Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Dark Side of Facebook

When I first got out of college I got a job selling WATS lines for the phone company in Chicago and one of the perks was I could go up to the "Switch" at all hours of the night and walk past the tech guys and put on headphones and plug into a million conversations. I would even take dates (what a loser right) up to the switch and give them a pair of headphones and we would listen to the million voices talking into the analog void. It was amazing to think that each voice intertwined with the other represented a human,but it was also scary in a way because it trivialized each voice until it no longer represented a human, just a sound wave zooming through a huge trunk line.

Fast forward to Facebook with it's strange access into the million voices of our creation and after you get past the hype and the pictures then you end up with the obnoxious guy oin the train or the coffee house who won't stop his conversation about his kids, his family , his sex life and you are part of it. Facebook pledges to give us all a new way of interacting (so says Newsweek) and maybe it will or is it just that weird social network thing taken it's logical movie fueled zenith that will eventually end up like Myspace as a feeding ground for child molesters and porn stars--another footnote to the early days of the Internet.

But Facebook's dark side is it makes something out of nothing and by contrast knocks everyone else down to nothing. Take the couple who crashed the White House all under the guise of getting their pictures on Facebook with the President. Their ten nanoseconds of fame came and went and was cataloged into the cyberstream along with everyone out crying out for attention. Zuckerberg's prototype was rating girls on a primitive site that preceded Facebook. Then Facebook became the domain of colleges and one could make a case maybe it should have stayed there. Is Facebook really that different from the primitive girl rating site and arent we all rating each other by the life we paint in cyberland?

 We have already been privy to conversations we never wanted to know where people complained about their husbands or wives only to find out they were sharing it with the world. The Social Network is a great movie in the story of the creation of Facebook and we know that it resulted in a twenty six year old becoming a billionaire. Isnt that really what Facebook is all about? A billion dollars to hear the million voices at the switch?
Rocket Man will be out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove