Twenty years ago, then-Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni (Meretz) authorized the government telephone company Bezeq to provide infrastructure for Internet services. A few years later, one of her successors, Raphael Pinchasi (Shas), authorized two companies to provide Internet services to the public.
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A decade after Aloni’s decision, Facebook was founded as a social media network for students at Harvard University. Two years later, it had burst all boundaries, making founder Mark Zuckerberg king of the universe – and of Bat Yam.
To recruit the best people, Google offers its employees infamous benefits, including gyms, massages and unlimited food and snacks. It even takes care of their daily chores.
Similarly, Facebook gives us everything we need on the Internet – anything so that we won’t go somewhere else. It defeated the Web (that network of sites that was our window on the world when we first connected to the Internet), the search engines (our tool for navigating its paths) and the various email, chat and instant messaging services (media of communication among Web denizens).
Before Facebook was available to Israelis, one of us received an email from an American student, did a round of our acquaintances and couldn’t understand what the buzz was all about: Most people didn’t have an actual profile picture, only a diplomatic question mark. There seemed to be nothing to do there.
It was hard to foresee that within eight years, Facebook would be devouring most of our web-surfing hours and even attacking the offline aspects of our life, from sex, relationships with spouses, family and friends, birthdays and other events through sharing articles and creating news memes to fighting with cabinet ministers and corporations and organizing the largest social protest in Israeli history.
For Israelis, Facebook is a vulgar city square in which everything is quick and nervous, sweaty and violent.
Facebook users are quick to ignite, boil over and explode with denunciations, hopes that disasters will befall and threats to the lives of people who don’t think as they do on any important or trivial matter, from our policy on migrants to the quality of service at the local hummus joint.
Discussions on forums that initially deteriorated into fights in the comments section have since degenerated into Internet lynchings committed by sharing and comments. The masses want a little blood, just a little blood, to sweeten the Like, before moving on to the next victim.
Instead of creating a new, better world, the Israeli corner on Facebook is a dark mirror that reflects a dark version of the old world and the threats we thought we’d left behind. Happy Birthday.