Whaaaaa? – people were shallow before facebook?
The next person I hear trotting out the lazy cliche that the superficiality of social media relationships is destroying the fabric of our society, will have a copy of ‘The Great Gatsby’ thrust into their hands and be told to get reading. OK, so maybe you’re not as intimate with the hundreds and thousands of your facebook and twitter buddies as you are with your closest friends, but the pursuit of universal popularity at all costs is nothing new.
Take Gatsby. He might live in West Egg, a slightly less exclusive neighbourhood than East Egg, although his luxurious mansion and grounds make up for his postcode among all but the most snobbish of his guests. All summer long, Gatsby’s home is inundated with party-goers who thanklessly indulge in his lavish hospitality all the while spinning scandalous and sinister tales of their host’s past.
Fast forward to his funeral, and apart from Gatsby’s father, and neighbour and narrator, Nick Caraway, the only other person to attend is the owl-eyed man from one of Gatsby’s parties, who had drunkenly marvelled over Gatsby’s library. The intellectual kudos that he attributed to Gatsby for stocking his library with real books rather than replicas was not shaken one iota by the fact that every book remained uncut, and therefore unread.
If social media friendships are shallow replicas of the real thing, then what of Gatsby’s social world? All his so-called friends are like his books – they might be real, but it doesn’t stop them being superficial, and evaporating at the first sign of trouble. Maybe superficiality wasn’t invented by the internet after all.