On CBC’s Spark the other day Nora Young interviewed David Plotz, the editor of Slate. He was talking about the risk of outsourcing our memory to technology, and about the potential meaninglessness of getting personal messages from your Facebook “friends”.
In an attempt to judge the sincerity of their well wishes Plotz changed his birthday, giving himself three birthdays in July. For each one he received a pile of birthday greetings.
A couple of his “friends”, primarily real friends, caught on. But for the most part, pre-programmed to respond to the tip, folks sent off wishes, placing their trust in the information kindly provided by our friends at Facebook.
I laughed out loud in the car when Plotz described his trick. I happen not to post my birthday on Facebook because I don’t want piles of generic Happy Birthday Aviva!, Have a good one! and Have a great birthday! messages that remind me of an old Ellen Degeneres skit, where people getting off the plane each wait for their personal goodbye while listening to the 40 “bye, bybye, goodbye, by, boby, by by, bye…” that came before theirs.
I read Plotz’s post on Slate. I was a bit shocked by the negativity in the comments section suggesting he was a pissy snot who should get over himself and his 1,200 FB friends, and not set people up to say something really kind and then diss them for it. I, for one, liked the experiment. Maybe I’m not earnest enough.
But my problem is not too many messages. It’s none at all that’s upsetting. Despite knowing better, that little “like” button has become a measure of my popularity, wittiness, desirability and all around significance in the lives of my “friends”. I’m a relatively secure person. Well, somewhat secure. But FB, when I chose to let it, feeds into my worse insecurities.
I don’t over-post. I’m not prone to letting people know what I ate for lunch or how many times I sneezed – unless I have food poisoning, or something plagueish and contagious. But when I do post a clever, insightful, funny and profound observation, or a link to my blog, I get hurt when people don’t “like” it.
Arguably a FB "like" is akin to the happy birthday message. It doesn’t necessarily mean the "friend' has read or understood it. It doesn't mean they gave a shit about what I wrote. Yet it means so much to me.
Does Plotz take his FB critics and fans this personally? When you write for an old media newspaper, you have no idea how many people read it. You can happily assume lots do, and call it a day. The immediacy we know FB capable of providing gives me the deluded sense of getting-it-out-there-ness, followed quickly by the inflation or deflation of my ego triggered by the number of “like”s.
I’m not looking for anything major. Really, three or four “likes” can make my day.
But don’t you dare press that “like” button. I’ll know you’re faking it.