Facebook has put me down in such a mysterious ways, as Bob Dylan said.
This past summer, I took a buy-out from my newspaper, after thirty six years on the job as an investigative reporter. During that time, I also published five books, a short story, and several magazine articles. Since leaving my job, I have published one mystery-thriller novel, HACK, and I am editing a second, SMASH, due out next year. I hope to write many more. I joined Facebook, probably making it official that facebook is no longer cool, at least as far as my teenage daughter is concerned. When I told her I had joined the networking masses on facebook, she freaked:
“Don’t friend me!” she begged. “Ever!”
My cyber-feelings were a bit bruised but I got it. No teen could recover from the social disgrace of having mom or dad butt into chillax chats about college stuff. I went on my way and resolved to crack the facebook social code of likes and shares and tags and whatevers.
When I went into the “ABOUT” section to describe myself, facebook replied with a helpful, but surprisingly snarky, suggestion for my work status:
“UNDER-EMPLOYED BEST SELLING AUTHOR.”
I laughed. Then I stopped laughing. Excuse me? Under-employed? I was one-week out of a job and already being dissed by an automatic social networking algorithm as a bum? Writing two books since pulling the ripcord on my pewter parachute was goofing off?
I looked at the box that was for my place of employment, or, in this case, former employment, and the machine had gotten that right. It knew without telling me where I had been employed. Facebook just wanted me to approve it for semi-public consumption.
Did facebook feel sorry for me? Was there an actual person behind this or was I interacting with the Ghost in the Machine? Was facebook, along with the National Security Agency, reading my e-mail? Of course they were. Nothing online is secret. Ask the NSA. Or Amazon. They track us with spyware programs with cute names like “cookies,” so they know our likes and dislikes and can sell us stuff. A surveillance program like that should not be named after a chocolate chip. It should be named after a spy, like Mata Hari.
Why did facebook call me under-employed? It must know about the Buy-out. Okay, I did go on vacation this summer and spent a lot of time at the pool. Did they think I didn’t have enough Facebook friends? Then I had an odd thought. Had facebook read my book? Was this a veiled critique, even though Kirkus loved it? It seemed like a jibe. The Ghost in the Machine was a Joker.
I tried the box for my college and the social networking nexus got that wrong. One of their three suggestions was a women’s college. Maybe not so all-knowing after all. Facebook also got my high school wrong. So much for Big Brother.
I looked in vain for a place to click to dial-down the sarcasm. Was it sarcasm or some kind of random glitch, a pairing of data bits that sounded more human and wiseass than intended. I’m not sure. If anybody out there has any inkling, please contact me.
But not on facebook. Call me. That way, we can be sure no one is listening.