Coding the Privileged Self: Facebook and the Ethics of Psychoanalysis "Outside the Clinic"

Academic Article


  • Analysis of official statements from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as other representatives, demonstrates how the company appropriates moral-developmental concepts to construct relationships with users that mimic the clinical relationship between analyst and patient. This performance of psychoanalysis “outside the clinic” is ethically fraught. After identifying the company’s perspective on the nature and dynamics of the self, we show how Facebook’s attempts to cultivate specific moral virtues like authenticity and integrity are undercut by its commercial imperatives. To the extent that it neglects this tension, the construction of self encoded in Facebook’s platform architecture will continue to reflect a dynamic of socioeconomic privilege endemic to Silicon Valley’s elite subculture and will therefore amplify preexisting social inequities. We conclude with some preliminary suggestions for how alternative architectures could mitigate these issues.
  • Authors

  • Healey, Kevin
  • Potter, Richard
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • November 2018
  • Published In


  • Facebook
  • Zuckerberg
  • authenticity
  • integrity
  • psychoanalysis
  • self
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 660
  • End Page

  • 676
  • Volume

  • 19
  • Issue

  • 7