The future is shaping up to be so bizarre! Imagine if there was an automated office that visually recognized you, where you, the good citizen, were required to check in frequently, just to keep them up to date on you. You had to go there along with everyone else and fill out and file away forms detailing your views on politics, current events, and who your friends were. In the course of your visit you would fill them in on all your latest correspondence, what you were thinking and why, where you had been and when, what movies, books and activities you enjoyed etc. Then they would make you take standardized tests so they could understand your personality, and be better able to predict your future behavior. You would also show them how you fit into your social group; if you influenced the group or were a follower. Imagine that! That would be downright orwellian. We would never allow them to make us do that! Would we?
But, what if it was voluntary? Wake up people, I am talking about facebook here, the familiar blue and white f . The thing, now on your phone, that is creeping into your life. I joined back in 2006 when it arrived at my university in its infancy, and was just a page with your wall and a profile photo on it. We embraced and had fun with some inside jokes for a while, then as my friends and I went our separate ways after college it became a convenient way to keep in touch. Facebook kept morphing and growing, demanding more and more, then it sent me “friend” requests from old teachers, then my parents. It was obvious back then that facebook was very ambitious. Now, today there are children, whose entire lives are on documented on facebook.
We have no doubt grown up in a material age fueled by pervasive mass media that brainwashes us to believe things make us happy, that success is defined by sharp suits, and luxury cars and that cool is a way that certain clothes look. It is this very materialism that provides such a surprising, stark juxtaposition to the intangible concept of facebook. How would you explain it to someone from the past without comparing it to God or the holy spirit? It not really a physical thing and you can’t do a facebook. Yet we have embraced it and now it manifests our materialism by having us compare ourselves to whom others pretend to be. Now, like dogs and treats, people are controlled by the need for the conditioned release of dopamine in our brains that each new, red notification of praise and positive news brings.
I might be one of the few of facebook’s 1.5 billion active monthly users that actually can associate it with something tangible, well, because I have physically been there. Its all run by one man, Mark Zuckerberg, and I have seen his office with a sign that reads “please don’t take pictures of the animals” on the glass. Facebook is a now a corporation, it recruits the best and brightest, luring them in with a plethora of perks ,such as having Zuckerberg’s favourite restaurants on campus for free, free alcohol, gym, shuttles to and from work, free drycleaning and laundry, just to name a few. They have it sweet.
The more time you spend on facebook, the more you actually increase its value, because they can then sell more advertising aimed at you and have more of your precious information. Right now Facebook stock is $77, up from its initial price offering of $38 back in May 2012. To make more money, they have been adding memes, articles and videos to entertain and manipulate you into spending even more of your precious time on this earth logged on facebook.
As Trinidadians, we are naturally a social people, and we are probably a little too “fas”. In this regard facebook may have exacerbated our very nature. As a result, unlike other cultures that tended to be more private, we have embraced facebook so enthusiastically that the famous anthropologist and prolific author Dr. Daniel Miller from the University College London chose to study us for his work entitled Tales from Facebook.
Every few weeks I get concerned about my loss of privacy and further distrust facebook's invasive nature and consider deleting my account. Each time, the fear of losing my scattered “friends” pull me back. While recovering quietly from a serious injury a while back, I became very lonely. In an effort to quell my solitude, instead of calling up a friend to chat, I found myself going to his page, looking at his photos, remembering our shared good times, it felt good to see that he was doing well. This artificial, manufactured sensation of reconnecting with an old friend is part of dark side to facebook that keeps pulling us in and preventing us from reaching out.
Are you working for facebook, or is it working for you? Live is to be lived, but sadly due to Facebook, so many of us are not out there living, and when we are, as futurist Jason Silva puts it, we are “experiencing the present as an anticipated memory” posted on facebook.