So a couple years back, I mentioned in a column that due to one of my many personality defects, I had been accepting every single Facebook friend request -- including those from people I'd never met before. At the time, I was kind of tickled; it seemed like a real validation of all the time I'd sunk into this online asshattery. And, posted as it was on one of the Internet's leading comedy and animal husbandry tip websites, that column reached a fairly large audience, and over the next year or so, my friends list quickly bloomed. The loneliness and isolation which had filled my life started to ebb, and I found myself functioning better in society. "I am using the bus," I would say proudly, using the bus. "Yes you are," the bus driver would respond with a smile. And so it went. Until one dark night last year, when I defriended them all. I went through that friends list with a scythe, casting out anyone who I hadn't worked with, or gotten drunk with, or fantasized about getting drunk with. I was ruthless, just totally not caring what effect this might have on my suddenly Bucholz-less non-friends. So if there was a wave of really bad poetry sweeping the Internet last spring, I guess you have me to blame. I had reasons for this, although I didn't get in to any of them at the time. I guess I was worried about sounding like one of those paranoid delusional privacy freaks, ranting about corporations with aluminum foil wrapped around my cock.
Instead, I wanted to sound like this.
But recently one of my spurned fans hunted me down, and while holding me by my throat over the edge of a cliff, a dark wind howling around us, demanded to know why I'd done something so ruthless. Here's what I told her.
You know that guy who's constantly posting funny things on his wall or leaving pithy remarks on his friend's pictures or just generally interacting with humanity? That guy's not me. I can be witty enough when I have to; many days, I have wit literally spewing out of my mouth. But I rarely feel the urge to share quips and asides on random topics, and when I do, it's typically only with my closest friends, people who know me well enough to know when my pro-eugenics ranting is meant in jest.
This guy's sowing his seed with a kind of sashaying motion, which will be the mandatory technique in the new Bucholz World Order.
In fact, most of the time I don't have anything to say at all, and feel no reason to force it. If it was needed - here I'm imagining a phone call from the president - I could come up with something funny to say about your new haircut ("It looks like your mom's mustache") but that kind of thing takes a few seconds of my time. And even when I do have the time, those little voices in my head usually talk me out of sharing my gems. "Ha ha ha ha ha! That's so funny Chris!" they say. "But let's just keep that between you and us. What if THEY use the words against you?"
So one day I tried the daring and unholy stunt of logging in to Facebook while in a different city. Concerned that I was perhaps one of those leet hackers that the media are always on about, Facebook decided to lock me out of my own profile. The only way to unlock it was for me to identify tagged pictures of my friends. Which was problematic, because aside from the fact that I didn't know any of these people, half of the pictures on Facebook are blurry, show the backs of people's heads, or are tagged incorrectly. (I can personally attest to uploading a dozen different pictures of dogs taking shits, and tagging them with the names of people who have wronged me.) Basing an ID-verification algorithm on this kind of data is madness. It's like solving a sandwich crime while wearing a bobsled. No part of it makes any sense. This led me in to the turd-labyrinth that is the Facebook support system. Circular links, a minimum of useful advice, and nowhere was there any way to contact Facebook and straighten things out. The "Contacts" page contained a link to a different "Contacts" page, which aside from the title, contained no information on how to actually contact anyone, instead gently suggesting that I could find the answer to my problem in their ever-so-helpful online support tool. Eventually, I did come across a form that claimed it would submit a query to Facebook Support, although I might as well have tied my question to a rock and crammed it up my ass sideways, for all the good it did me.
It didn't work is what I'm saying.
This was a really, really unsettling feeling, having all this information about me online, widely visible, often compromising, with no control over it. The problem was eventually resolved when I simply flew back home, which as a solution, has a nice poetic feel to it, even if it might not always be economically viable. I very nearly quit Facebook entirely at this point, and if I hadn't needed to warn people about the PLOT TO YOLK US ALL, I might have. And then we'd already be dead.
If you've been using Facebook for a bit, you'll have noticed their habit of accidentally changing your settings. This actually happened just last week, where (at least my) notification settings suddenly reactivated, sending me emails every time anything happened. "Who dares wish me a happy birthday!?" I bellowed, smiting my keyboard in twain. And that was just notification settings; something similar happened a couple years ago to photo-privacy settings. As I recall (that's the level of research I'm doing here), some change in the privacy framework made photos visible to everyone - not just friends, or friends of friends, but every damned person in the world. A cat walking across a keyboard could stumble across old pictures of me in university doing beer fondues and turbo fisting. There was no warning from Facebook that this happened; I found out about it on a blog. I of course immediately changed my settings, and then nearly as immediately began looking at pictures of my many enemies, before they could change their settings. There are tons of stories like this. Have you ever logged in to Facebook from a mobile phone? I did once. My phone number got posted to my profile, publicly visible to a lot more people than I intended, which was none. Then Facebook changed the way you deny friend requests. When you look at a friend request, there's a pair of buttons clicked "Accept" and "Not Now." When you click "Not Now" the friend request disappears. Convenient right? I thought so: it's what I'd been doing with all my new fan requests, who though I was no longer accepting, were drawn to me because of the truth I was born to speak. Except they could now see my wall, where I kept both my darkest secrets, and my thoughts on current events and things I'd just eaten.