I was woken with a jolt at 3am by a staccato melodic flourish and a short vibration sequence. It was my mobile phone, although, I assume you’d probably deduced that. It was a bloody Facebook alert. At 3 O’clock in the morning, for goodness sake.
“Why not wish Henrik Smit a happy birthday?”
Well, Facebook, there are a number of reasons why not. The first being that it is 3 in the morning. Could this not have waited? Chances are, Henrik Smit is currently asleep. Where is the sense in waking me up in order to prompt me to potentially wake someone else up, which is what would likely happen if he, like me, has forgotten to turn off his phone.
The other reason why not to wish Henrik Smit a happy birthday is for the simple reason that I have no idea who Henrik Smit is. Until thirty seconds ago, I don’t think I’d ever heard of the name Henrik Smit.
I turned off my phone, closed my eyes, and tried to get back to sleep. But it wasn’t happening. I tried counting sheep, but, being blind, I’ve never actually seen sheep before. Perhaps I could count them by feeling them. I try to evoke a memory of when I might have felt a sheep. I seem to remember a trip to a farm when I was in primary school, and I think I felt a sheep then – not like that, you dirty so-and-sos, I was in primary school; not that I’m suggesting that now I’m grown up I’d be more amenable to the idea of inappropriate sheep handling. But anyway, we digress, shame on you. But my sheep feeling experience was a long time ago, and the process of trying to dredge up the memory was making my brain ache. Plus, being blind, my other senses often become more acute, in order to compensate, and so I was being driven mad by the relentless cacophonous bleats of hundreds of sheep.
The noise was driving me insane. It was no use. Sleep wasn’t going to come. Plus, there was a clawing, niggling question needling its way through my brain: who the hell is Henrik smit?
I turned on my phone, and when it had loaded, launched the Facebook app. Instantly, Facebook was awake and ready to deluge me with uninteresting trivia about people who, at best, I might label acquaintances.
There was a status update from a senior member of staff who used to work with me in the office job I did before I started living the dream of professional folk singer. This lady was certainly living the dream these days. Redundancy was clearly working well for her, as now she could finally ]dedicate the time to pursue her true calling in life: playing Candy Crush Saga.
What is reality? This is a question that has been grappled with by philosophers, scientists, theologians, artists. I don’t have an answer. Sorry if you were getting all excited there thinking, “finally, David is about to explain the nature of reality in this blog post. And what’s more, he’ll probably throw in a couple of jokes too, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. My goodness, he’s having a blinder of a week; first, the tax loophole discovery, and now this.”
Alas not. However, the reason I got us onto such a topic is because I think it’s fascinating how Facebook distorts our realities.
A couple of years ago, this particular lady relished the opportunity to assert what minuscule amount of authoritt she had. I was fairly new to the job, and she made sure on my first day that I knew that she was in a position of power compared with me. She would get unnaturally impassioned and enraged if I occasionally forgot to sign into the building. I’d get into work, and perhaps I’d be sidelined by a colleague, or maybe the phone would ring, and so I’d temporarily forget to sign in. Then, maybe half an hour or so later I’d remember and go to fill out the signing book, where she would inevitably be lerking, ready to pounce.
“You forgot to sign in,” she would angrily declare, as if the fact that I was now signing myself in wasn’t evidence enough for her that I’d realised this and was now remedying the situation.
“Do we need to go through the signing in protocol again, David.”
Evidently not, since I had clearly remembered and was now signing the bloody signing in book. But that didn’t stop her giving me the lecture anyway.
And then one day she was made redundant as a result of the economic downturn. God bless those bankers. And then it all changed. Not immediately, but over time. I started getting invitations from her to feed her chickens , which I initially thought was some kind of odd euphemism, although, it turns out that she was inviting me to play FarmVille. Or one of those other Facebook games, such as candy crush Saga or Bubble Shooter.
I have no idea what these games involve, but it’s odd to think that this woman who used to shout at me on a daily basis for the tiniest of things is now wanting me to crush her candy, feed her chickens, and shoot bubbles at her at 3 in the morning. If I knew back then that this is how things would pan out, that in a couple of years she would be asking me to romp around a fictitious farm, playing with bubbles, then I’d have found her and the whole situation even more risible than I actually did.
Facebook has helped to distort our reality, and to show us how fabricated and fake these constructs actually are. These constructs that we allow to dominate us, intimidate us. Facebook helps lift the lid on the absurdity of it all. In 2012, they are a senior member of staff, reprimanding you in their office for some absurd inconsequentiality , and then a year later they’re challenging you to a bubble fight, and asking you to help them feed some virtual livestock.
Obviously, I declined her invitation to join her on the farm; I had detective work to do. Who the heck is Hendrik Smit?
My detective work began by identifying mine and Hendrik’s mutual friends. We didn’t have any. So I opened Hendrik’s profile to see what could be gleaned. There was very little that could be obtained, due to the fact that Hendrik’s profile was written in Dutch. I must have met Hendrik at a Dutch folk festival that I performed at five years ago. We’d probably only very fleetingly spoke. Hendrik Smit didn’t even register on the distant acquaintance list.
I could have left it there, but being the great detective that I am, I decided to continue my investigation. I pasted the contents of his profile and wall posts in to Google translate. The translation was far from perfect, but I began to piece together the picture, and within a couple of minutes I had learnt one rather unexpected fact about Hendrik Smit. Hendrik Smit is not even a person. Hendrik Smit … is a dog! Hendrik Smit must be the dog of a person who I fleetingly met at a folk festival in Holland five years ago.
But, a minute’s further reading ascertained that my assertion was not entirely correct, for Hendrik Smit is not a dog, Hendrik Smit was a dog. Hendrik Smit is dead. Hendrik Smit is a dead dog! A dead dog belonging to someone I fleetingly met at a folk festival in Holland five years ago!
Again, I refer to my theory about Facebook completely distorting and warping our realities. Facebook had woken me at 3am with the suggestion that I wish a dead dog a happy birthday. Ad dead dog who, up until a few seconds ago, I had no idea had even ever existed.
I have all sorts of people on my Facebook. I tend to accept most people who send me a friend request. I primarily use Facebook as a promotional tool. I don’t think of it as a private place for me and my nearest and dearest to romp around fictitious farms. I’d have just accepted Hendrik Smit without giving it a second’s thought. I can’t see his photo, so I’d have had no idea that he was a dog.
Well I suppose I might as well delete him, I thought, but then I stopped. I can’t delete him on his birthday. What kind of a man would I be if I shunned a dead dog on his birthday? What kind of a present is that?
And then it hit me. A present. Just because he’s a dead dog, that doesn’t mean he’s not deserving of a birthday present. And I had the perfect present in mind. What’s the perfect present for a dead dog? It’s obvious. A lifeless bitch, of course. And I knew where to find one of those. I used the friends suggestion tool to suggest that Hendrik smit might be a suitable friend for my former work’s manager. And then I closed down Facebook, turned off my phone and fell asleep, feeling very pleased with my self, basking in the knowledge that I was truly a very funny man.