I write to you although it hasn’t been long since I’ve seen you; just a couple of minutes ago I checked on you – but really to check on me. I’m not sure if it’s checking on either of us, but you let me believe that I am checking on my friends and the rest of the world. As if the newsfeed that I instantly receive indicates anything except that I am just reading or browsing through people’s lives, knowingly that neither my comments nor my likes will be able to make any type of impact on my friend’s post on her new baby born or the Somalian famine happening half way across the world.
It’s fascinating how you grew so fast- more than I could ever have imagined, and possibly beyond everyone’s expectations. You started out as a simple idea, a private project amongst your closest of friends and then, suddenly, you expanded beyond your comfort zone. You pushed your limits even further in such a small amount of time; you grew, matured, and walked over borders and boundaries, imposing yourself and spreading connectivity liked wild fire. I remember knowing about you and I was so curious to be part of this exclusive cult of yours; I waited for you to come over to my country, Egypt, while I envied my friends in the US enjoying and continue raving about you and the fun you bring. You were like a baby, allowed to be seen only by a few, as though afraid of external bodies to contaminate you. But I understand, you were young, frail and yet very special. You had a promising future ahead of you, and you had to plan it out with caution and care.
In no time, you grew! Who would have ever imagined for you to grow so big and so quickly? I certainly bet you didn’t! You became the role model for every millennial. The American dream they were once chasing faced a detour: instead of dreaming of a job to help buy a home and a car, you helped them realize that it’s not about money but about the people and how we connect with them. Their time is now spent on catching up with other people’s lives, what they bought, where they travelled, who they married, and their body transformations. The time invested in studying, job searching, and learning is now wasted as they scroll down a newsfeed that mostly depresses them, with breaking news and headlines. Through your platform success seemed to happen over night – and you became a beacon of inspiration, shortly, people all over the world launched their new baby; creating a generation of baby techies and app babies.
They say revolutions start in the kitchen. Somehow, you successfully stirred up a revolution with the help of your platform. You helped mobilize and inform people to oust a few presidents here and there, but you also successfully helped rage conversations full of hate, fear and doubt. Recently, your COO said she was heartened that people are able to relate more to one another and empathize with strangers through their posts. You have broken people’s loneliness and encouraged many to break the fear of speaking up and sharing their thoughts and opinions. But you also managed to create a generation that suffers from introversion and isolation. They lack social intelligence because they assumed through being instantly and constantly connected and reading people’s statuses they were actually becoming more socially engaged and informed. Most of them don’t watch the news, know that the newspaper even exists, and don’t read books anymore because they manage to kept a snippet of ‘what they should know’ rather than searching for information themselves. Now, I don’t fully blame you on that one. The internet plays a very big role and shares the responsibility with you. I assume you are aware that bullying, xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism are on the rise around the world. For a moment, have you not considered that you may have been actively feeding these issues?
I am writing you because I am a victim of your powers. It took me years to realize that real life is not as perfect as it is on your platform. People now take their photos through a routinely editing course before publishing it before everyone’s eyes. How many people do you know share that they are suicidal on their statuses? How many people have committed suicide because they compare their miserable troubling lives to their best friend’s husband’s third cousin’s daughter’s (whom they don’t know and never met) life in an image capturing just one moment? How many kids suffer from bullying, virtually and in reality? Confidence of our young ones are on the line as their insecurities continue to rise. How many decide to stay home to unwind from a long, day, week only to find themselves occupying their time with minutely visits to you rather than catch up with sleep, cook a hearty meal, or spend quality time with family? People don’t know how and what to prioritize anymore- they even have you accompanied on their screens at work, on their laps while taking a dump, and during dinner in the middle of a company of childhood friends whom they haven’t seen in years.
I miss the days when I look around me on the street and people would be carrying a book to read while waiting for the bus, gazing out to the sky and sun from the window instead of continuously pressing on your button (as though they missed some major story between their hop on and off the bus of their 15 minute ride). I wish people remember how good and nicely odd it feels to have small talk with strangers. People don’t know how to do that nowadays. Oh, which reminded me, I know you always want and need to be updated in technology; but seriously FB, why do you keep suggesting who to be friends with? And insist on reminding me when I became friends with someone? And their birthdays too? Some things are better forgotten- also, I never asked you to remind me. I didn’t ask for a scheduling assistant. If something is worth celebrating, I’d remember, believe me. I find it ridiculous that you manage to suggest strangers to befriend just because I was within the same radius as them for a couple of minutes (at the convenient store even). How I wish you’d back off and give me some space- I don’t want you managing my relationships really.
But as much as I abhor your intervention, I do owe you one thing- a thank you. Thank you for being my main source of information during the Egyptian revolution. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to know whether my family and friends are safe or not. And without you, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the cheering crowds thousands of miles away once their efforts and messages prevailed.
I must admit, I am proud of you. I admire success, and I wish everyone would taste a bit of yours. It’s not only your market value for one to aspire having one day, but the power and impact you have over people’s lives. You are their best friend, family member, shadow- you are accompanying everyone without the need or obligation to be invited. You are just there, always, and everywhere. You are in everyone’s “approved” circle. You are not categorized with anyone else- you are just unique, you have your own rights because you exercise your powers of influence; you are just you. Even if anyone decides to delete or deactivate you, you don’t get upset, you just ask why- because you care (you do? really?), and remind us that you are there for us when we need you, anytime, all the time: ready to welcome us back in to your world, with no questions or hard feelings. You give us the option to come in and out of your life- and whatever choice we make, you are easy going either way- which brings me to inform you that people now expect that they cut others from their lives anytime they want, and reconnect with them anytime they decide. I think they are confusing you with real people who really matter.
I can’t remember how many times you’ve updated yourself, the way you look, expanded your menu and options, but have you kept record of how many times people update their profile pictures in a month? Did you count how many hours people admire themselves as they flip through their albums only to discover every default they can’t change? Profile pictures are fun once it’s up, sometimes – but when it’s overdone, it’s too much to bare.
I know lonely people that find company in you. They feel their voice is heard. Their opinions shared, their points valid, they are acknowledged beings. But really, this is nothing to be proud of. In reality, they have become sick people with mental health issues. They can’t have conversations in real life and they fear chasing opportunities because they want someone to connect them to it instead. They need a picture to post because their words aren’t as profound. And they have a dying urge: the need to know if they made any impact (or whether they have been seen) by the click of your thumbs up button. Everything needs to be measured now because you gave us the option. You tally the number of likes, dislikes, angry or laughing people on every line and or photo, instantly. People forgot that influencing and convincing people took patience, and patience now is not an asset as it once was- instead it keeps depreciating in value and use. Now, everyone is being commended for useless information, everyone has an opinion for any random topic, and everything has to be commented on. You made us think it is a healthy conversation in the form of a debate. Rather, it is a chaotic democracy with loud and disturbing noises which I can’t seem to forever mute and you still can’t fully control.
I may have talked much in this letter, which is unlike me. But this letter is long due my friend (may I call you my friend, because to me, it seems you’re a “guard” on 24 hour duty). Although you already own information of billions of people around the world, including me- I will always be deliberately, rejectingly and
Sincerely Not Yours,