I told a friend that if he scrolled down to the very first Facebook post ever written he would win a prize from Mark Zuckerberg and hes been scrolling for three-and-a-half days now.
I feel kind of guilty but his family’s enjoying the peace.
Life is full of new ethical questions triggered by social media.
Case in point: Police recently arrested a teenage girl for armed robbery — and as she was being handcuffed, she turned and spoke some final words to her shocked father: “Dad, can you take a picture of this so I can put it on my Facebook page?”
Not a joke. None of this soppy “sorry I let you down, dearest papa” stuff. Instead, Josephine Garczynski, 18, was operating on a well-known internet principle known as “Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen”.
And it could be argued that she made the right choice: She achieved a measure of fame where she lived, in the US state of Wisconsin.
Wait a minute, I hear you say: Isn’t it bad to be famous for saying or doing something stupid or evil? Ah, that’s the mistake people make. Praise and notoriety both lead to fame, but notoriety is easier (and often more fun).
The same week, there was a news report from the UK which said that Nelson Foyle, aged 93, spent 80 years sitting on a barstool in a UK pub called the Dog and Gun. Now most husbands know that if we are 80 minutes late coming home because of a visit to a bar, we’ll be in trouble. Our mistake is that our sins are not big enough. This guy spends 80 years on a barstool and he is internationally celebrated.
Of course, the ultimate example of this is the United States President. Many academics have pointed out that in 2016 Donald Trump was by far the most criticised man on Earth, by any measure — and as a result, he is now the most famous and powerful human being on Earth, unbeholden to anyone (except his bossy wife Melania, who I guess is thus technically Ruler of Planet Earth).
The same thing happens in Asia. Rodrigo Duterte announces that he likes picking fights and shooting people, and the people of the Philippines promptly make him their overlord.
Old way of becoming rich and powerful: I need to achieve something good for humanity.
New way of becoming rich and powerful: I need to tell the media that I totally hate kittens.
Final example: There were large number of printings of the Bible in the 1600s, but only the 1631 edition is remembered. The typesetter left out the word “not” so one of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The church tried to destroy all copies but thanks to a certain type of deeply wicked type of human being (“male”), it became the most-sought after edition.
How do you start to become talked about? Give up Facebook for a start. But write the following post before you disappear: “Going on a date with a mysterious stranger. Will report back soon.”
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Sends comments and ideas via his Facebook page)