Held Hostage by Facebook

Last week a gunman took a hostage and barricaded himself into a Utah motel room rather than let police arrest him on drug charges. It’s the kind of drama that you’ve probably seen unfold a million times on the news, crime dramas, and reality TV.

But what makes the story of 36 year old Jason Valdez unique is that all during his 16 hour standoff with police; he was posting status updates and pictures to Facebook.

His Facebook friends wrote back, letting him know when SWAT team members were closing in on his location, and sharing opinions such as “dude, you’re an idiot”.

It ended badly for Valdez, who shot himself in the chest before he was arrested. His suicide attempt was not successful though, and he wound up in the hospital in critical condition.

As I thought about this situation over the past week; I was reminded of scenes from the movie “Farenheit 451“, where the wife of the main character sits around all day chatting with her “family” of friends via a wall-sized video screen.

When Ray Bradbury wrote the story upon which the movie was based in the early 1950’s; it was considered far-fetched science fiction. But in today’s interconnected, social media saturated world; it is reality.

Consider this excerpt from summary of the story:

“The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.”

Substitute “iPods” for “Seashell Radio sets”, and Bradbury’s nightmare scenario morphs into a pretty accurate description of a society in which Facebooking while holding a hostage seems both utterly bizarre and completely understandable.

After all, if you don’t share it with your Facebook friends, it doesn’t count. Right?


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