks give the argument no justice and even rather address his ideas alongside clown shoes and hip flasks. It was establishedearlier that Facebook has 500 million-some members; that’s well over one-in-four Internet users worldwide! Faced against these numbers, an author like Hodgkinson doesn’t have the renown to start his argument with a lengthy tap-dance over the audience’s toes or with syntax that bar-fiddles about alike some drunkard’s journal.

Perhaps in envy of his audience, Hodgkinson next remarks that Facebook “encourages a disturbing competitiveness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king.” In his eyes, “the more friends you have, the better you are. You are ‘popular’, in the sense much loved in American high schools.” To support these juvenile comments, Hodgkinson points out an article title from Facebook magazine, “How to Double Your Friends List”, but for the reader’s delight he admits, “I am very much alone in my hostility”(326).

Subsequently, his claim drifts from these trivial testimonies to warrant based from distorted character references of Facebook’s board members, especially Peter Thiel. Failing to realize that Facebook’s company is broad and more distinguished by the greater network of employees, Hodgkinson spends quite some time building his absurd attack against Thiel. Alongside his smear-campaign, he includes information that might be better served in a biography, like the fact Thiel is a “chess master”(328).

In his efforts to condemn Thiel’s reputation, and mainly Facebook, Hodgkinson deceitfully relies on a podcast that was hosted in 2004. Although this podcast was an academic lecture about Internet-economics, Hodgkinson manipulates it to define Thiel’s philosophy and ethics. He states that Thiel “seems to approve of offshore tax havens” and he is “against tax”. Next, claiming Thiel “likes the globalization of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack”. Furthermore, he explains that “What you don’t hear about in Thiel’s philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure, and truth”, but why would he expect to see these concepts in Thiel’s key-notes, when it’s a 20-minute lecture about economics? After listening to the podcast, it’s obvious that Hodgkinson had taken and abused the speech out-of-context, affirming his tendency to argue like a stubborn child (329-330).

Moreover, the author continues to detail Thiel by explaining some of his investments, for example in a firm that experiments with life-extension technologies. Thiel is exclaimed as board member for the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and benefactor of Cambridge-based gerontologist Aubrey de Grey. Hodgkinson draws from this and the previously exploited podcast to make the fallacious statement that “by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls ‘nature’, and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook” (330). By this point in the article, Hodgkinson has failed to appeal to the audience, and further shows that his foundational warrant has been maliciously derived and faulty in nature.

Finally, in “With Friends Like These . . .” the author makes absurd claims that Facebook is really “an arid global virtual republic” and “totalitarian regime” in which members find “the commodification of human relationships” and are forced “to send genius investor Thiel all [their] money” (332-334). However, the matter of fact is that the advertisements served on Facebook take minimal space and more importantly allow the application to be totally free; most casual users pay no attention to the ads.

Affirming his conviction to live outside reality, Hodgkinson says “Damn air-conditioning”, and boasts that “if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology [… ] called talking”; though his shouts can’t be heard thousands of miles away, like the reach of an e-mail or telephone call(334). Well-hidden in the countryside, it may be difficult for the author to realize that technological advancements such as Facebook have done wonders for society; Look at the news, there’s several countries in revolt of their corrupt governments, and such efforts are fundamentally made possible by this social application. Mainly, the argument presented in “With Friends Like These . . .” is highly ineffective, revealing Hodgkinson’s deliberate abuse of sources and faulty logic.