I have mixed feelings about Facebook and its social networking companions. On the one hand, it's free entertainment. I get to be an idiot with my friends even when they are not at my house. On the other hand, I have ended up totally losing respect for people I once liked because of their online behaviour. There was one girl in particular who had been a good friend of mine for years in the past. When I moved to the other side of the country, I tried to contact her in at least five different ways. I tried calling her, emailing her, writing her a real physical letter, texting her and sending her messages on Facebook, all of this spread over a period of about 12 months. She didn't actually take the time to reply to any of them. She did, however, take the time to spam my Facebook feed with endless photos she'd taken of herself in the mirror and constant reminders to see some local amateur play she was in. Now, I don't mind people using Facebook for promoting things they are doing. It's the perfect medium for that. But if you are writing multiple updates a day telling people to come see your show for several weeks before and during the production, I think you should probably seek help. It can't be healthy to need that much constant validation.
When 2009 rolled over into 2010, I culled my friends list to delete all the people who hadn't made any effort to contact me in the last year. As a result, I got 99 friends but a bitch ain't one.
To be fair, that wasn't the only reason I deleted more than two thirds of my friends list in one hit. See, when people talk to me in person regularly they can kind of understand where I'm coming from. They know that most of what I say is a joke and that I find being inappropriate amusing. The problem is that my sense of humour doesn't always translate that well to brief conversations on the internet.
I have a file on my laptop where I write down things I want to say if they seem a bit suss, then think them over objectively and decide whether I can get away with them. I have mentioned it before. It seems like overkill, but it has saved my arse a few times now. My favourite example was when a girl I hadn't seen in awhile asked her friends list about skiing in Japan. Without thinking, I typed out the phrase 'I hear they've got some wicked slopes in Japan!' before realising what I'd said and hurriedly deleting it.
A second incident occurred when Buglustre's brother was being pressured into watching a movie or some such. I hadn't heard of whatever it was they wanted him to watch but I was kinda tempted to add to the conversation, for no reason other than to be creepy in the name of personal amusement. I wanted to chime in out of the blue with: "Yeah, do it or we will all gang rape you". In a lot of situations, I would have been fine with saying such a thing. But considering that I was on a mission to be the first friend of his sister's that this guy was not afraid of, I eventually decided against it.*
I have a few theories about Facebook. Not the people who use it, but Facebook itself. I have a sneaking suspicion that there's more to this beast than meets the eye. I have thought for awhile that Facebook has become a sentient being but I wasn't sure what it was that made me suspect such a thing. Not only am I now quite sure that Facebook has its own personality but, you guys, it's kind of a jerk.
My first clue came when they added those little word things that you have to retype to prove your humanity. There are a heap of websites dedicated to people who have read those two 'random' words and gone 'HEY! Hey, that's mean!'. There are the apparent insults, things like 'Smells Bad' and 'Fart Brains', or the strange and disturbing instructions such as 'Beat Wife' or 'Kill Everyone'. Admittedly I made all of those up, but I've seen the type of phrases that have appeared and none of these would surprise me in the slightest.
Another piece of evidence for my 'Facebook is a Jerk' file came when they introduced Friend Suggestions. It seemed like a good idea, finding people you might be interested in knowing based on your mutual friends. I have since suggested that the slogan for this feature should be 'Friend Suggestions: Reminding You Of Every Awful Thing You've Ever Done'. Facebook keeps suggesting that I contact old flames who I hurt kinda badly, family members I really should have contacted sooner, friends I lost because of some stupid reason and so on. Friend Suggestions is that guy at a party who brings everyone down by reminding them of all the things they'd rather forget about, then proceeds to get mind-bendingly drunk and mistake your TV for a urinal. Nobody wants to talk to that guy, but there is apparently no way to get rid of him.
But the real evidence that Facebook is alive and jerking comes when it glitches. Things get a bit mixed up in unpredictable ways. The biggest example of this that I can think of came when I was discussing something on someone else's photo. I was informed by the person I was talking to that they couldn't read my comments and all they could see was that Facebook was saying I'd posted them on January 1st, 1970. I thought this was a bit strange and inconvenient but didn't think any more of it. Until I had a quick look around me. I saw the lava lamp in the bathroom, the big reflective sunglasses on my desk, the flat shoes I was wearing that say 'Love' on one toe and 'Hate' on the other and heard the sounds of Hall & Oates drifting out of my headphones. I remembered that I write under the name Smackie Onassis, for crying out loud.
"Fuck me," I thought, "Facebook's having a go!"
I'm sure there are a thousand more examples out there of Facebook being a prick but if I had any doubt, that alone would be enough to convince me.
*I have now been informed that I have succeeded in my mission and it is mostly because of this blog. WHAT IS UP "MARY-ANNE"? :D