Facebook is Dead.

Posted: 24/08/2010 in ARIN6901 Network Society, Uncategorized
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facebook is dead

Picture the following scenario. You wake up one morning, make some coffee, toast some bread and turn on your laptop (the all too familiar initial sound of your Macbook puts a smile on your face). After browsing your Twitter feed and the comments on your Flickr gallery (two of the hubs of your digitally extended social network), you go to the next stop: Facebook, the mother of all hubs, where your friends, family, colleagues and casual acquaintances meet in a sort of virtual Judgment Day. You know the drill: you will change your status, check on any piece of gossip in any of the clusters that make up your social network of networks, probably go to an interesting link and comment on other people’s status. You will click on “Like” probably a dozen times, perpetuating the flow between you and other nodes in this overly popular social network (or, better still, the visualization of a social network).

But this morning is different. When you type those 16 characters, http://www.facebook.com, the browsers goes blank. You type them again. And again. Nothing: just a white space that seems as infinite as a tempestuous ocean. You ask your friends in Google chat and MSG and search Twitter for #facebookisdead. Hundreds of people are experiencing the same, which truly seems stranger than fiction. It is as that Ray Bradbury story in which someone dreamed the world was near its end only to find out that everyone had dreamed the same. You visit http://www.nytimes.com: the headline, accentuated in bold, is clear: FACEBOOK IS DEAD. You grasp for air, your skin as cold as the coffee that lays untouched on the desk. You keep on reading: “Due to the financial problems brought by numerous lawsuits over copyrights and privacy issues, Facebook has declared bankruptcy and, without warning to its enraged millions of users, has pulled the plug of the biggest social network in the Internet”. The world has changed, YOUR world has changed. You suddenly realized what has been lost. There are numerous friends, perhaps dozens, who you will never contact again: leaping over those six degrees of separation with so many people would be an unfeasible task. It will take you years to rebuild the links of that complex network that took you years to construct. Your life was mapped out and memories had suddenly become real. Images of yourself that you didn’t know existed are lost again. Your photo album, a piece of emotional memorabilia as important as those photos from your childhood preserved by your parents, is gone.

You turn on the television and there are images of other people crying, enraged. It reminds you of 9/11. It is as if a Berlin Wall, or a set of Berlin Walls, have been constructed among 500 million people, suddenly rummaging the net like orphans in the battlefield. This is life after Facebook. No more “Like”s, no more comments, no more digital manifestations of the social networks you have constructed over a lifetime, and the social networks that have been constructed through this medium (the ever-present friends-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend). Then you ask yourself how did this happen, why you feel this sudden emptiness, why you feel all alone. You have shared the illusion of controlling the network, and you have found out that the real equation is inverse: the network ended up owning you.

We have to ask ourselves what the implications of this apocalyptic but in fact possible scenario are. The discourse around the network society exalt the “democratic” nature of the informational systems, but generally tend to ignore the oligopolistic nature of social media, like Facebook, that strive to control all networks, commercial, social and symbolic. Having this high level of dependence on a few stakeholders, on a few salient nodes, goes against the very nature and spirit of the development of the Internet: if this highly dense node of nodes disappears, how will communication between many other nodes be restored?

What would you do, what will you do? How will you find your friends?

Why don’t you go to the bar and see if they are all there, looking for you….?

For ARIN6901, Network Society, The University of Sydney (Master in Digital Communication and Culture).

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