It was one of those cold nights that creep up on you in early spring. I was on the train. Every passenger was wired, but they call them customers these days. "Attention all customers: the 7.40 from Frankston has been cancelled due to overhead works. Fingers tapping and flicking. Necks craned down. Eyes fixed on screens. Automatons.
Earlier that day, one of my clients – a consumer goods manufacturer – had asked me for help with his Facebook page; meaning his company's Facebook page, not his own personal Facebook page. Yes! Companies have Facebook pages!
The page's message board or wall or whatever the thing is called had been beset with negative comments about one of its products. Many were factually incorrect, some were abusive, and some were unpublishable in mainstream media. He wanted to design a kind of pseudo app within the page that would get complaints off the wall and into a forum so that the comments could be sorted and the genuine ones dealt with individually.
"It’s your own fault," I had told him."I told you not to go near Facebook. Now you’re on Twitter as well. Ridiculous."
He winced. "But we have to be there. Social media is the new customer relationship management medium. It’s where everyone is these days."
"Nonsense," I replied. "You’re all the same; you follow the crowd like sheep. Twitter and Facebook are not 'social media' – whatever that means – they are monsters. Newspaper reporters don't interview any more; they reprint people’s inane tweets. It’s only a matter of time until people's last tweets are engraved on their gravestones. Here lies Joe Bloggs. The nerves in his fingers were still twitching when they found his body. The device in his hand was still warm. The incomplete message on it read: if I had my life over again, I wouldn’t retweet anyone’s stupid observa ...".
"This is what you have to understand," I went on. "Right now, social media is at the height of its j-curve or whatever the statisticians call it. People are even setting up pages damning individuals. Welcome to the 21st century lynch mob - where everyone has a rope and no-one has to show their face. But that's now. This is going to get very stale very quickly. Everyone is going to wake up tomorrow or the next day or maybe sometime in 2015 and wonder what the hell they were doing spending their lives tapping 140 rash characters into the atmosphere every ten minutes, or ticking a bunch of stupid 'like' buttons; and they’ll throw their device in the trash and gaze at their children in sudden stupefaction as if awaking from a trance, and they’ll ask them what their names are. And the children will reply in wonderment, like the surreal characters in a John Wyndham science fiction novel." I paused.
"Twitter and Facebook are the greatest waste of human intelligence outside an advertising agency, and don’t quote me on that because it’s not original."
He just stared. But he still wanted me to fix his Facebook problem. They never learn.
The next day I drove out of town in search of the sun and left it all behind.