Turning off social media would be a riot
Since the beginning of the London riots, everyone’s been talking about social media and, confusingly, The Planet of the Apes.
Specifically, folks have been discussing the possibility of shutting down social media during crazy, violent times (let’s not worry about the apes thing, for now).
The discussion, dry as most of it has been, has prompted me to think about what the world would be like if social networking sites were actually suddenly switched off.
I’m told there’s a giant switch hidden somewhere in the desert. What if we all woke up tomorrow and Twitter and Facebook were gone, replaced by a link to a 57-minute video of Bob Katter building a tiny model ship in a glass bottle?
Would we be like explorers gazing upon some new, unsoiled Eden? Or lost cave moles accidentally breaking through to sunlight, screeching and shaking and clawing at our eyes?
While we might miss the sites themselves, most of us will certainly not miss the money-pumping juggernauts behind them.
Facebook, for a start, has always been unashamedly dodgy. It lures you in with dreams of spying on exes and tagging embarrassing photos of friends, before bombarding you with Pepsi ads and friend requests from spambots pretending to be Russian models (you broke my heart, Svetlana749).
Even Google, once a sort of happy nerd retreat, is increasingly becoming cold and calculating. Admittedly, a company based on the creation of algorithms has always been kind of calculating, but still.
How long will it take before Google+, the company’s new social networking platform, shoots barcodes at users’ foreheads and commands them to “kill Zuckerberg, buy insurance”?
There’s absolutely no doubt (according to my brain) that Facebook and Google will one day merge and become an evil version of the big, conjoined robot thing in Power Rangers, indiscriminately crushing buildings and grown men in grey leotards, pausing only to drink from volcanoes and find sexy singles in your area.
So, obviously we’d avoid that whole nasty business by shutting down social media.
The big question, however, is where would people complain about stuff and display general ignorance?
If one is drunk at a cheap Italian restaurant, for instance, and one’s food takes three minutes longer to arrive than expected, how does one aggressively try to ruin the business in question?
With Twitter gone, we may have to walk outside and yell our ill-considered opinions at strangers on the street. “This is the worst restaurant ever! The waitress slaps people and I saw a rat hiding in the chef’s hat and my friend’s girlfriend told me the soup’s made out of children!”
Also, how will people pester UK television king Stephen Fry for retweets?
“Excuse me! Stephen! It’s my birthday! I’m 42 today! Isn’t that wonderful? Can you please repeat everything I’ve just said to a gathering of two million strangers?” And Stephen, being the gentlemen he is, will smile broadly and wave before ordering the ex-SAS human mountain beside him to throw the person through a shopfront.
If all the social networks were switched off overnight, we wouldn’t miss celebrity musings, “RT”-chasing drones or frighteningly-rich empires.
The world would, however, be a much less interesting place. We’d all spend less time sharing jokes and ideas with strangers and people would have to find something else to blame for the decay of society and youths running amok (I think this is where the apes thing fits in).
That being said, let’s give it a go anyway. It’ll at least give us something interesting to tweet about.
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