The choice was put to them whether they would like to be kings or kings’ couriers. Like children they all wanted to be couriers. So now there are a great many couriers; they post through the world and, as there are no kings left, shout to each other their meaningless and obsolete messages. They would gladly put an end to their wretched lives, but they dare not because of their oath of service.
There are many interpretations of this parable, but the meaning seems clear and obvious to me: Once upon a time, the blog was the ne plus ultra of social media, or “Web 2.0,” as it was then called. Each blogger ruled hizzorher own kingdom, issuing edicts, jeremiads and stemwinders according to whim. Then came the great enclosure, when we forfeited our kingdoms to move into the gated pens of Facebook and Twitter, where self-expression is limited to primitively reacting to whatever trending “news” is carelessly dumped into the feeding trough. Deleting one’s accounts would seem to be the only logical choice, but doing so would give Zuckerberg and Dorsey the legal right to harvest your organs as a result. (Always read the fine print in the terms of service.) Frankly, I had no idea Kafka was such a prescient visionary. I might have to read him more closely.