Guest Blog - by Eric Callcut (January 2014)
I’ve just junked my Facebook account.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me: I sometimes procure petty pleasures from finally getting my own back on some declared Arch-Enemy! I might have remained kool, said: “O.K., so they’ve blocked my access for the 3rd time, I’ll just leave Facebook be, won’t ever use it, picture it falling into decay beneath thickening layers of electronic cobwebs”. But somehow, the exclamation: “Yeah, I have an FB account, but I never use it!” wasn’t quite enough for me. I wanted to be able to say: “No way, I had one – but I scrapped it, I junked it, I liquidated it, I passed it through a particularly sophisticated shredder …”
So, I did.
My love affair with Facebook started when, despite several explanations from my dear wife and one more or less official presentation from a good friend of mine (when I write “friend”, I mean,
well … “friend”; when I write “Friend”, I mean “could-be-anyone-most-likely-somebody-I-haven’t-seen-for-yonks-and-most-probably-won’t-see-for-aeons-and-neither-of-us-probably-cares-that-much”), I could never quite figure out what Facebook was for.
Right, so you can put photos of the kiddies, the cat basking on his back in the sun, and you gawking, wide-angled and out of focus, into your new SmartPhone; that’s fine but I didn’t really want to do that, and I don’t see why you can’t just send emails anyway.
The love affair deepened when my wife showed me the photos one of her Friends (haven’t-seen-since-school-and-really-don’t-feel-like-seeing-again) was posting on his Facebook … (WARNING: If you are of a timid nature, easily embarrassed, please jump to the next paragraph). So, what photos was this Friend (I-can’t-believe-he-turned-out-this-way) posting on his FB
page … ? (I’m just giving you the time to jump to the next paragraph) …
Yes, that’s right: Semi-naked ladies – and when I write “Semi-”, I’m verging on the dishonest …
Now, please don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against semi-naked ladies, I like them, but brandishing them all over one’s FB page … ? “Does he do this often?” I questioned. “Regularly,” my wife replied. “Oh …” said I. “Doesn’t he know that some of his Friends, you know, they’re, sort of, you know, like … women? And that, perhaps even, it’s always a possibility, some of them might be, you know, just could be … feministically inclined?”
“Doesn’t seem to bother him …”
The first time I was reported and had my Facebook account blocked, there was a reason. Please recall, it’s called Social Media and – naïvely – I thought it was. And you know they offer you all those “+ a Friend” buttons; I thought “Great!”, so I plussed. And although I suffer from pretty acute Click-Addiction, I was reasonable: a dozen or so names, no more … Well, I was apprehended, tried electronically in absentia for: “Clicking “+ a Friend” buttons which We suggested you should click” (I attempted contacting them: no answer), found guilty (which of course I was) and sentenced to 7-days’ Facebook Purgatory and a scolding and threatening email, not to do it again or else … the humiliation of Eternal Banishment.
A couple of weeks later, they blocked my account because I “plussed a Friend”, who I had had lunch with a fortnight before, and who FB assured me … I didn’t know personally … I wrote them; you know what … ? They didn’t reply.
It had been a marriage of convenience. Plots of divorce began to cloud the recesses of my (habitually cloudy) mind.
Then what happened? (Actually, it started before). Everyone utterly ignored what I was posting up there on my “Timeline”: I had been putting bits about politics and bobs about spirituality, writing, education … Well, not everyone ignored it: there was my friend I mentioned at the beginning
(the one with the small “f”), one other (who actually was a “haven’t-seen-her-for-yonks-but-it-turns-out-I-wouldn’t-mind-seeing-her-again), my wife, plus a last Friend (he’s-family-I-have-to-Friend-him-don’t-I?) who absolutely hated everything I posted and accused me of more or less everything.
I did once fall into the dinges of posting a photo of me with my baby son – I only did it once, and I’m really, really sorry – I got 3,476,234 “Likes”; the rest of the time … Nothing.
At that point, I might have been satisfied with an amicable separation: “Yeah, you know, we don’t live together any more but we see each other occasionally, we’re still f/Friends.” After all, I couldn’t really blame FB if nobody could care less what I was billing there.
But then Facebook started playing dirty, wanting more than 50%, claiming the house, the kids, my books, my old teddy, everything.
They blocked my account-access a third time! Motive given: well none, actually. I was shut in a small, windowless room whilst FB pulled out piles of personal photos from my Friends’ accounts (yes, I am being serious) and asked me to sit through and identify them. Their logic was implacable: seeing as We know where We stole the photos from, if you do too, it means you aren’t an international Crime-Lord and are actually who you say you are.
The worst thing about it is that I did it! I was scandalised by the whole Big-Brother business, but I did it. And I didn’t even close my account after that! I’m a scumbag! My veins are 83%-infiltrated with commonplace-mediabanal-immorality!
I was spitting and fuming and, on the whole, unattractive to observe. A couple of weeks went by, until … until … (You probably have guessed what happened next, but let’s face it, you shouldn’t have been able to) … They blocked my account a fourth time. No motive of accusation given.
Still more RAGE.
They demanded my telephone number.
I said: “Never”.
I poked about in the dusty pages of Facebook, the ones nobody ever goes through, in search of an alternative solution to get back into my account. I wrote them. I wrote them again (I do not recall exactly but I believe I referred to them as “stinkers”: I know I shouldn’t have but as nobody read it, no offence was taken).
I delved into their recesses still further, and found … I could send them a scan of my ID card … Now you, level-headed reader, might question the relative value of sharing one’s ID scan with a multinational anonymous company rather than one’s phone number, easily found through any phone book, or internet. Know simply, that I did not question, I had sworn I would not deliver my phone number: I sent them my ID.
A touch more Nothing.
A little bit more of a touch more Nothing.
I determined to send them my phone number.
I typed it in, the only sweetness in my heavy heart that of anticipation of hitting, no Hhhitting, the “Delete my account” button, within a few more minutes.
My telephone number is not recognised as one … I must give my cell-phone number.
I don’t have a cell-phone.
I know very little about squirrels on the whole, but I have the inkling that they do not often go into hibernation when filled with the molten lava of righteous indignation over an amorphous worldwide corporation. I’m different: I went into hibernation, somewhat-twitchy-withdrawal-syndrome.
For 1 week.
Then I contacted my mother (they are right, Facebook is a “social” media), asked if I could give her cell-phone number. Mum, being what Mum’s are, said yes. At which, I got my ‘security’ code, and she got loads of Facebook SMS’s.
I deleted my account.
The second part of my story appears to be entirely different, but in fact, isn’t. A couple of months ago, a major chain of food-stores hit the British headlines with this episode. They were a marketing a 400g bread under the name of “Tiger Bread”. A 3½ year-old girl looked at the thing, and thought: “That’s daft, it’s got giraffe-patches, not tiger-stripes”. Being a 3½- year old and only tainted with 7% commonplace-mediabanal-immorality (CMI), she wrote to her local store to tell them so, and suggested they change names.
Out of pure luck for her, for him, and for the British mega-chain, a 271/3-year old employee (whose veins at the time were only on 37% CMI) received the letter, went and fetched the bread, looked at it for a while and thought: “Oh, she’s right”. Wrote to the little girl to tell her so and on his own initiative and without asking anybody, altered the name on the loaves in his particular store.
The mother of the little girl posted the respective letters on Twitter and on her blog … And it went viral … Everybody and their mother, and particularly their mother, plastering it over the Webosphere. In time, the feature was hotter news than Rihanna’s hair-stylist’s bill.
O.K., so the story’s cute and cuddly.
Yes, cuddly AND cute.
How come it touched so many people’s hearts? How come so many people thought this such an exceptional story that they blogged it and tweeted it and twogged it and bleeted it? How come this kind of story isn’t … normal? Warming but common-place? How come one employee in a nation-wide chain who responds with humanity, with humaneness, with humour, with sensitivity to a customer’s letter (O.K. a 3½-year old customer, but a customer nevertheless) is not, you know, everyday, the norm, standard practise, company policy? How come everybody’s so surprised?
Because we are no longer used to being responded to as human beings.
More and more, we expect to be disrespected, ignored, considered as infinitely insignificant; our wishes, our questions or our specificities steam-rolled emotionlessly by the economic necessities of spending-cuts, profit-maximising, globalisation.
I recounted my dealings with Fiendbook, but how many of you could tell similar stories where the culprits aren’t an asocial media, but your banks, your National Insurance, passport control at some airport, a multinational, employment agencies, Immigration offices, Inland Revenue, insurance companies, local government … ? I could!
That is why, 11 years ago, when I started out on the journey of my what-would-turn-out-to-be-a-1,000-page-novel about an ordinary man, I did not hesitate to set it in the L.B.R., the Last Beautiful Republic. A democracy. Where everyone can say as they wish, can vote as they wish, can read what they wish, can watch what they wish, can spend as they wish, can worship as they wish (with one exception), where there are tens of thousands of uncensored media, and where … it doesn’t make the darndest bit of difference.
When Jude’s transit is turned down, Big Computer™ supplies no motive whatsoever: “Transit Refused”, two words and only two words appear on the screen.
In the lapse of an eyewink, this air-conditioning engineer, this globe-strolling executive, has become an Injun, a bum, a nothing – and try though he might to unearth the motive, to contact his legal counsellor, to get help from his boss, to provoke the authorities (…), nothing will induce the screen-monitor to alter its verdict.
That’s how “JUDE” was born. Volume 1, “Transit Hall 37 North 6”, led to volume 2,
“The Surface”, and then to Volume 3: “Adsbàn”.
And, as I said, that first glimpse of a story led to 11 years of wild and extravagant plot and mysteries, 11 years of passionate writing, 11 years of fun and concentration, 11 years of writing and re-writing and correcting. It led to a saga that I never knew I would write, and never knew I could write!
So, perhaps we should gratefully thank all hugeness and crass impersonality in the world …
Yo system! I groove your bite!