In a social media apocalypse, I’d be the first one dead.

 This is one of my favourite one-liners. I use it all the time at cocktail parties and to explain away my various #social fails. No one (including me) is sure what it means, but it usually gets a laugh.

What exactly is a social media apocalypse? The few references on offer suggest a business-based catastrophe.  For example: a sudden and complete social network wipeout in which everyone’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest followings evaporate into cyberspace, never to be retrieved or engaged again.  That’d be bad.

But civilization would recover.

When I think social media apocalypse, I imagine a slower devastation. One brought on, not by technology seized from users, but by users seized by technology.  In other words: the kind of just-around-the-corner disaster scenarios being cooked up by pop culture’s most prescient minds.

“It’s very medieval really, the way the Internet can turn on a person,” says Michael Dowling, co-creator of the new comic series, Unfollow. The plot: the founder of a social media platform chooses 140 random strangers from around the world to be his heirs. The catch: his billions will be divided among those who, at the moment of his death, are still alive themselves. As the rest of the world ‘follows’, ‘The Chosen 140’ find out why winning the lottery and celebrity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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Credit: vertigocomics.com

In the live action realm, Space Oddity Films is an LA production company dedicated to exploring technology’s impact on culture and how this relationship might shape our future.  The plotlines of its short films include a dead boyfriend who reaches out to his ex on G-chat; a lone woman who wakes up to a snapchat of her sleeping self; and an intimate dinner party, interrupted by a deadly text message.

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Image credit: Space Oddity Films

This is what I’m taking about. Unlike an apocalypse in the conventional sense where society breaks down following one catastrophic event, a social media apocalypse would take us down the same way it built us up: one follower at a time.

Each week, Katherine explores a social or cultural detail that has an outsized ripple effect. Follow her on Twitter @kgougeon