a week in wireless

A Week In Wireless – The perils of socialism

Ha! You thought the Informer had come over all political and was about to subject you to a Farage-esque rant about the pernicious State. You will be relieved to hear, dear long-suffering reader, that the Informer thinks socialism has done a perfectly good job of undermining itself over the years and needs no further lampooning here. Today’s column refers instead to the growing influence of social media.

This week Facebook revealed it’s not happy with merely being the world’s dominant social media site, it wants to socialise everything else too. By opening up its Messenger platform Facebook hopes developers will weave Facebook into the very fabric of their apps, thus presumably making it almost impossible not to share absolutely everything you do.

Reaction to this was uniformly hysterical, with even the usually reserved and understated Buzzfeed declaring Facebook Is Eating The Internet. The interest Facebook has in making itself even more central to people’s lives is clear, and the reason developers and content producers want to socialise their products is that viral is a very efficient distribution mechanism. Why pay for marketing, PR, etc, when referrals get the job done at a fraction of the price?

But the Informer is not convinced that this insidious socialism is desirable to the rest of us. We already have to deal with irritating social media habits such as vaguebooking, in which people post deliberately nebulous status updates with the apparent aim of eliciting concerned queries from their friends. And then there are things like the publishing of arbitrary song lyrics, self-promotion disguised as humility otherwise known as the humblebrag, and the misuse of hashtags such as #ireallyneedtogetalife.

All of these are annoying, but over-sharing can have severe real life consequences. There are countless examples of people losing their jobs because their employers disapproved of stuff they shared online and, of course, the internet is rife with trolls who will devote themselves to making your life a misery if you get on their wrong side.

A recent innovation from Twitter raises the stakes even further. Periscope is an app that lets you share live video streams. In other words you can give the world live access to everything being seen by your phone’s camera, and the ability for that to be recorded is presumably imminent.

Think about it, whatever you currently choose to share via social media – even video footage – you can review first to ensure it contains nothing incriminating. Streaming live video offers no such editorial power and you will be surrendering all control over the nature of the content, how it is perceived and who sees it. You could be filming the most benign, innocuous scene but still inadvertently share footage that you will eternally regret.

If this is the way socialism is headed then the Informer predicts the rise of a new class of app designed to protect you from yourself. One such app got a fair bit of publicity this week, although it’s been around for a couple of years, and it’s called Drunk Mode.

As the name implies this app is designed to be activated in anticipation of inebriation, largely to protect the user from themselves. You simply active Drunk Mode when you’re out on the piss and it prevents you dialling people like ex-girlfriends and saying things you will likely regret in the morning.

Not everyone can see the appeal, with Leeds student Bob Palmer telling student website The Tab “I’m not buying it. The only reason I get drunk is to work up the courage to call my ex anyway.” However the Informer is ashamed to admit that there comes a time on a Friday evening when it would be better if the smartphone had not been invented.

Other handy features offered by Drunk Mode include Bread Crumbs, which logs your meandering staggering and could come in handy in case of lost property, suspected acts of wonton vandalism, etc. There’s also Find My Drunk, which allows you to keep track of your even more plastered friends and retrieve them from hedges, skips, shopping trolleys, etc.

Conspicuously lacking thus far, however, is the capacity to block certain apps or phone functions. The capacity to live stream a massive session is a Pandora’s Box the Informer feels should never be opened – unless it’s by other people, of course. Apps like Periscope should come with conspicuous health warnings and links to other apps like Drunk Mode, but socialism is already so ubiquitous even that is probably too little too late.

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