Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Day that Facebook Died


I remember the screams.  The screams that lit up the night.  It was a Thursday.  I was debating whether or not to eat a late night dinner.  I was just about to open the refrigerator when I heard the first scream.  It sounded like someone's child died.  I rushed to the window, to look outside.  On the sixth floor apartment overlooking 58th street and Broadway, I looked out.  Cars passed up and down the street.  But that scream.  It was coming from across the street.  Then another.  It was a gut-wrenching scream.  A chill went down my spine.  Then more.  In succession.  Screams, wails, moans.  It sounded as if the end of the world was about to come.  Lights came on, and people were running up and down the streets.  I looked out the window and wondered what could be happening.

My heart was racing now.  My mind was telling me to run.  Something horrible just had happened.  Banshee wails filled up the city.  It was unreal.   Was this a dream?  I quickly grabbed my coat and boots, slid them on, and went down the stairs.  I did not bother waiting for the elevator.  Down and down.  Around and around.  I could hear more of these shrill screams coming from the rooms that I passed.  Children were crying.  What was happening?  Why did I not understand it?

I reached the door and headed out into the street.  Cars had come to a halt as people were getting out.  Some people were throwing up.  A man laid in the middle of the road, sobbing like a baby.  People did not see to care.  Nothing was moving.  The street lights eerily shined their light upon the scene.  Had a plague broken out?  Were people dying?  I saw no bodies.  No military presence was seen.  I looked up and down.  No act of terrorism had seemed to happen.  But it was as if the world was in shock.

Then I heard it.  A woman, on her balcony, hanging off, as if ready to fling herself off into the night.  It was the longest and most horrible sound I have ever heard in my life.  I will never forget those eyes.  They shined like a werewolf.  Her mouth opened, and she screamed "Faaaaaaaaaceeeboooook."

That was the day that Facebook died.

I made my way up to the apartment.  I still did not understand it.  I turned on the news and saw an empty newsroom.   On the bottom of the screen, the words passed by, "Facebook is No More.  Cities are reeled with chaos.  Martial law has been imposed.  Curfews to come."   Then I saw two soldiers appear on the screen.  "Until further notice," one said, "the US military will be imposing martial law until things stabilize.  Facebook is no more.  There will be an announcement from the president to come."

Then, the screen flashed and the president came on.  "My fellow Americans," he began.  His demeanor was calm, but I could see the fear in his eyes.  "Tonight the unthinkable has happened.  For reasons that are yet unknown, Facebook has gone down.  Not just for a moment.  The servers have been overloaded.  It's done.  It's over.  Listen to the army.  They will restore order until things get back up and running."

I could not believe it.  I had not been on Facebook in a couple of years.  In fact, my life seemed alright, actually pretty good, without it.  Now, it all went down.  I never thought much about what the world would be like if it had ended.  I just sat there watching the news as it showed images of helicopters flying over various cities.  Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles.  Each one was in chaos.  It was as if a plague or war had broken out.  I saw images of people rushing into stores and looting.  I saw cars on fire.  It was a breakdown of society.  Was this how the world was supposed to end?

On the bottom of the screen, the government had announced that financial markets would not open out of fear of a market collapse.  The suicide hotline number was plastered on the screen.  Many, it seemed, were taking their own lives.  Welcome to the apocalypse. 

I walked to the window.  Much of the initial screams had died down, but chaos had begun.  I saw a tank roll along Broadway as people were shouting and running alongside it.  Back on the television set, a man had set himself on fire in front of the US Capitol building.  Chaos.

I looked in my fridge.  I decided I would not eat.  I made sure my door was locked and went to lie down.  My eyes did not want to close.  I just looked up at the ceiling for hours, wondering what would come next.  The sounds of people, movement, anger, and fear filled up the night.  The morning was coming.  The world would never be the same.

***

I must have fallen asleep at one point because I woke up and all was pretty quiet.  For a moment at least.  Then it hit me, and then I heard the sounds again.  Helicopters whirred out and loudspeakers came on.  "Everyone is required to stay indoors.  The Army will bring rations to each house.  Anyone on the streets will be arrested or shot.  This is an order."  It kept repeating.


An hour later I heard a knock on the door.  I went to it and looked out.  A soldier was leaving.  I opened the door and saw a box lying on the ground.  The soldier turned around and said, "do not leave your apartment."  I nodded.  I went back inside and opened it up.  In the box, random items from the nearby Gristedes grocery store were packed in.  Some lettuce, a bottle of ketchup, a bottle of water, some olives, two bags of chips, a kit kat bar.  Nothing substantial.  I set it on the counter.

I sat on my couch as the light of the television set illuminated my face.  I could not hear much over the siren and loudspeakers.  Every once in a while I heard what sounded like gunfire.  I had even heard an explosion in the distance.  This is when I started to feel a strong sense of dread, fear, and anger.  I think the anger was the worst, as I could not even fathom how a social media website had brought about the breakdown of society.  I guess I had initially thought that people would get over it and move on, but society had not.  Now, everything was falling apart, and this was real.

I never understood the point of Facebook.  I had never really understood how people could become so addicted and enthralled by it.  I was once on it but quickly grew tired of all the politics, the arguing, and the bickering by my own family members.  I found the website to be a waste of time.  Few had agreed with me.  In fact, most thought that there was something wrong with me because I was not a slave to social media.  Life, for me, went on just as normal.

But now, life was not normal.  How could it get to this point?  How could this stupid website be responsible for the breakdown of a once proud and powerful society?  What would become of us as a people?  I watched in horror as I saw that a war between civilians and the military had broken out in Brooklyn and various cities on the west coast.  I heard another faint explosion in the distance.  Unreal.  What in the world would I do at this point, I wondered.  I still could not believe it was real.

I went back to the window and looked out.  A soldier was standing guard on our block.  He saw me looking at him and he motioned for me to go back inside.  I closed my curtains but peeked through.  A bulldozer was slowly moving along the street and pushing cars to the curb.  In the distance, the morning light was growing brighter.  I could see smoke rising over the buildings.  And the sky seemed to slowly grow black.  Another explosion.  The ground seemed to shake a bit.

I made my way back to the television.  A message appeared on the screen now that said "please stand by for updates.  Do not leave your home."

***

In the days that passed, soldiers would sometimes bring boxes of mixed up food items.  I did not leave the house, but time seemed as if it was standing still.  I could hear gunfire, and I started to get used to the sounds.  The mind does that.  It quickly adapts to what is real.  Had you told me this would happen before it had happened, I would have been terrified, but now I had grown accustomed to living in a warzone.  In fact, at this point, I expected that I would probably die, and strangely, I was at peace with that.  But, I was still angry at the fact that Facebook was the cause of this madness.

I was laying on my couch, looking up at the ceiling when I heard a scuffle outside on the street.  A woman was screaming at a soldier.  "Go inside, now" the soldier demanded.  "I can't.  I need medicine.  My child is sick."
"You will go in now and we will bring you medicine."
"No, I need it now.  You said you would bring it yesterday."
"We will bring you a military escort so you can go to the hospital."
"I need it now!"
"GET INSIDE."
"No."
"This is an order, GET INSIDE!"
"NO!"
She started towards him... and I knew.  I knew what would happen.  I moved away from the window.  Then I heard it.  Bang.  Then silence.
"Everyone will stay inside of their homes until further notice."  

 ***

This, of course, is a story of fiction.  For now.  When does it get to the point where, if Facebook went down, would society collapse?  Would this be reality?  Would the end of the website that the world is "hopelessly" addicted to bring the breakdown of modern society?  Would Facebook's servers being filled with mundane images and family arguments, and political banter, cause it to collapse?  Could this collapse trigger the end of the world?  Is Facebook a ticking time bomb?

Perhaps it is not so far fetched to imagine that Facebook's downfall could bring about massive changes in society as we know it.  Perhaps it's not so strange to think that people would lose a sense of reality if Facebook went poof.  There are many who live, drink and breathe Facebook and social media, so to speak.

Imagine, for a moment, the fall of Facebook.  What do you think it would look like?  What would happen with those who you know who spend their lives on Facebook?  What would your family look like?  Your friends and co-workers?  What if you could no longer see what all of your classmates from decades ago were doing?  What then?  Would your world collapse?  

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