Sometimes I would have one of those days when nothing went my way–one of those days when my boss criticized me for my productivity levels, my cat meowed at me all afternoon, my best frienemy and I had a falling out. When it was that kind of day and everything felt wrong, I would sit down at my laptop and go to my favorite social media sites. And then Fakelina would flutter up to me, tap me on the forehead with her magic wand, and she would make it all better.

Fakelina was a news fairy, and she was very special. Anything you wanted to believe was true, no matter how much of a stretch it was, she could make it so.

“Fakelina, is chocolate good for me?”

“Naturally! You should eat as much of it as you can. The more you eat of it, the lower your chances of cancer!”

“Fakelina, I wish I didn’t have to go to the dentist.”

“You shouldn’t. Have you heard that the anesthesia they use can cause dementia?”

But then I got greedier and the wishes got bigger.

“Fakelina, I wish all these awful school shootings were just a reality show.”

“They are. I can show you the video which proves that the kids are all paid actors.”

“Oh, good! That makes me feel so much better. You know…I really hate thinking about that Trump guy, too. The things he’s doing to the EPA…our judicial system…”

“Shush…don’t think about any of that. Did you know he peed on a prostitute once?”

“No way! Tell me more, Fakelina!”

“Yep. Somebody somewhere is supposed to have evidence of that, or so I’ve been told. And did you hear what he tweeted last night?”

“Ugh! I’m not sure he’s even human. Do you think he might be one of those lizard people?”

“Nope, not a lizard person.” Fakelina shook her head. “It’s even worse. He’s a fungus which has taken on human form. He’s from a different planet. Watch this–it shows where his disguise slips for a second, and you can see a little bit of the mold coming through.”

“I knew it,” I mumbled.

“The world is controlled by alien fungi. Here’s another one about Barack Obama…”

I paused. What? But I liked President Obama! This couldn’t be true. Or…could it? The theory did make sense… They were all a part of the elite, so they were all fungus.

And the videos were undeniable. Oh, God… President Obama was fungus… Prince William was fungus…

I sat motionless, taking it all in. Fakelina was scratching one of her glittery wings.

“Amazing, isn’t it? You have just found out the thing they don’t want you to know. You were courageous enough to research it, and now the secret is yours. You’re not like the sheeple who believe everything the media tells them.”

She was right. I felt special. Like I was smarter than everyone else.

“You have to spread the news,” Fakelina commanded me. “The people of this country don’t know what’s being done to them. But remember–you’ll get a lot of blowback from those who haven’t yet seen the light.”

I did not shirk my duty. I spent the following weeks delving deeper and deeper into the archives of secret knowledge on the Internet, and becoming more frightened as I went. The leaders of Black Lives Matter were aliens. The leaders of the Women’s March were aliens. All the Hollywood actors and popular singers and rappers were aliens, too.

I shared as much as I possibly could with my friends and family online. I tried to warn them. But just as Fakelina had said, the people I once thought I loved and cared about turned out to be blinded sheep, who bleated at me about “rational thought” and “credible sources.” There was a deadly international conspiracy going on, and all they could think of were my sources? It was painful for me, but I had to accept that they were not ready to wake up, not ready for the enlightenment I had experienced. So I blocked and unfriended them, one by one. I would have to walk this path alone.

Or…not alone, actually. I had new friends–better friends. People who were fellow alien fungus researchers. They understood me. And whenever I got too discouraged and was about to give up my quest, I could feel Fakelina perched on my shoulder, whispering in my ear: “Keep going! Keep watching Youtube videos! You will find the answers!”

So I kept going. Months, or maybe years, passed. And as I spent more and more time studying the conspiracy theories, I shrank–first my mind, then my heart and the rest of me, until I became a very shrivelled little creature indeed.

One night, I woke up around 2 am, curled up next to my laptop, and I noticed that I had grown a pair of sticky, glittery wings. They didn’t help me fly, though. I could only flap them listlessly.

Fakelina was slouching on my sofa, smoking a cigarette.

“Am I magical fairy now, too?” I asked her.

“I guess so.” She shrugged. “Oh no, don’t give me that look. It’s not like we’re going to be fairy BFFs or anything. Time for me to take off.”

“What?? But…but you gotta keep helping me! What about our mission of bringing knowledge to the masses?”

“You have learned enough to continue the mission on your own, gullible grasshopper.” I heard a “ding!” and a tiny, sparkly suitcase appeared in her hand. “Besides, I sold all the data about you to Cambridge Analytica and I need a vacation.”

She floated up to me and tapped me with her wand one last time. “I now endow you with the power to not only share fake stories, but to make up your own shit as well! If you spin your web of lies well enough, you can play on people’s fears and prejudices and fanatical obsessions. And then you can do all sorts of things. Influence elections….sell useless nutritional supplements…”

My shoulders slumped. “Wow. Not quite the fairy tale ending I imagined.”

Fakelina laughed. “If you wanted a happier ending to your story…you should’ve used your brain!”

I could still hear her cackle long after she was gone.

 

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Over the past couple of days, I’ve been seeing a lot of supportive I’m With Her posts on my newsfeed.  Mostly, I think, in reaction to the utterly disgusting and frightening comments Trump has made, both at the debates and in his personal life.  It’s been nice to see those posts popping up.

This has been a rough year for some of us who have, indeed, been with her.  For a while there, during the primaries, being a Hillary supporter was practically a mortal sin.  Here in Portland, it would probably require going to confession 😉  I know I mostly remained quiet about it on social media, as I didn’t want to get my head bitten off by Bernie supporters.  I also didn’t want to lose good friendships–not worth it over a crazy election year.  And I know for a fact of other Facebook friends who supported Hillary–they told me so in person–but didn’t post very much about it either.

Now, I can completely understand people disagreeing with Hillary’s policies.  I can even understand people not voting for her in November and will not lecture anyone about that choice.  I do believe in people voting their conscience.  If that means voting for a third party this election, so be it. But during primary season, things went a little farther than that.  Hillary was more than just an opposing candidate.  She was evil.  She was a fascist.  She was Satan.  She would mean a nuclear war and the end of the world.  As opposed to Bernie, whose little bird was a divine sign of approval from God or Mother Earth. No wonder that voting for Hillary made me feel like I should put on my devil horns and mount the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse before filling out my ballot.

Why am I saying all of this now?  Sure, there’s some small amount of satisfaction in seeing more open support of Hillary lately.  Even more so since I think she will make a much better President than people give her credit for.  But mostly, this is an apology to myself.  There’s no pride in being a coward and keeping silent about what you believe.  Especially when I consider myself a “political blogger” unafraid to “express my opinions” and all this other bullshit.  You’re supposed to do that precisely when it’s difficult and unpopular, not when it’s easy.  Maybe when the next election comes around, I’ll be a little bit braver.  For now, go Hillary!

Here I sit, the winner of my own private civil war, and what have I gained?

Bombs were thrown and insults were lobbed back and forth.  “Liberal Demoshit.”  This was a fight in the family, so relatives jumped in.  “Well, you’re a right wing piece of shit.”  The battle had to end with the final shot–the unfriending.

Granted, the guy in question is an asshole.  He has a virulent hatred of the President and the First Lady.  And he doesn’t do a very good job of hiding the fact that his hatred has a lot to do with their skin color.

It should be easy to crow over how stupid he is.  But there is no feeling of triumph after a debate with a Trump supporter.  There’s no satisfaction in having to cut off a part of my family.  There’s only an empty sensation.  I hate conflict.  I hate fighting and mudslinging.  My “uncle” hit me with a low blow, but I allowed myself to get dragged down there with him, and became just as much of an idiot as he was.

And it’s a bad sign of what’s been happening, more and more, to all of us.  We can’t be friends if we’re on the opposite sides of the political party divide.  And now it’s even difficult for members of the same party.  I bite my tongue and stay quiet about the worries I have about a potential Bernie presidency, because I don’t want more unfriendings in my life.

I get the premonition that someday we’ll be standing there, looking at the charred, smoking remnants of our homes, our family relationships, our country.  We’ll shake our heads sadly and say:  “Yeah, it all started with an online argument….”

 

It happened just as I flopped down in my chair, ready to relax after a long day of work.  I had been looking forward to an hour or two of mindless social media scrolling.  My brain was in the process of shutting down already.

But then the phone rang.  I stared at the jangling beast angrily.  I never answered the phone anymore.  Who would be asking me for money now?

Going against my instincts, I picked it up.  “Hello?”

“Hey.”  It was a friend of mine.

“What’s up?”

“Why did you unfriend me?”

“What?”  What was she thinking asking me that question?  Didn’t she know that went against every rule of etiquette?

“I’m not an idiot.  I can see that you’re not on my friends list anymore.”

“It’s nothing personal!  It was a social score thing.”

“Oh, okay.  You’re right then, it wasn’t personal.”  Her tone was sarcastic.

“See, that’s the problem.  You’re way too sensitive about this stuff.  It’s only Facebook.  Jesus.”

“I don’t know.  You took it seriously enough to unfriend me.”

“Well, you keep posting political crap.  What’s the point of that anyway?  You know that arguing politics online is a waste of time.”

“Maybe…”  She hesitated.

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life.  It’s your own business if you don’t care about your social score, but you’re bringing everybody else’s score down, too, because they’re friends with you.  You can’t blame people if they want to back off from that.”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

“There are only a gazillion other topics you could post about…your cats, your favorite restaurants.  Things you’d love to buy.  Those kinds of posts would make your friends happy, and they’re approved by Facebook.”

“You know that I do try to post updates about my life.”

“And that’s the other problem.  You’re way too negative.  Negativity brings your score down, too.  The last couple of updates you made were whiny.”

“I got fired from my job.  I wasn’t feeling very happy.”

“Do I have to explain the basics to you?  Just make sure to add something positive to your post to balance it out.  You know, say something like I feel kinda sad today because I was fired, but I know a much better job is just around the corner!”

“But I don’t think there is a better job around the corner.”

“You don’t really have to believe it.  Just stick it in at the end.  Everyone will get what you’re trying to do.”

“Sure.”  She sounded defeated.  “I don’t understand why we have to be so obsessed with our social scores.”

“Well, maybe you don’t care about getting discounts on your expenses, but I do.  Not everyone can afford to pay full price for everything.  It helps me out when my score adds up.  If it goes up by 200 more points, I can get a bigger TV.”

“Okay.  Congrats.  I’m happy for you.  I guess I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

“Social media just isn’t the place for them.  You can tell people your opinions face to face.”

“But we never talk in person anymore.”

“Erm…”  I had no idea how to reply to that.  I squirmed in my chair, trying to come up with some pleasant but noncommittal answer.

But I didn’t need to.  There was only a disconnected beeping in my ear.  She had hung up on me–thank God.

Note:  This story is my attempt to imagine what an American version of the Sesame Credit program would look like.  Sesame Credit is a social media program which the Chinese government is in the process of implementing.  This article is a good basic breakdown of how it’s supposed to work.

Yeah, it’s only Facebook, or “Loserbook” as some here may call it. But “Loserbook,” like everything else, reflects trends in the larger society it’s a part of.

One of the most irritating–and effective–ways of going after people on Facebook is to report their content for being inappropriate. Pictures of breastfeeding mothers have been removed because of the dangerous boobie visuals involved. Likewise, photos of topless couples embracing, etc etc. Facebook is great at protecting us from random nipple sightings.

If you’ve been anywhere near social media lately, then you’ve likely come across the picture of hunter Rebecca Francis stretched out next to the dead body of the unfortunate giraffe which crossed her path while she was on safari. The pic stirred up controversy, as Rebecca is smiling happily next to her kill. This caused some Facebook users to question whether or not it would be possible to report sites devoted to posting pictures of hunted animals for inappropriate content. I can see their point, especially since the links to the sites would sometimes pop up as ads in the middle of the newsfeed. If you’re not expecting to see a bloodied animal corpse wrapped around a grinning hunter’s shoulders, it may be a bit disturbing.

But it so happens the hunters in the pictures were fully clothed, so Facebook’s response to the complaints was all too predictable. The users who reported the sites received a stock reply–Facebook had reviewed the content of the pages for graphic violence, but found none of the posts violated its terms of use.

Naturally, Facebook has the right to make its own decisions about what it does or does not consider to be inappropriate. But an issue which has always puzzled me resurfaces here. In America, nudity is unacceptable, but violence–whether administered to human or animal–is perfectly fine.

Where does this come from? Is it that this culture is so in love with the Old Testament, in which a vengeful God has no problem wiping out entire cities, but has huge issues with human sexuality? Is it a consequence of our mixed Puritan/cowboy heritage?

Whatever the case, just remember that if you finally get to take that dream trip to Greenland to club little baby seals to death, and you want to post your vacation pics, for the love of all that is holy, WEAR A BRA.

My blogging friend nananoyz recently posted about giving up her Candy Crush addiction. Naturally, this brought to mind my own online obsession…

Every day, I tell myself that I will only spend a little bit of time on it. And every day, I end up scrolling down and down, down the Facebook newsfeed rabbit hole, getting sucked into that swamp of pop culture detritus and endlessly repeated memes. After a while, everything runs together…suggestive selfies and announcements of a death in the family…funny dog videos and petitions about animal torture…inspirational quotes and sad break-ups and Darth Vader toys and cocktails and people Liking each other and telling each other how beautiful and awesome and amazing they are in a giant skin-deep clusterfuck of momentary connections…I can’t stop to think about any of it anyway, because there is the next thing to see and the next…

An hour or so later, I surface again, my brain dulled, my eyes glazed over, my attention span shrivelled down to that of a fruit fly with ADD, so that I have a hard time focusing for the length of a stupid Taylor Swift song. “It’s okay. Tomorrow I’ll only a spend a few minutes on it.”

But the compulsion to shoot myself up with junk remains, and the Facebook dealer is always there, giving its goods away for free, tempting me with those shiny pictures and videos. What if I miss out on stuff? OMG! I have to check Facebook!

Lord knows, if I didn’t, I might actually end up caring about something important….

For the past week or two, Facebook has been pressuring me to post my year in review photo slideshow, under the headline of “It’s been a great year!” Because it’s always a fantastic year on Facebook! Yay! I took a peek at my slideshow, and it looked like a year in the life of a fake person I don’t know. Which is my own fault, since when I’m on Facebook I’m a strict follower of the “polite small talk only” rule, and I don’t exactly show my true self there.

This is what the year in review would look like for a real human being, instead of one created by the Facebook-bots:

January: Working lots of hours of overtime. This is going to be a continuing theme for the rest of the year. My profile picture for the year in review should be a pic of the cubicle wall I’ll spend most of my time staring at.

February: Relationship falls apart. Insert adorable video of screaming couple.

March: Don Lemon spends the entire month playing with a model airplane.

April: Great vacation at the coast. Rented a room right above a brewery. Insert hangover pictures.

May: Fuck! Did I really just turn a year older? More hangover pictures.

June: The weather outside is finally getting nice! Another picture of the beautiful view of my cubicle wall.

July: Burned my fingers on fireworks, and the cops came looking for the illegal explosives. This was actually a great month!

August: Hot and bored. Nothing interesting ever happens in August.

September: This is the month when I always volunteer for the local arts festival, in a futile attempt to feel like I’m more than just an office cubicle monkey.

October: Another Halloween, still no idea for a costume. Insert selfie in bulky, unflattering sweater.

November: Election night. WTF, America?

December: It’s holiday time! Insert picture of people in a mall killing each other.

So yeah, it’s been a year. And it appears another one has started. Don’t know yet if it will be “great!”, but for now, I’m wishing all of us a 2015 marked by the absence of pain.