Malcolm Gladwell on Facebook & Twitter, or Making the World Safe for Wall Street Brokers and Their Cellphones

Since I’ve taken several jabs at the Brave New World of Facebook, I feel obliged to post Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent critique of Facebook & Twitter activism in a recent New Yorker. He’s reasonable, level-headed, and not nearly as shrill as I can be. And for all my rants, I find myself becoming a closet Facebook user, sneaking in the backdoor—I sometimes use my wife’s account to do something useful, which of course is a tacit admission that Facebook has its good side, obvious enough. I’m sure I’m blaming Facebook for movements it has nothing to do with, other than the general zeitgeist: i.e., the rise of the Tea Party Know-Nothing agenda.
I see it like a Matrix, sucking us in to a world based on screens. But, hey, I’m already there. There must be some balance, right? Time away from the screen. A good friend of mine tells me about his regular trips to Maine, where he stays in a cabin with no cell reception, no internet. How freeing it can be. I do the same in Colorado. But then we have to return to work, and the wired world.
Here’s Gladwell’s end to the piece, after recounting the anecdote of Facebook activism in which a Wall Street worker retrieved his friend’s Sidekick (expensive smartphone) in Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody”:
“Shirky ends the story of the lost Sidekick by asking, portentously, “What happens next?”—no doubt imagining future waves of digital protesters. But he has already answered the question. What happens next is more of the same. A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls. Viva la revolución.”
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