It seems the older we get, the more upset we become when things aren’t quite the same. The smallest of things can cause the greatest outpourings of bile, rants and scorn.
Forget the protests in Burma against the hideous human rights abuses; ignore the wholesale destruction of rainforests and numerous species of plants and animals; and don’t even begin to think about poverty and starvation in the third world brought about by certain Western governments and multi-national companies supporting corrupt regimes.
For all these pale into insignificance compared to the layout changes they have made in Facebook.
There seem to be more protests and people prepared to sign petitions about this than over whether we were lied to by our governments about Iraq’s possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the need to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and misery of millions because of it.
What does it say about us?
Quite simply it says we’re more concerned about what’s right in front of our eyes than some abstract idea effecting people elsewhere or elsewhen.
Cast James Bond with a blonde haired actor? Reorganise the layout of our favourite TV magazine? Change the name of BBC Radio 4 News to BBC News Radio 4? Bump off our favourite soap opera star? Kids listening to some new kind of thumpa thumpa music? Have Dr Who regenerate into someone else? Subtle alterations in the pattern on the toilet paper? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE? GIVE ME BACK WHAT I’M FAMILIAR WITH!!!
Clearly it’s an evolutionary survival tactic. Those who were concerned about distant things rather than the immediate tended to get eaten by roaming predators and so failed to pass on their genetic code. We are descendents of the paranoid, the obsessive-compulsive and the randy.
This is why long-term goals are so difficult to stick to. Faced with a choice between an ideal thinner, fitter, healthier self at some vague point in the future, and a bramble crumble right in front of us, it’s unsurprising which one will win out.
It seems the only real way to make people act on a large scale is to change something right in front of their eyes – something tangible, something immediate.
If each cigarette caused a coughing fit, or if each car journey caused a tornado, or if each chocolate bar caused an instant gain of 10lbs, we would modify our behaviour with much greater speed and intensity.
So with Facebook rapidly approaching 100,000,000 members, perhaps the solution to the worlds problems would be to create annoying little changes in the layout or colouring of Facebook every time another species becomes extinct, another person is arrested, imprisoned and tortured without trial or representation, the global temperature rises another 0.1 of a degree, the government lies to us, or another child dies in poverty.
Perhaps then our gripes could make a difference.