Can you believe that it’s been a decade since Facebook launched? It’s been a long road from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room to the smartphones and iPads on which we obsessively share our status updates. Social media has radically altered our attitudes on online anonymity and has colored most of our real-life interactions—so, it’s no surprise that authors have made ambitious guesses at where it’ll take us next. These novels and comics use social media as a jumping-off point to predict our future within the social network, from dating apps to an all-encompassing “Circle” to what happens when “the cloud” bursts.
OK, we have to kickoff the list with the 2002 novel that basically predicted Facebook itself. M.T. Anderson and Zuckerberg must’ve been experiencing some serious morphic resonance: Anderson’s future predicted teenagers obsessed with updating their “feeds,” which they used to broadcast their every mundane thought, but also through which they were marketed to by every corporation under the sun. However, Anderson took the concept a step further by having these feeds implanted in people’s brains. Imagine telepathic Facebook chat. Yeah.
Social media stats
Shteyngart‘s dystopian novel takes the concept of everything being online and amps it up even more: Whereas in the present, you have to look up someone’s social life on various platforms, in Super Sad True Love Story, a person’s stats—dateability, f*ckability, income, general social opinion of you—are displayed in holograph form all the time. Which is super unfortunate if you’re a sadsack like protagonist Lenny. Imagine all the best and worst parts of you coloring your every interaction with people—or, worse, stopping you from even meeting people because they’re so turned off by your external profile. The one saving grace of this future? The nifty, iPad-descendant äppäräts.
As a second generation comes of age on Facebook, fears persist about social media further cutting kids off from normal, face-to-face interactions. Nowhere is that more obvious than media theorist Douglas Rushkoff‘s graphic novel A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division: The eponymous A.D.D.ers are athletes/gamers/reality stars who compete in virtual reality and sign autographs at mall tours. However, their time in the public eye and the pressures of trying to “level up” have made them incredibly dysfunctional: One “Beta” can only see the subliminal messages in everything, while another shies away from physical touch.
4. The Circle
In 2010, Zuckerberg famously declared, “The age of privacy is over.” Now that his baby has hit the double-digits, Zuck seems to have relaxed his stance and is exploring bringing some anonymity back to Facebook. Not to worry: Dave Eggers‘ 2013 novel The Circle carries on Facebook’s original zeal for transparency. Initially a reluctant member of the eponymous social media company, Mae Holland soon climbs the ranks by devising more and more insidious ways for people to hand over not only their personal information, but also to live-stream every moment of their lives. Her sneakiest proposal? That people must join “the Circle” in order to vote and carry on other civic duties.
While you’re at it, check out Y: The Last Man creator Brian K. Vaughan‘s new online comic, The Private Eye. After “the cloud bursts” in the late 21st century, revealing everyone’s dirty laundry, the Internet ceases to exist. In the aftermath, people walk the streets in masks to try and preserve any shred of privacy. Now that Facebook looks to be recovering some anonymity in its next decade, we’ll see if Vaughan’s future ever comes to pass.