The genius hit piece that was The Social Network left out one particular offense Americans will hold against Mark Zuckerberg for years to come: he has destroyed the concept of Las Vegas.
The Sin City that we feared, loathed and lusted after is but a distant memory. Vegas spent upwards of $100 million promoting its “Stays Here” ad campaign since 2003 in an initially successful effort to boost travel. Who could have guessed a Harvard computer genius would invent the slogan’s refutation the very next year? Now, even the worst of chumps, the one who believes he can beat the house and walk away 21-style, has to know that he’s bringing his trip home with him–that is, if the locks are still the same when he deplanes.
Gone are the days when Vegas conventioneers could get black-out drunk, drugged and married in the same 30-second spot and return home to a blissfully ignorant family. Mark Zuckerberg’s newsfeed precludes such luck.
The origins of the newsfeed can be pinpointed to the day Facebook planted a reminder box of upcoming birthdays onto the front page. It was a miracle. Before Facebook came along, the only way to remember someone’s birthday was to attend his funeral. But you don’t get any credit for reading dates off etched marble and you’d look a little silly showing up to his house the following year with balloons and a cake. Getting birthdays on the newsfeed was a good thing, but there is a difference between this nugget of virtue and what we are seeing today, namely the source. A user enters her birthday onto the web site, in the hopes that people will pretend to remember it before her wake. If said user is a crazy girlfriend, who loads a red herring date to test you out, you curse her treachery, not that of Facebook.
Someone blaming Facebook for a break up, today, may not be stretching the truth. Newsfeeds increasingly offer subjective, as well as objective information. The site no longer peppers your screen with bland announcements of blossoming friendships; it’s getting specific to the point of presumption, a six-degree-to-Kevin-Bacon gamble with your social life. Matthew Copeland,a product development whiz, found this out on Jan. 2 when he accepted a friend request. A message appeared on his newsfeed: “Matthew and [Name Redacted] are now friends after attending the [Name Redacted] New Year’s Extravaganza.” And if you weren’t going to take Zuckerberg’s word for it, both men were tagged in pictures on New Year’s Eve at said event.
It must not have occurred to the billionaire boy genius that friends existed before Facebook zoomed in on photo tags–in Copeland’s case a friendship of some years. You’d admire the computer gurus for trying until you realize the details casually bandied about on Foursquare and Facebook would ruin lives in Las Vegas:
JERRY‘s wife of 23 years, 4 months, 22 days, LINDA, is leaving him after he got a handjob from SAPHIRE in the VIP Room at the CATHOUSE. Shouldn’t have settled JERRY, cheating’s cheating no matter how far you go. Didn’t your mother, KAREN, teach you that? She did, JERRY, on December 21 when she posted that very message on your wall after you checked into the HOLIDAY INN BROOM CLOSET with that hostess STEPHANIE at the OZARK, MO ALLSTATE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY. She was your daughter TIFFANY‘S age, JERRY, c’mon.
Locals in Vegas know they’re in dangerous territory. Reigning boxing champ and 50-Cent Segway companion Floyd Mayweather made sure he stole his girlfriend’s iPhone after allegedly beating her up last year and it had nothing to do with calling the police. Mayweather’s dealt with police before, but could he handle a Twitter beat-down after Rihanna-esque photos of his baby momma hit Gawker and Google Image? Something tells us Money is about as game for that as he is Manny Pacquiao.
And that is just the point, according to Copeland, who is a huge fan of TED talks and Jesse Schell. Schell, a video game designer and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, believes the all-seeing eye of social networks and marketing technology is a good thing. He foresees a day when tracking chips will be placed in everything from footwear to soda-cans and marketed in such a way that consumers can earn videogame style “points” for brand loyalty.
Schell sees this technology reaching beyond simple dollars and cents marketing; it can be used to encourage good behavior, which means it can be used to run our lives like mice in a maze. There’s an incentive there, which preys upon our self absorption. Our grandchildren, unlike the progeny of previous generations, will know what kind of books we read, activities we enjoyed and products we embraced through our social media presence, Schell says. The knowledge that we will be judged by what we consume will empower us to eat healthy, drink modestly, never smoke, take the bus, pay our taxes, obey the speed limit and fill our pedometers daily. That way we can live long enough to bore the youngsters to death with our lackluster, humdrum, 24/7 tweets.
The grandparents of today, whom Schell so pities, learned not to waste anything, least of all a stiff drink, crisp smoke or, most importantly, words. From what my grandpa says, even those were in short supply during the Depression and rationed during the War. Loose lips may no longer sink ships, but they can drain a culture of any significance. That’s why our senior citizens don’t like Twitter. Before 2009, you had to earn your right to speak your mind and rant and rave by say, living to 80. Now, we have Kanye West spewing sentences once reserved for the senile 140 characters at a time. He’s cutting the line.
Our grandparents recognize that if you’re going to impart some fleeting wisdom on your grandchildren, why not make it worth their while. We should do the same. Tell them about the fortitude of 9/11 first responders or the bravery of the men and women in Afghanistan or, dare I say it, the humility of John Wooden, traits which abounded among the Greatest Generation and were abandoned by the following five.
Or you can have them follow you on Twitter. Kids are notoriously interested in dad’s fashion sense.
Schell may believe that one’s social media footprint is the family heirloom of the future, but for now it is just a stool pigeon that tweets. Perhaps that is why The Hangover was such a hit. We know we’re being followed, our location broadcast on Google Latitude complete with street view like poor old Jerry. But for once, in the era of social media, four guys were able to enjoy happenings in Vegas and leave them there. Perhaps the sequel will focus on the repercussions of the pictures at the credits after they’ve been Tweet-pic’ed, posted on Wikileaks and submitted into evidence in the honeymoon divorce trial via Legalzoom.com.