RTA 902 — Blog #3: “A letter to a kid playing Angry Birds in 2009.”

When Aaron Sorkin wrote “The Social Network”, the biopic which covered the invention of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, he said that it could have covered a fight between the two guys who had invented the toaster.

And while that’s all well and cool when you look at it from a screenwriting perspective; that this Oscar-nominated smash hit from 2010 is more about the dramatic tensions associated with gaining popularity than the invention we use every day-

This isn’t the reason I call back to this film, it’s for a different two.

  1. “The Social Network” came out when I was eleven, and if you ask me, that’s close enough to being my ten-year-old self.
  2. Justin Timberlake’s character and real-life former president of Facebook Sean Parker says something very, very smart in relation to our developing social media-based world.

“We lived on farms and then we lived in cities, now we’re going to live on the internet!”

That’s a powerful statement. Living on the internet.

And he’s not wrong! It’s true! Have you ever met someone who’s told you they aren’t on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat? Horrifying stuff really. How can you even know them if their personality isn’t emblazoned upon wall after feed after story? Then again, how does that allow me to actually know you?

Writing to your younger self is always an interesting exercise. In this case “you” isn’t you, fellow reader of this open-letter- it’s me. And to be honest from the context of being ten, I don’t even remember who I was then.

Wanna know why? Because ten-year-old Nathan didn’t have an eternally accessible vault of all his past memories. Aside from a brief stint where Facebook deleted his account because he wasn’t thirteen yet, this version of me, his memories and stories, are kept in the minds of others and family photo books. That’s it.

So how does a life of social media look for you throughout your oncoming years, Nate?

Well, it begins when you turn thirteen, in the seventh grade. You finally get a real Facebook account, starting off with the classic. Not really understanding what’s worth sharing to the masses, your relatives’ pages become flooded with reviews for the latest Assassin’s Creed game and Toronto Raptors’ basketball highlights.

Screw it though, consider all this just payback in advance for all the middle-aged garbage they spew on a daily basis. In 2020, as I check right now, one of our aunts is feeling “peaceful”. Fantastic. I’m so glad they shared this.

Cynicism aside, it really is a blessing to have social media hubs such as Facebook. Family and friends’ posts act as icebreakers for new conversations, opportunities to *ironically* really get to know one another.

That, and Facebook remembers others’ birthdays- this is the best thing about the site.

Oh yeah, another thing, your favourite media experiences aren’t exclusive to sites anymore. In fact, they primarily exist on what are known as apps. Long gone are the days where Mom’s PalmPilot was the “neat” device.

It’s all about the iPhone now. With its touch interface, music library, and so many other functions that they even threw in a compass, the iPhone ushered in a whole new way to interact. So much so, that you’re now one of the only weirdos that actually enjoys calling people. Gross?

Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter.

These are all applications designed to connect, albeit with differing opportunities as how to do so. Instagram keeps things simple: it’s just about uploading photos. Snapchat does the same thing- except the fact that they disappear, and that it’s primarily for direct messaging. Twitter, on the other hand, is for blurting out any thought you could ever have. It’s where news, sports scores, witty sarcasm, and angry mobs all show themselves. It's beautiful.

If you’re getting anything from this, I hope it’s the realization that nothing is private. So much so, that keeping a thought or moment to one’s self almost feels sacrilegious. Personally, I don't even think that we do is in the pursuit of fame. It could be as simple as finding the affirmation from someone you’ll never meet, having the realization that there are others out there just like you.

On that note, this is where a lot of your relationships; romantic ones especially, will foster themselves. I’m not even talking about getting girls’ “Snapchat's” from Tinder or Bumble or Hinge (those are dating apps, a whole different, but not entirely separate topic), I mean girls you’ve met in person. You’ll actually get to know better on Instagram, believe it or not. Then you’ll learn that there’s a “cool” way to text, that you need to send memes (those were around in 2009–2010, right?), and that “confirming” your relationship status through posts on Instagram is a must. Ironically, no one changes their relationship status on Facebook though.

And as crazy as it sounds, living out our lives as electronic personalities is awesome. An endless opportunity to connect over different fandoms means that the party never has to stop. Suddenly you have job opportunities thrown your way, invites to chill brought to your screen, even music recommendations splattered across a series of feeds. But again, the party never has to stop. In fact, it doesn’t.

Those same girls you met online, some you even fell in love with- they’re gonna ghost you. I mean hey, even former friends will. Because Nate, when you have the opportunity to just walk away as though nothing ever existed- sometimes you may too. We all do, it seems.

On top of what you had, and what you lost, there’s the problem of wanting more. I hate to break it to you man, as much as you want to think that you’re cool with spending a night alone, you’re really not. By the time you turn seventeen, the F.O.M.O (fear of missing out- this is for him, not you dear reader, I know you know this) will become real. Days will be spent scrolling Instagram waiting for a DM, panicking as to why so-and-so just killed your “streak” (essentially sending pictures on Snapchat back and forth, every day), and this will morph into the endless pondering as to why you aren’t relentlessly sought after 24/7.

It’s a ridiculous expectation to hold for yourself, yet here we all are.

That doesn’t mean you (specifically you, I don’t know about everyone else) are crippled by some unregulated addiction. In fact, it’s reinforced the idea of being productive, even when it comes to entertainment. Of course, you scroll TikTok endlessly before you go to bed (just think about it as playing Angry Birds before the day is done- it’s basically just killing time), but who doesn’t.

No, what I mean by saying “being productive” is this: recognizing the right ways to amass connections for both business and pleasure-related purposes, checking Twitter the same way people I assume watch the news on TV- at a regular time, and honestly, not getting fixated on the algorithms that keep us all hooked. Sounds robotic, but to me, it’s the only way to enjoy the genius that is social media. You have to be aware of its flaws.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes this all-digital world frustrates me. I wish myself and my peers were more into meeting new people at bars than online. I wish I could gift people movies, rather than them already having every single movie known to man on a tablet. I long for a more physical world- but that’s one you’ll never live in. Because you’re ten, and this all is starting to grow now.

But hey, enjoy the future kid- because it’s basically already here.

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