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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

What if there were no Facebook?

Post-Mueller report and Sri Lanka attacks, what if Facebook disappeared? 

A mousepad with the Facebook logo is seen

A mousepad with the Facebook logo is seen at the company's headquarters. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Daniel Leal-Olivas

What if

What if there were no Facebook?

What if Mark Zuckerberg cast his eye upon his domain and said enough’s enough?

What if what it took was special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on electoral muddling, the estimated 126 million people reached on Facebook by the Russian “Internet Research Agency”?

What if other countries followed Sri Lanka in shutting down social media after unspeakable tragedies, for fear of platforms being used to spread fear and misinformation even as the blood pooled on the floor? What if, as in Sri Lanka, there were legitimate fears of people organizing violence via social media, and Facebook not being able to react quickly to hate posts?

What if the world became weary of data breaches and cyber bullying? What if users stopped wanting to be wed to their phones? 

What if Zuckerberg decided that, after 15 years of posting, messaging, sharing, and liking, he would not just pause to tweak the site a little but fully pull the plug, think of something else to produce, focus on charity?

What if other social media companies followed suit and Silicon Valley went out to Burning Man early?

What if this was a strange time for people for a little while? What if people now had to find a new way to brag about concert tickets? What if you had to go to a news website to see what was happening in the world?

What if there was an adjustment period, when people reflexively pulled their phones from their pockets? What if they were just momentarily unoccupied?

What if the 2020 election became a little more secure without the creation of Russian-controlled Facebook groups like “United Muslims of America” netting hundreds of thousands of followers?

What if political disagreements took place face to face, or what if people sometimes opted to keep their mouths shut?

What if this silencing rankled people? What if folks didn’t like their limited options for self-expression? What if people felt that the news sites were ignoring climate change? What if it became harder to organize big Union Square demonstrations? What if the only way to raise money for girls being denied an education was those cheerful people standing on both sides of the sidewalk saying do you have a minute for math class? Do you care about the environment?

What if the blackout led to some savvy tech operator at the SoHo WeWork throwing together a janky Facebook? What if it was called Fakebook? What if you had to pay a little to use it and it was private? What if some people jumped for it for that reason and started sending messages? What if it became the hip thing to be using the Fakebook, like you weren’t one of those zombies who had gone back to email chains and mass printing leaflets? What if no one could see all the stuff festering on the Fakebook and other new sites, and the 2022 midterms were a total shock to pundits who couldn’t believe how much support these weird 2-Tube makeup artists were getting?

What if people wrung their hands? What if the usual suspects said let’s not jump to the conclusion of gasp, regulation? What if Fakebook announced it had just reached a billion users worldwide? What if Mark Zuckerberg decided maybe there’s still money to be made in this game after all?

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