You may laugh at my gullibility. That is, I give you permission.
Being the sort of person who knows a couple hundred people I like well enough to want to keep very mild track of (and, I’d like them to be able to keep very mild track of me), I found Facebook quite useful, at first.
Then those damn quizzes!
Extraordinarily annoying, both in the way they made it seem like friends were always sending them to me on purpose (when actually they weren’t), and in the way they…perhaps “encouraged” is the wrong word, because in the last few weeks they’ve started to insist on me doing it…insisted on me, similarly, passing them along. And I didn’t know what bugged me more about the actual content of these things, the hopelessly kludgy and artless way they were made, so insultingly dumb, or the fact that you could kind of consider much of the information in them perhaps not marketing data per se, but…
Could I call it para-data? Plok’s idea of an ideal vacation is this, Plok’s idea of a dream home is that…
Anyway yes, quite annoying, but I overlooked it for a time.
Then I started to think seriously about opting out of Facebook.
Then things got a little more — can I say overwhelmingly spammy? — and I decided definitely to get off of the damn thing. Still wondered if I might not be overreacting a bit, though.
And then today, I received this quiz from a “friend” who’d doubtless forgotten to make double-sure not to accidentally send it on to me. Or who hadn’t been permitted to get their own answers without first sending it on. “How Old Are You Really?” it asked me.
Seemed harmless enough. I could just check it out.
First it asked me for my age. The idea being that I have a “real” age which is higher or lower than my chronological age. So it needs a baseline for that. Okay.
It then asked me how often I got physical exercise, A, B, C, D, or E.
The next question was whether I was overweight, underweight, normal, obese, etc. A B C D E.
Next, it asked how much I smoke.
Then it asked me what my blood pressure reading was, the last time I had it checked. This baffled me a little; I have no idea what my blood pressure is or was.
Who would know that?
I just filled in one of the A B C D E slots randomly.
I was impatient to discover what this quiz was all about.
Blood pressure. Ridiculous.
Next question: when was the last time I had a check-up? A B C D E. All the way from “just had one”, to “never have them”. Seemed kind of silly. “Never”? Never. Who answers never, I wondered to myself? I wonder who, who would be using Facebook, would be the person who answered nev…?
I stopped typing. Like the keyboard had given me a shock. My hands jerked up in the air, and hung there.
This thing was harvesting my medical information.
I had wondered who was answering never. And the answer to that question suddenly became horrifying apparent.
The answer was: if I was Facebook, I would know the answer.
That’s not para-data anymore, friends. That’s not spam, or a chain letter. They have my name. They have my birth date. They have my home city. They have my marital status, sexual orientation, political views, religion, and what kind of art I like, what my ideal vacation is, my dream home, favourite colour. I know: I gave them all that, and yes it was stupid of me but I did. Well, most of it is not that hard to find out anyway. It’s not really any different from the other hundreds of cues I’m giving away all the time, online or anywhere else. Stupid. Agreed. Really stupid.
Medical history, though. Even I’m not that stupid.
If I was gone before, well I’m really gone now. Not that it matters to the big NSA mainframe or wherever all that data or para-data’s already gone. But damned if I’ll touch the evil thing again. Good God, I’ve never seen a thing as evil as that online. And so naked! I wasn’t crazy about Facebook, before. I was disenchanted with it.
Now, I abominate it.
And that’s my story.