We’ve all heard of the Elizabethan era, the Victorian era or for the Americans among us, the Nixon era. An era tends to be named off the back of a significant person or social situation that the society of the time takes character from. So, I couldn’t help but wonder…what will the people looking back on our society call our era? I think it will be something catchy and much more creative than this, but something along the lines of the Zuckerbergian Era… because so much of what we do these days centres around our digital identities as opposed to our physical ones, and so much of our digital lives are dominated by none other than the fast growing monopoly that is Facebook.
It’s uncommon to log onto a social media platform these days and not see the ‘Login with Facebook’ icon. It started with Spotify, quickly spiralling into an infuriating situation where you can’t create a Spotify account without already having a Facebook account. Or rather, you can, but the ability to do so is so well hidden you could spend days looking for it and never find it. Then of course we started seeing it on other platforms, and then Facebook bought Instagram, and now I am starting to see Facebook logins EVERYWHERE. Everything is suddenly connected and if you don’t have your settings right, you can find yourself broadcasting to the world what you’re reading, what you’re watching, what you’re buying and what you’re listening to. Which would be fine, if it really was just your friends who saw it, but as everyone can tell from the constant stream of ads filling their newstream, it’s just not the case. I can understand the perceived convenience of all this connectivity, but having everything connected suddenly provides us with new issues around security! It is now so easy for someone to obtain your passwords and suddenly take over your entire digital life… which wouldn’t be such an issue if our digital lives weren’t so integrated with our real lives.
I know not everybody is taking this lack of privacy lying down, but aside from the fact that Facebook is rapidly taking over the world; there is a much bigger issue here. We are morphing into a species that rarely interacts physically with each other, and instead interacts primarily in a digital form. The internet has shifted from a place we used to go sparingly, used mostly for email, while people carried on their normal, physical lives relatively unchanged to a place where whole lives are lived online. We now do almost everything digitally; social interaction (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), financial management, work, even shopping. People don’t have to go to work anymore, they can work from home. People don’t have to go shopping anymore, they can do it all online from clothes to groceries to fruit and veg, and even have mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks sent through the post. People don’t have to go to the pub to see their friends anymore, they can spend the night on Facebook from the comfort of their beds and socialise with people who are oceans away from them, or just next door (ok this is an extreme but what you do often see is people sitting at the pub together, but still conversing via Facebook… what the?).
Don’t get me wrong – I am an avid user of social media and the internet in general. As a girl who despises shopping, I am one of the worst contributors to what they call ‘the death of the high street’, loving the fact I can shop online, choosing my items without being hassled, having them delivered and happily able to return them if they are unsuitable. I love the fact I can own music without having to clog up my shelves with CDs and CD cases. I love that I don’t need to own a TV anymore because almost anything I want to watch is available via online streaming or on catch-up. I love having information at my fingertips and wonder what I did before the invention of Google and more importantly, Google maps. I love that I can have virtually anything delivered from food to furniture to DVDs. I use Facebook regularly (I tell myself it’s only because I’m a world away from my friends and family but the truth is, it’s addictive), I blog (obviously), I Tweet, I Link, I use Lovefilm, I shop on Amazon… need I say more?
But that is not to say that it’s not concerning. Not only are we at risk of easily putting important personal information into the wrong hands, we are shutting ourselves away from the REAL in favour of the VIRTUAL, and we are all contributing to the sad death of businesses and rise in unemployment. With the news of yet another two high street casualties (Jessops and HMV), it makes me wonder what our not-so-distant future looks like… will the High Street become a mecca of restaurants and cafes and a few boutiques? Will office buildings cease to have any real worth, while everyone is working from the comfort of their home offices, or in one of said cafes? Will transport systems cease to bulge from the seams at peak hour?… And will we forget what it’s like to actually interact in person?