26 August 2010

Day 152: The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.  ISBN: 9781439102114.

If you've read my review already on Goodreads, you know that I was deeply
disappointed that Kirkpatrick didn't tell us how Facebook has changed lives, and doesn't even theorize about future effects.  So I'm gonna do some spooky sci-fi shit and make some of my own posits all over this blog.  Big, messy posits.  Step carefully, readers.

I think we will come to rely less on physical mail in the future.  We already ignore most everything that comes our way thanks to online billing and bill pay, grandparents who know how to type and use The Google, and printers.  I strongly believe in the possibility of being assigned an email address at birth by the government.  It will be printed on your birth certificate right next to your name, date of birth, social security number, and the name of the doctor that slapped your ass and you'll get to tap into it around the same age you have to actually sign you social security card.  In this way the government will have direct access to communicate with you about specific laws, etc. that relate to you.  The email address will also be used as a means of identification for online job applications (if you use it, it grants access for background checks by the employer), college applications, signing up for the draft, etc.  It would also make it waaaaay easier to serve legal summons, divorce papers, and other legal information.

That particular theory requires everyone to have computers and to check their email everyday, but I'm pretty sure we will get to a point where that will happen.  The fact that you can barely apply to a job via mail or paper application now is a pretty good indicator of that.  Fingerprinting will be mandatory, and that's what we'll use to sign onto and confirm that we own those government email accounts.

Basically I think social networks and connecting all the factors of our life together are going to become more normal and more pervasive.  Part of me wonders if these are the first steps to creating a giant hive mind type of social order.  By knowing what everyone is currently doing/liking/reading/watching/etc. maybe Facebook has taken away some element of being human.  We don't get the chance to tell stories anymore, because everyone already knows that we dropped a the pot of boiling water on our foot this morning.  It's like we've made our own digital hive mind.  Obviously we still have control over what we act on, but I think just knowing that someone else has the same thoughts as you can lead to dangerous behavior.

And with the internet you are almost assured of someone having the same thought about just about anything (did someone say Rule 34?).  Knowing that gives you the notion of strength in numbers, which usually leads to stupid.  We no longer have to think about whether or not we should tolerate some other guy's religion or opinions about what constitutes good literature or sexual preference or funny hair cut.  We know that are enough assholes to toss him out of the Society Club, so if we don't like it, we get rid of it.  This is not a good thing for our society or our brains.

We need outsiders to enrich our culture and debate.  We need people who have different outlooks on life and opinions and ways of thinking.  For all we know all the large livestock will die off in the next 50 years, and then we'll be kicking ourselves for ostracizing that group of people who eat all those bugs over there in that weird foreign country.  I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to go hungry just because the only people who can teach me how to properly cook and eat bugs worship a three-headed demon named Jim and greet each other by yelling epithets about their mothers.  I am down with the respect and the disrespect...respectively.  But how many people realize they are doing stupid shit, just because they think they have the right numbers to back it up?

Kirkus agrees with my review.  Here's a brief excerpt:
"In the introduction, Kirkpatrick promises to explore these questions [about how FB will and has shaped our societies, governance, and identities], but readers hungry for a meaty cultural critique may feel cheated by what is essentially a lengthy corporate biography."
-Kirkus Reviews, vol. 78, no. 11, Page 507.


  1. That email thing is a neat idea! It would have a lot of goverment conspiracy people up in arms though.

  2. Especially since you'd probably have to link your credit cards to this account. I mean, the way I envision it is your email account will _become_ your identity.

    I would be an awesome sci-fi writer. Someone needs to give me a book deal. :-)


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