‘The Horror…the horror….’of social media.


Recent news out of Colombia: anonymous Facebook user posts a ‘hit list’ with 70+ names on it; in what is surely not a coincidence, three youths whose names appeared on the list have been murdered in the last two weeks.

Many people have anxiety due to the overbearing presence of online social media in our modern lives. Matter of fact, an acquaintance and I were just reflecting on how nonchalant that term, ‘Facebook me,’ has become in the parlance of our times. It’s so ubiquitous and, up until now, pretty harmless.

Now we see the unnerving potential that pervasive social media can have in our lives. In the recent past, governments and authorities have come down on Facebook users who have used the site as a means to disseminate a number of questionable motives, from impromptu parties to hateful rhetoric or threatening material. However, as commonplace as Facebook is nowadays, authorities are somehow baffled by this case. ‘Who’s responsible?’ they wonder. Hopefully it won’t take too long to get to the bottom of this case.

Moreover, I can’t erase this image from my mind: a grizzled bounty hunter steps off a train platform in a dusty western cattle town and posts a faded portrait of some hapless outlaw on the nearest telegraph post. The sign displays the words ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ in bold print. He turns to the small gaggle of curious and slightly frightened on-lookers and squints meaningfully, then he spits loose tobacco chew on the ground and wipes his chin with the back of his wrist. A scene out of a prototypical spaghetti Western? Likely. But this Facebook business is an alarming portend. What can we call this thoroughly modern form of public terror? For my part, I’m not really able to access Facebook on a regular basis in my little corner of the world. And I’m not saddened by this fact. Many people take this ban on Facebook to mean that I’ve dropped off the face of the planet. However my friends and family construe the effects of my absence from the titan of social network sites, it does alleviate some of my day-to-day dread. When you think about it, what serves as a better reminder of existential horror than a website that has morphed into a 24/7 tracking device? Maybe these are the grounds that filmmaker David Fincher hopes to mine with his upcoming picture ‘The Social Network.’ If any copycat instances of users posting death lists on Facebook occur, then the people charged with maintaining this website must take action. If they remain mute about this incident, then they’ve already lost more credibility than they’re owed.

Rory Keane
Rory Keane is an American-born teacher and writer who has logged nearly two years in China, and is working on another year-long stint in the Middle Kingdom. He writes about travel, sociopolitical issues, health, entertainment, and culture, among other topics.
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