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“About twelve percent of the Earth’s population is using Facebook,” she said.

“That’s a lot,” I replied.

“Way more than Twitter, by a gigantic margin.”

“Good thing. Twitter is one of the worst communication inventions ever. If anything, that system is retarding humanity.”

“No argument there. But I’ve got a point to make here, beyond just stats.”

“Go on.”

“Twelve percent. The only entity capable of broadcasting to all those users is Facebook itself. I think it would cost more money than anyone has to send a universal message through their marketing service.”

“You’re probably right. I paid a few hundred bucks just to reach ten thousand or something a few months ago. Wouldn’t do it again, either. Wasn’t worth it.”

“Okay then, it’s agreed that Facebook’s got the monopoly on global broadcasting. The only thing I can imagine reaching as wide an audience would be the World Cup. Even then, it’s only something like a billion. The point here is that even if Facebook were to do nothing but broadcast a daily message of conservation, or political activism, or whatever, they’d only get this narrow band of humanity.”

“Twelve percent is narrow?”

“Is it? I don’t know. Would it be enough to reverse the tide of human destruction on the planet?”

“Whyever would you want to do that?”

She grinned. “You know, there are a lot of altruistic folks in the world. Not everyone is a broken, cynical bastard like yourself.”

“Fair enough, but it does lend well to this question of yours. Would twelve percent of humanity be enough? It’s thirty-nine percent less than what’s needed to swing a vote in a democracy, and this is assuming that one hundred percent of Facebook users decide to take action on these imaginary globally broadcasted status updates. Never mind the question of whether the users would even read them in the first place. I know I skip past most of whatever anyone or anything I’m not directly following shoves into my timeline.”

“You’re right. The only way to know for sure would be to wire up the entire populace and track their behavior.”

“I think you’ve just described the plans of most for-profit corporations operating today.”

“Anyway, and you’ll like this part: if we look at the flip side of the communication coin here you can be certain that any individual message that Facebook throws out, no matter how viral it gets, is only going to reach a fraction of that fraction, and of that fraction most won’t act. We can look at Twitter for how well click-throughs work. If only a tiny amount of people is willing to further explore a given piece of information, we can affirm your despair for humanity.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t despair for humanity. I might have, a long time ago in the halcyon days of my youth when all I had to worry about was where my next high was coming from, but these days I’m quite upbeat when it comes to the actions of my fellow human being, for better or worse.”

“How so?”

“I’ve come to accept a lot of the things that happen as nature running its course. Not just basic human nature, or any psychologically manipulated actions we take—because really, all action is psychologically manipulated to some extent—but deeper than that. From the earth we rose, to the earth we’ll return, and all the things we do, from the seemingly insane to the gloriously progressive, are acts of nature on some level. And! Not to leave you without a dark note, I believe that our communication networks—both digital and analog—are sophisticated enough that pretty much everyone’s got some idea of just how fucked we are. So, either we’re truly victims of global totalitarian schemes to keep everyone bound to the yoke of servitude and obedience, or we honestly don’t care about the things that many of us claim we should be caring about.”

2014.12.30 – 2023.07.31

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