Friday, February 26, 2016

Dear Facebook Friend Request From a Bike Person That Might Actually Be Just A Sunglasses Selling Robot...

Dear Facebook Friend Request From a Bike Person That Might Actually Be Just A Sunglasses Selling Robot,

The truth is that I don't know.  You might be a real person.  I don't think I know you, but that wouldn't be unusual.  I'm face-friends with lots of people that I don't actually know.  It's not the same as being actual friends, and if you're a real person, I assume you know that, so you've sent me this request to be face-friends despite the fact we have no actual relationship.  

Probably not though.  You are probably another fake sunglasses scam.  I've been seeing it a lot.  Here's how it works: You, a face-friend request that I don't think I know wants to be face-friends, and your profile picture shows you riding a bike, so I figure we've probably at least met, or been on a ride together, or ridden the same road, or something.  Anything.  Plus, other bike people that I'm 90% sure are actual people appear to be face-friends with you already, so how bad can you be?  Request accepted.  Nothing happens for a while, then I wake up on Tuesday and my face-wall has a bunch of spam advertising graffiti bullshit for a bogus sunglasses sale (ACT NOW) courtesy of you, my new face-friend, because it turns out you're not my face-friend at all, but instead you're some kind of Zombie Facebook Robot purpose-built to make friends and advertise.  I don't think this was a part of Mark Zuckerberg's vision for the product, but here we are.

This phenomenon says a lot about bike people.  We're a tribe of just the right size, passion, and commitment to social media that we're especially prone to this little gag, whatever it is.  It seems to be working.  I assume someone, somewhere, is making money doing this, and if we could follow the profits we would eventually find the source, but of course, we are far too lazy to actually do that.

It also says something about Facebook, and social media in general.  Because even if you are a Facebook Sunglasses Robot, you're not so different than some of the actual Facebook friends I have that are real people, but they mostly just act as robots for their sponsors that they presumably have a minimum Facebook quota to uphold.  Their spam is no more or less real than yours, and they're actual human beings.  So, maybe I shouldn't hold your spam against you.  In your photo, you look like you can shred.  Are you in Robot-Montana?  Maybe I should just risk it and be friends.  Maybe I should buy some shades.

There's no real-world equivalent for this phenomenon, I don't think.  It would be like if I was driving down the road, and I saw C-ham hitchhiking, and I stopped to pick him up only to realize it wasn't actually C-ham, but to downplay the weirdness of the situation I gave the person a lift anyway, and he turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness, or a Tupperware Salesman, or some other thing, and he started hawking his shit from my car window while I drove.  Like that, but in a virtual world, like The Matrix.

I have 468 Facebook friends.  But I have 5, maybe 10, actual friends - people I actually see and relate to on a regular basis.  There are other options of course...Twitter.  Instagram.  Strava.  And on and on and on.  The search for the appropriate online social network for bike people is beginning to spiral out of control.  There's a shitload of money at stake here, which is part of why this has been such a weird ride.

We thought these things were built to help bring us all together, but I think we see now that they are actually meant to drive us apart.  This is no longer social in any way, because a society requires reality to maintain for any kind of duration. No, indeed, what we have now are just conduits to bad news, misinformation about Zika, Facebots, and other things that don't make sense anymore, and maybe they never actually did.  In hindsight, the minute things like Farmville or Candy Crush were a fundamental and integrated part of the experience, it should have been clear that reality was not on the agenda.

And neither are you, Facebot bike person who wants to sell me sunglasses.  You're not a bug, or a glitch in some otherwise positive machine; you're the machine itself.  You're just another representation of the great flaw in the social media we've all created: That I don't know you, but I don't care.

Friend request accepted.

Up, up, up.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the machine.