A toxic company by any other name, the consensus on social media seems to indicate, still smells just as foul. And as branding exercises go, Meta looks like it’s a mini flop. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO of the parent company which owns Instagram, WhatsApp and a host of other social media and VR products, announced the much-anticipated name change to Facebook Inc’s holding company on Thursday. Meta, rather obviously, will focus on the Metaverse. The new logo is a blue infinity symbol — the shape of many a naïve tattoo envisioned post an intro to philosophy lecture — and the name change is clearly meant to indicate the company’s pivot to virtual reality.
The problem with the rebranding is that it sells the same old schtick: Helping “connect people”; with virtual reality, people will feel “right there” no matter how far apart they are. An unsaid though obvious corollary is that the company formerly known as Facebook will look to control this new VR-headset, algorithm-driven Utopia. Unfortunately, no matter how Meta it becomes, in the real world, the company has yet to address how its apps and algorithms have led to social strife, political polarisation and the devaluation of facts. On Twitter, people pointed out that “Meta” sounds like a designer drug — apt, given how addictive and harmful whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations have shown the company’s products to be.
Facebook (now Meta) is responsible in large part for the jaded response to its attempts at an image makeover. VR and the internet were supposed to be ways to transcend the limitations (vis a vis knowledge) and pettiness (through open communication) of the human condition. Yet, companies like Facebook have turned the dreams of a better future into portends of a dystopian nightmare. A cliché logo and a vague, earnest new name won’t change that.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 30, 2021 under the title ‘Meta fail’.