Reviews | Facebook was dead and for a few hours life was good
When the big social media blackout on October 4, 2021 hit, I was in the picturesque village of HimarÃ« in southern Albania with my feet propped up on a balcony railing, halfway looking out to the Ionian Sea, waiting looking forward to Al Jazeera’s publication my latest article on New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
As the outage coincided with a local internet outage, I first devoted myself to cursing Albanian networks and maniacally refreshing all the open tabs on my laptop.
The real victim, whether social media is on or off, is a human society that is hollowed out by screen time.
When the internet returned, but components of Mark Zuckerberg’s digital empire – Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – still weren’t loading, I took to Twitter to see what was wrong with the world.
And a lot, it seemed, was wrong with the world.
Swarms of people flooded Twitter with comments about how swarms of people were flooding Twitter.
Some tweets also clarified the absence of ETA for the restoration of other social media services. Feeling in a moment of an oxygen-free astronaut, I despaired of what to do with not only my inability to post Friedman’s now-posted Facebook post, but also how to attend very important WhatsApp correspondence on hold without credit on my mexican. cellphone.
In a flashback to a previous technological age, I remembered something known as Skype, which I then used to send a text message to my all-important contact’s phone notifying them of my Gmail address.
After a little more pathological refresh of the WhatsApp and Facebook tabs and viewing the same Twitter memes over and over again, I shut my laptop and phone, sat down, and plunged headlong into an existential crisis of be that person who cares about it all when they could just watch the sea.
I went to bed, waking up at one in the morning to find that everything was back to normal and I could finally post my article on Facebook, where I also found a message from my WhatsApp correspondent for hours before informing me that he could not access WhatsApp.
But while the effective substitution of social media for life has certainly become normalized – and even more so thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing – there is nothing really normal about it.
Myself, of course, speak from a position of immense privilege; after all, many people on this earth have neither the time nor the resources to be able to engage in activities as meaningless as eternally clicking between different social media platforms on a screen.
The privilege, however, is ultimately dubious, as swathes of humanity abandon reality for an artificial technological realm in which we often promote carefully cultivated images of ourselves in order to accumulate the most ‘likes’ and other digital manifestations of approval and admiration.
By marketing our own brand of ‘me’, we are essentially eliminating the ‘me’ itself, which can gradually disintegrate and evaporate in the online world.
Meanwhile, the ubiquitous technological distraction is fueling some sort of collective case of Attention Deficit Disorder – not to mention the other negative mental health repercussions of being online – all of which are a boon for an abusive pharmaceutical industry and profit oriented.
And in countries like my homeland, the United States, mass distraction is helping to thwart the kind of collective focus needed to effect systemic change.
Of course, social media also provides a platform to criticize and fight against an American corporate plutocracy specializing in the military and economic destruction of other nations – a topic I’ve written at length over the years.
Unfortunately, posting a bikini photo on Facebook will earn me more likes every day, which, frankly, doesn’t stop me from doing it.
Call it a normalized dependency.
Without degenerating into a mundane nostalgia for the good old days, I will say that I regularly remember sitting in the grass in my parents’ backyard in Texas about 25 years ago – and doing just that: m ‘sit in the grass at my parents’ backyard.
In other words, I fail to do something (or nothing) in the very moment without feeling the need to digitally convey an image of myself or my surroundings to an online audience, thus annihilating that very moment via the logistics of transmission.
But back to the present.
On October 5, after the end of the apocalyptic six-hour social media blackout, Bloomberg reported that Mark Zuckerberg had suffered “a terrible week” (even though it was “only Tuesday”).
And yet the real victim, whether social media is on or off, is a human society that is hollowed out by screen time and where solidarity takes the form of, say, commiseration on Twitter about Facebook. and WhatsApp down.
It may be life as we know it, but we no longer know life at all.