No, I haven’t developed a stutter. I’m just sitting here, phone in hand, contemplating that innocuous-looking little lower-case blue ‘f’ with the white background.The Facebook app.
It’s just a button, a single tap on my iPhone home screen, but what lurks beneath is a Pandora’s box of emotion. By opening it, you could be greeted by cute puppy videos….or a seething snake-pit of fury and condescension. Post-referendum, the latter is most likely. Which is why I’m still hovering a carefully-manicured forefinger over the icon. Do I really want to kick off my day reading patronising put-downs and catty counter-attacks?
Of course, Facebook was initially created for connecting people. What bull! Facebook was created for comparing people. It’s human nature. I remember the day, in 2007 I think, when a girlfriend first invited me to join. She explained how it worked. I waited for the punchline.
“But what’s the…..point?” I asked, tentatively. “Well, you know, you look people up….and then share stuff.”
Oh. Rightio. Sign me up…I guess. I dutifully logged on, along with all the other sheep-like people. Sheeple.
MySpace, Bebo, Friends Reunited – they all faded away into obscurity. The new kid on the SM block was here now, looking waaay buffer and slicker than those scruffy old hoodrats. We quickly became addicted to this new site, lured like naughty teens to plant fertiliser: tapping in the names of schoolmates and work colleagues we’d lost touch with, for good reason in some cases. We looked up old lovers – and even old enemies, just out of curiosity, of course.
Everyone soon got to grips with the profile pic protocol: practise baring your pearly whites in a Cheshire Cat-grin worthy of an Aquafresh ad….no, that’s more of a grimace….that’s it, give me your best side baby….now wooork it, work it for the camera. Perfect! Then add a filter, crop out your crying kids and the bombs-hit-it background and hey presto: the perfect profile picture. (No-one needs to know that your bank account is in the red, your job sucks and your “best hubby in the world – love you to the moon and back” is actually a lazy cheating douchebag).
Now, every time you happen to be in a picturesque setting, you can’t resist snap-snapping away. It’s always good to build up an album of envy-inducing images – because you just never know when you might get the urge to reduce your entire network of pals to hot angry tears of jealousy and frustration.
One perfectly-shot holiday snap, delivered right at the crucial moment – say, 9.10 on a rainy Monday morning – and POW! It hits them right between the eyes, a killer blow. Apologies Facefockers, but that’s payback for the vom-inducing professional photos of your male-model husband gazing adoringly into your eyes on a beach in the Maldives which I stumbled across whilst getting my ear gnawed off by my ratty boss on that mood-crumbling conference call the other day. Hey, all’s fair in love and Instagram.
But has it gone too far?
With all this primping and posing, are we only ever showing an airbrushed version of our lives, leading to anxiety and dissatisfaction as we constantly scrutinize and compare ourselves to others….and then find ourselves lacking?
There are other downsides to being so open – as the saying goes “loose lips sink ships.” Security settings need to be locked down tighter than the White House to prevent your managers scrolling through pictures of you raving on a podium three hours before that crucial Monday morning meeting. Everyone’s got that blabber-mouth friend-of-a-friend, and it only takes one to get your ass hauled into an HR office quicker than you can say P45.
But if you think all this over-sharing has repercussions here in the UK, spare a thought for our Chinese counterparts, where credit agencies are connected to social media usage. Get this: every citizen is given an official credit score which flashes up on their smartphones based on their Facebook activity as well as their finances. Smacks of something out of a George Orwell novel, right?
Each citizen has a score ranging from 350 to 950, influenced by what they say, read, watch – even who they’re friends with on Facebook and their online activity. Now that’s a melon-twister, huh?
By 2020 it will be compulsory, with people being encouraged to conform through close monitoring of their online behaviour. Not only are they constantly reminded of their social credit score, they can easily see everyone else’s too, and being friends with people with lower scores will reduce your own score, affecting all aspects of your life, not just your ability to get credit. Hobbies are monitored too, with sport references increasing your score, political opinions or playing video games reducing it.
Is your mind blown yet?
It’s crazy. It’s real. And according to the experts, it’s coming to that smartphone in your hand very soon.
Social media just got sinister. Now where’s the ‘dislike’ button…..?