A history of the world – as told by Facebook

Wylie Overstreet’s _The History of the World According to Facebook_ is a parody attempting to imagine what it would have been like if Facebook had existed from the beginning of time.

It plays out great events throughout history, mapping them onto a series of typical Facebook communication devices. The opening entry in this Facebook profile is a simple status update by The Singularity – “FIRST!!1!” – followed by a relationship status change: “@The Singularity is in a relationship with Space and Time, and it’s complicated”. (The Laws of Physics comments “Really complicated”).

Got the idea? It’s a simple one, but the result is a very entertaining and well-designed book that appeals to anyone who is at all familiar with the Facebook concept.

Published last year, the book is in the ‘pre-timeline’ Facebook format and uses devices we are all familiar with, such as status updates, relationship statuses, likes, event notifications, wall posts, photo uploads and so on.

Further, historical events are presented to the reader as online interactions between well-known past figures, individual countries, inanimate objects and even abstract theories.

Overstreet also manages to insert a somewhat sinister and serious underlying message in his witty and brilliantly created book. I think that by interpreting literally the entire history of the world into Facebook format, it shows how completely revealing social networking can become and how utterly it can take over one’s life.

Whether this is intended to or not is pretty much irrelevant, but Overstreet makes the reader think about how our understanding of life has been subtly altered by the use of Facebook, other social media and internet networking. A reality-check for us all, maybe?

Simply put, it’s a book that you can dip into whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Though be warned: if you are easily offended by politics, religion, politically incorrect humour and coarse satire, then maybe this book is not for you. It could be criticised for being a little too westernised or euro-centric, with a lot of focus on American history.

However, I think that its merits outweigh this flaw. As a student studying History I can say that, hand on heart, I find this book to be a pretty good timeline chronology of world events. And it makes a change from the dusty, 500-odd page volumes in the library that I usually have to plough through!

I think that this book provides a fantastically simple and familiar format in which to educate people about the main events in our world’s history. Or maybe I’m taking this book a little too seriously. Maybe I need to lighten up. But trust me, it’s a funny book and it’s very cleverly written. Now go and read it while I check how many notifications I’ve received in the twenty minutes or so since I last checked my Facebook…


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