A fellow author mentioned the number of hits on his blog, which started me thinking about the crazy world of social media and how information was collected. This might be one option, so make sure you speak nicely to your gadgets. 😀
You have 647 friends. Your most popular post was on the 29th February. The most important people on your Timeline profile are Mary Jones, Fred Smith, Abu de Wotsit (Who?), and Pierre de la Tour.
The information on my personal page made me wonder how they collate this information, and is it really accurate? I knew if you played online games strangers could send you free lives, and you were encouraged to say thank you by sending them back. Even if you ignored the prompts they were still sent. I discovered this when friends messaged me to say they never play games, and to please stop sending them requests, even though I hadn’t.
Then there are the quizzes. You discover your personality is yellow, in a previous life you were Joan of Arc, and you ace music from the disco era (even if it’s not your favourite music and you deliberately get some wrong.)
I genuinely had one or two favourites sites and people I wanted to keep track of, but despite setting my notifications I never saw much from them. I gave a like to a remote acquaintance one particular day, and suddenly started seeing nonstop posts from him. I assumed he was having a catch-up online, until I noticed the posts dated back to last week, last month and five years ago. Why were they suddenly appearing now?
There was a friend I hadn’t heard from for a while, so I checked out their timeline and discovered several major events which were really important at the time, but are now too long ago to make my congratulations and commiserations meaningful. It made me feel guilty for neglecting them when my support was most needed.
I was just a tiny, insignificant cog in a gigantic network, so never really expected an answer to my ponderings. I wasn’t particularly savvy with technology but knew how to log on, find friends, respond to private messages, and like and comment on posts. That was about it.
Who knows how it happened? I was distracted by the TV for a moment, and while multi-tasking, pressed a few keys on my laptop without really looking. The next minute a tinny computer voice made me jump. I remembered I’d turned up the volume to listen to a video post, and forgotten to turn it off again. Assuming it was one of the ubiquitous and annoying online helps, (which are anything but), I ignored it.
‘Hey you! Yes, you UBL/497-8TWX-dokl/9748-“##@ tkp3657/7Qn57_Frd~64!
I’m talking to you! What statistics do you require?’
‘What? Who said that?’ I asked although there was no one around.
I needed to stop procrastinating and do some writing, so decided sign out to stop distractions. Nothing happened and the screen stayed live.
‘Sorry, not allowed. You summonsed me and I can’t be released until I’ve completed your request, and you’ve submitted a quality control feedback form. What do you want to know?’
I felt stupid talking to a computer but I was getting annoyed.
‘Listen, genie or whatever you are. I’m busy, alright? Go and annoy someone else.’
‘Why are people so stupid?’ the tinny voice replied. ‘I’ve just explained. My reference is…. Oh, never mind. Just call me Jeannie for now. I’ll show you some info while you’re thinking about it. Last week you liked a photo of a puppy. I’ve added you to 3,456 groups about dogs, but there’s plenty more. Also, you commented on your friend’s black T-shirt. She bought it online so to start you off I’ve joined you up to 100 online retailers. Your inbox is going to get pretty busy. She used her new credit card so you’ll shortly receive application forms from 50 credit cards companies. If you don’t fill them in it counts as a rejection, so I hope your credit rating is a good one. Which reminds me….’
‘Whoa, stop. I don’t want any more junk mail. I get enough as it is,’ I said.
‘It’s not junk. In accordance with the rules, only products or services in which you’ve expressed a legitimate interest are allocated to your account. You’d better get busy. There are currently 469 entries in your incoming email box, and that’s without the ones I’ve diverted to junk, which will stay there until you reallocate them. I’ve be back in an hour to see what other information you need.’
Despite wanting to get on with writing my book, I decided to check my inbox, just in case something important had arrived while I was browsing. 582 entries! In the few minutes I’d been talking to Jeannie, another hundred had arrived. This was getting ridiculous. Straight away I could see some were from credit card companies and retailers, but others I had to open before I could tell whether they were genuine ones from friends or more junk. After an hour I gave up any thought of concentrating on writing and went back to Facebook.
‘Told you so,’ the squeaky voice chimed in before I could check my groups. ‘What can I help you with? Your feedback is important… ‘
‘Shut up!’ I yelled in frustration. ‘If you really want to help you can delete everything from my inbox which is not from a personal friend.’
‘Done!’ Jeannie replied. ‘What next?’
‘Show me only posts from my friends, and remove everything else from my Facebook page.’
‘Sorted,’ Jeannie answered. ‘You’ve one wish, er, I mean order left before you take over from me. See you in a few days.’
True to her word, Jeannie had removed the spam emails, but I’d forgotten to tell her not to allow anymore, so everyday another couple of hundred arrived. I’d also not realised family and finances weren’t counted as ‘friends,’ as I discovered after receiving angry phone calls from my sister and my publisher, and a stroppy letter from the bank manager about my overdraft. This was more difficult than I thought.
‘Any last requests?’ Jeannie’s annoying voice popped up just as I finally finished sorting the emails.
‘Yes, bog off where you came from, so I don’t have this hassle,’ I replied in a temper. Rather than being upset she responded with a whoop of joy.
‘Hurrah! At last I can get out of here. Thanks for providing my escape. I hope you don’t have to wait too long for yours.’
I’d no idea what she was talking about but it was late and I was tired, so I closed down my laptop and went to bed. At least I think I did. Was I dreaming? My voice came out in a tinny squeak as I spoke from the wrong side of a computer screen.
‘You have 23 friends. Huh! That’s not very many, I had hundreds. Well, come on then. Get on with it so I can get out of here and finish writing my book. You summonsed me, and I need to produce your stats, and get the form signed before you can take my place. Did you know there are nearly a million online games? Stop playing that tired old one and tell me, how may I help you?’
© Val Portelli August 2020
I hope you enjoyed this story.
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