Reviewed by Matthew Bridgewater and Estee Beck, Bowling Green State University

boy kings

Publisher: Free Press

ISBN: 978-1451668254

Reviewed by

Matthew Bridgewater


Estee Beck


"But what, also, could be diminished by such quick access? In the realm of ideas, it seemed easy: Who wouldn't want to distribute and discuss ideas widely? However, in the realm of the personal, it seemed more complicated. What was the benefit of doing everything in public? Is information itself neutral, or do different types of information have different values, different levels of expectation of privacy, differenty implications for distribution and consumption? Should all information be shared equally quickly and without regard to my relationship to it? And, finally, and most important, as we ask whenever we begin a new relationship with anything, would this be good for me?" (p. XVIII)

Katherine Losse’s memoir focuses on not only her time at Facebook, but also what it means to work for a company that has solved a problem of Internet use for women, and that is creating a safe space for women to engage and interact without the prying eyes of voyeurs weaseling their way onto a woman’s cyberspace. While Facebook emerged as a haven for her and other women to network with privacy options intact, the platform morphed into a new way of augmenting reality. What became posted and shared on Facebook became the truth about how to understand relationship dynamics and personal experiences. When her colleague, testing the new relationship feature of Facebook, posted that he and Losse were in a relationship, Losse received many instant messenger comments about the status. It didn’t matter that in real life that Losse and her colleague, Thrax, were known as friends in the office, as once her colleague posted that status on Facebook, the status became the new truth. Later in the book, Losse recounts a suggestion by a new engineer to create a function where a mutual friend can suggest that two other friends meet up; however, a more senior engineer quickly dismissed the proposal stating there was already a function in Facebook that allowed people to “suggest friends” not realizing the implication of the new engineer was to meet up offline. With several instances such as this throughout Losse’s memoir, she crafts the reason for leaving the company: While Facebook is a great platform for supporting real life relationships; it’s not as satisfying and has a pull as she saw with some of her colleagues at the company, of augmenting real life and preferring the digital over the real. 

While the main theme of the book is the binary of digital versus real, there is another theme in her reflections upon what it means to be a woman working in male-dominated Silicon Valley that is important to note. There are many instances where Losse reflects upon being othered for her status as woman and her position as a customer-service employee. At times, she examines her subject position as gendered and as outsider to the engineers by offering evidence to suggest that the created culture of Facebook reinscribes hegemonic structures of the patriarchy, social distinction, and even themes of oppression by questioning the position of what it means to share information socially on a platform that reinforces social order. From this vantage point, Losse’s ability to draw upon the discursive practices of those who were part of Mark Zuckerberg’s trusted circle and population of engineers. Because of Losse’s position, readers are then able to draw conclusions from feminist and technofeminist epistemologies regarding how gender becomes associated and inscribed upon technologies.