Friday, June 11, 2010

Johnny Dislikes This

While living in the UK, I kept hearing miraculous tales of how kids like Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys, whose appeal eluded me, were acquiring gigantic audiences via their MySpace pages. By the time I tried to fling myself aboard that bandwagon, it had already passed, though, and I wound up sprawled and bloody in the street — or, as a Brit would have put it, road.

For a very long time, I didn’t get Facebook, but then the guitarist’s wife started a fan club there for the band with which we’d nearly, but not quite, changed the course of popular music in our time, and what a lot of fun it was for a few months — so much, in fact, that I started my own account in earnest. Then, realizing that I might be able to use this whole social networking lark for my own nefarious ends — specifically, inducing people to buy things I’d written, designed, or composed and recorded — I began opening accounts for a variety of alter egos.

With minimal diligence, one of them had soon amassed over 2000 Facebook friends, whereupon I thought: Whoopee! But then, as I passed the 2400 mark, I began getting wacky error messages that I was abusing the friend-adding feature…by requesting new friends! I was still able to transmit requests, but only after proving myself a non-robot or something by typing a couple of words in a little box. It slowed me down a bit, but what a small price, having to type a couple of words, for a friendship that might last a lifetime, or a prospective customer. But then Facebook’s algorithms somehow decided that my rampant abusiveness had to be stopped cold, and I was advised,

Block! You are engaging in behavior that may be considered annoying or abusive by other users. You have been blocked from adding friends because you repeatedly misused this feature. This block will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. When you are allowed to reuse this feature, please proceed with caution. Further misuse may result in your account being permanently disabled. For further information, please visit our FAQ page.

I have made it a lifelong custom both to avoid reading users’ manuals, to participate in forum discussions, and to refer to FAQ pages. As far as I could see, absent my turning to those potential sources of clarification, I’d been doing precisely what Facebook was conceived to allow one to do — make lots of friends with a click or two and a wink. I reconciled myself to having to be content with the 2400 friends I’d made already. If worse came to worse, I thought, I could always start yet another account.

But then things started getting scary. On Tuesday, when I went to the gym, a couple of steroid abusers I’d seen before but never spoken to came up to me while I was on the stationery bicycle. The more articulate, the gum-chewer, mused, “Nice car you’re driving,” though my 2002 Subaru Forester bears the scars of my 10 months in Madison, Wisconsin, where people will say, “Have a great day!” or, “How’s that bratwurst workin’ for ya?” with a big smile, but then damage the hell out of your car as they back out of their parking spaces, and not leave a note.

“Thanks,” I said.

“I’d hate to see anything, you know, like…happen to it,” he said, smirking, pulling his wifebeater down to expose the tiny Facebook tattoo just below his collarbone. The sight of it chilled me, but not nearly as much as the enormous FB I discovered on getting home had been burned on my lawn.

I have decided, in the light of these developments, to revert to making friends as I had until mid-2009. On seeing someone with whom I think I may be on the same wavelength, I will approach them with the utmost shyness, offer them a little bouquet of wildflowers, and mumble, “Will ‘oo be my fwend?” In a real-life setting, most people, whether or not they will admit it, find derhotacization irresistible.

[Many of my books are now available for download from Amazon. They include The Total Babe & Other Wine Country Yarns, Lentils on the Moon (aka A Message From Jesus in Braille, aka A History of the Jews in the Hudson Valley), Self-Loathing: An Owner's Manual, Third World USA, The Mona Lisa's Brother, and, for baseball nuts, Foul Balls and Alpha Males. You need neither a Kindle nor an iPad to enjoy 'em; simply download (free) Kindle software for either Mac or Windows, and enjoy them on your laptop or other computer!

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