With the imminent public launch of the new highly anticipated Facebook timeline feature I can’t help but wonder about the future of the social network. I know my last post about social media was kinda bleak but, as someone who’s been trying out the timeline via a developer account for a few days now, I have to say that I find the whole thing a little depressing. I mean, is there anything not sombre about seeing the entire contents of your life displayed on a single scrollable web page? Talk about making one’s existence seem utterly inconsequential.
Of course, maybe FB’s timeline isn’t actually depressing as a concept but rather it’s the fact that I’ve just not done enough things with my time on this Earth to make it inspiring. Had I rescued some children from a burning building, discovered a cure for diabolical plague or been featured on the cover of Playgirl then perhaps I wouldn’t be having these feelings right now. As it stands however, my Facebook timeline is nothing more than a testament to the utter shit I spout onto my wall on a regular basis.
My Facebook timeline is nothing more than a testament to the utter shit I spout onto my wall on a regular basis.
And I highly doubt I’m alone here. Taking a peak at some other people’s walls and timelines, it seems that Facebook is awash with inconsequentiality and not actually, as much as it might be portrayed, a poignant tool for nostalgic mementos. Or is it? As something that started out with the singular concept to connect people together across the Internet, FB looks to be evolving into much more than a that, an entire library of individual lives all interlinked and intertwined, a complete database of each specific human’s records and achievements (however depressingly lacking they may be). This seems to be a new development though, one driven by the recent epiphany that Facebook pretty much owns our lives through the photos, videos and information we upload into it so why not pull it all together into a single gigantic time machine of memories.
So what exactly is the future of Facebook? How is it going to grow and expand and will it be a force for good, helping to unite the world and bring all the people in it closer together or will it simply turn out to be another evil corporation driven by greed without any consideration for its users? And, perhaps most importantly, how will it change the way we interact with each other?
I’ll be honest and say that when it comes to the future of FB, I flip-flop between feeling incredibly positive and overwhelming negative. If it continues to position itself as an online repository for our lives and memories then it could actually be an amazing thing. Just imagine, in twenty years, how great it would be to be able to look back at your entire life history? Or, even more incredible, your children and grandchildren being able to see everything about you? No longer would our history, the history of our family or friends be lost in time. I know I complained about my life being summarised as a single web page but I’ll confess, deep down, that I’m slightly moved by the prospect of a future child of mine being able to witness the entire life of his or her father in stunning detail (and saying “wow dad, you really did play a lot of World of Warcraft”), something I was never able to do.
By being so engrossed in feeding Facebook our lives, maybe we’ll forget to live them.
But then the negative feelings kick in and I can’t help but see Facebook as a barren wasteland for our souls. No longer would we bother to interact with each other as people, we’d just see everyone and everything as virtual updates and messages. By being so engrossed in feeding Facebook our lives, maybe we’ll forget to live them… and that would be the biggest shame – and irony – of it all.