Now, brilliant psychologists a thousand times smarter than this columnist have and probably are writing books about how the psychological world and social interaction has changed because of sites like Facebook, but honestly, their books will be dry and boring and few people will care to read them. This is going to keep it simple, and hopefully be more enjoyable.
Facebook changed everything. Despite how factually inaccurate the film was, The Social Network did get one thing right – this was a once-in-a-generation “holy shit idea.” This idea changed things forever and for always. It has changed the entire face of social interaction with people. Even as I write this, my Facebook page is open in another tab, telling me what is going on with my friends.
There isn’t much of any college students in America right now, or teenagers, or adults, who are without a Facebook page, and I think it’s a safe bet that you just leave it on while you look at other pages like YouTube or any other sites. It is amazing how much we have incorporated Facebook into our lives. It is like the constant connection to your social life.
Think about this: you leave it on why? To get information about your friends, or strike up a quick conversation, or put up pictures of what you and your friends have done and see what the response is. The same things that we used to do with phones, visiting people’s homes, and email (back when people actually checked that).
It truly is remarkable just how far that humanity has come within such a short time. The last 12 years have seen a massive paradigm shift in human interaction and cultural behavior. This kind of thing used to take place within 100 or dozens of years. Now, within the space of just 12, we have completely changed how we interact with our fellow human being.
But more than that, this also ties into the fact that everything is becoming digital. Truly, this is the greatest time to live. Say what you want about the fact that America’s culture is dying, but the fact is that life has never been as wondrous as it is right now. Where once people had to travel across great oceans to see what was happening in Britain or Japan, we can now link up webcams and talk to people thousands of miles away. Video of a person’s adventures can be loaded up and streamed quickly, giving the rest of their friends the chance to see what is going on with the click of a button. Of course, it will never be as good as going and taking part yourself in these kinds of things, but it does bring us closer together as a species.
Granted, there are problems to this. For those like myself, chatting online does feel horribly impersonal, not really connecting to the person in a very deep level, but that is a small price to pay for how much progress our species has made. The internet brought us the world in a way that nobody ever thought before. It’s so ironic that the government is just now trying to get bills like SOPA, PIPA, or their latest incarnations, ACTA and CISPA to bring the power of the internet to a halt. It is ten years too late for that. Sites like Facebook have made the internet something that not only controls business in this country, but has become an integral part of the social contract of the human race. This government, nor any other, will ever be able to reign it in. There was a time when it could have been done, but not anymore.
Another great thing about the social sites is that they bring the world of knowledge ever-closer as well. When a story gets out about something big, it is viral in a second. Within the span of an hour, there can be a massive viral video that changes how we look at an issue or another person. Videos like the ones with the police brutalizing the Occupy protestors. TV-esque networks are even trying to tap into this, like the new network on YouTube, WIGS. They are making a series of videos on YouTube, much like a TV show. The idea is ambitious, and although they aren’t getting the views I’m sure they wished, it still shows how much power the internet has over this world.
The government is going to have to come to terms with the fact that the internet is beyond them now. It is more powerful than any government, or any force. If they pass something like SOPA someday, there will immediately be a group of hackers who will work to bring us what they don’t want us to have. Just the way that Prohibition didn’t work, and the drug war isn’t working now.
The world of social interaction has changed, for better and for always. People will complain about how this is wrong or whatever, but the fact is that they don’t seem to realize that the truth is that what has happened with these sites is that they have linked the world in a way that has never happened before, and never will happen again.
It is an amazing time to be alive. For sure.