Mark Zuckerberg made Facebook in his own image: a reclusive and socially awkward virtual world where human beings are losing the desire to interact with each other in reality
It was a cold, brisk afternoon on September 24th, 2015. The sun winced through cold winds on UK streets, and people bustled about the cities in warm coats, chatting and laughing, going back to their desks after lunch. All of a sudden, through the apparent normality of the day, everything stopped. The world ground to a halt, the birds ceased their song, and the wind faltered in its steps. Shocked and surprised, the people looked about, suddenly in fear, but unaware that something awful, something heart-stopping had occurred.
Facebook had gone down. Panic ensued, and people disconnected from the social world, unsure of how to proceed. How should they communicate? Looking blankly at one another, words failed them as they opened and shut their mouths in silence, as goldfish in a bowl. This one event, this one catastrophic turn of events led world leaders to declare a state of emergency.
Ok, not really—but close enough. What would we do if Facebook shut down forever? Or any other social media for that matter? CBC, a Canadian News Provider, called the event ‘mass panic’, describing the temporary shutdown which constituted 0.0069 per cent of a day. We live in an informative age, where everything we need is provided in digital format; instead of asking questions, we revert to Google. Instead of reading books, we’re buying prints that will never leave a screen. Instead of seeing our friends, we’re stalking their photos online. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we ask the opinions of anonymous strangers on Yahoo. This list is by no means exhaustive; we are no longer great thinkers or well-rounded scholars, and while the web-world is expanding, our cognitive ability and social skills are diminishing.
Social Media, when it was first introduced in 1997 (if anyone remembers Six Degrees), was hailed as the beginning of a new age, giving us a positive outlook for a technological future. And, of course, it does have its perks, I’m sure we’re all aware of that. One particular case of social media frenzy was in 2008, when Hillary Clinton was sure to win office … until Obama’s social media campaign, which was ‘on fleek’, absolutely bulldozed her out of the arena. There’s little doubt she still harbours some resentment towards the online world.
One rather hefty issue with the likes of Facebook, is that nothing ever seems to die. Literally, everything is recorded, somewhere, on a database, on someone’s phone, on Google images, everywhere, somewhere. And the dilemma is that it’s so difficult to drown your online memories because they are often so hard to locate. You might think that by deleting something, poof, it’s gone, never to be seen again—not quite. It’s a vortex of terror, as the bigger your presence is online, the bigger the problems you have. What a powerhouse Facebook must be!
So why do we all descend into hysteria and confusion when these privileges are taken away from us? Even just for five seconds, as on September 24th, the anger of impatient Facebookers disrupted the calm of the day, and the dignity of our society. We have relied so heavily on something so valueless, that we have forgotten the value of real human interaction; the contentment of a hug, the warmth of a smile, the pleasure of actual human experience outside the realms of a 2D screen. Avid Facebook Fans now place more significance on the importance of Public Humiliation and ‘banter’, which leads to the escalation of insecurities outside the world of Facebook—things that cannot now magically disappear. It will take years for us to rectify the damage we have done to our newly-reclusive general public. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg thought about this?
So, what would we do? Well, remember Shaun of the Dead? Yep, that’s pretty much what would happen. Normal conversation would be replaced with grunts, random hand gestures, and normal social etiquette would be dismissed like last night’s chicken dinner. We would be as cave people, having to learn (all over again) how to view and utilise society. In any case, I can’t see an end to Facebook, or social media in general, quite yet. How would you react?