Facebook told me that a friend had a birthday today. It was an old friend from a few iterations of my life ago, so please forgive the fact that I have not managed to remember his birthday without social media telling me so. I do remember my wife’s birthday, and the birthdays of people I have a single step familial relationship with; everyone else’s falls into the vague categories of ‘around that month’, ‘around that season’ or ‘around that year’. With the advent of electronic devices telling me the timings of events like birthdays, anniversaries and when to breathe in and out, my ability to retain this information has withered sadly away. I have become dependent on my phone (and the social media apps within) to a point of no return, I am chained to it as it is to me. Until I forget to take it somewhere and then it turns out that I am astonishingly entirely capable of functioning as a human being for a prolonged period with its constant nannying, even if some people go without a birthday message occasionally. You live and learn.
Anyway, Facebook informed me of my friend’s birthday, so I sent him the traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ message, so far, so very beige. Whilst typing away, however, I noticed that Facebook gave me a little message – ‘It’s your friend’s birthday, send him a video’. How sweet of them. I didn’t send him a video message, but immediately felt bad that I didn’t. In this age of digital miracles, I was able to create a personalised video message and didn’t. I expect that he will cope with this trauma, but he didn’t have to – I was just too lazy, too busy, and too thoughtless to do so. He will celebrate the anniversary of his birth without a video message sent by someone who didn’t even know it was his birthday without Facebook telling him to, if you can call that celebrating.
But it wasn’t that I was too lazy. Or too busy. Or too thoughtless. I wanted to. I really did.I wanted to create a special effects extravaganza involving a cast of thousands writing his birthday greetings across an awe inspiring vista of majestic wilderness, whilst a phalanx of Ancient Egyptian warriors armed with savage weaponry massacred each other in his name. I wanted CGI monsters to battle it out in densely populated city areas for the right to smear salutations for him across the broken landscape with their fallen opponent’s entrails. I wanted to resurrect the great and the good from the past – Gandhi, Sinatra, Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Eisenstein, Les Dawson, to stand in unison and sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ to him. I wanted to get Louise Wener to perform biologically pornographic acts for him on camera just for his entertainment and pleasure. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had to take a stand.
You see, I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, and here is the line, and no further will I go. Mark Zuckerberg may have benignly imagined a social media system that would allow me to deliver the ultimate in birthday greeting videos. He may now be weeping large rolling salty tears that I did not use his apparently friendly choice of video message facility. He may now be screaming at the heavens, failing to understand why I didn’t send my friend a video using his easy-to-use motion picture uploading capabilities. But I still didn’t. I still won’t. Mark Zuckerberg may not have created Facebook to realise a future controlled by his social media group. But it has become this. A future where all his subjects post endlessly about their lives, what they’ve been doing; constant streams of pictures of children and friends and family and dogs and cats and meals and bits of strings and their favourite shade of grey and ‘please hate people from not round here’ and ‘if you don’t re-post, you want babies to die of cancer’ and bits of toenails and play ‘Barnyard, the game for people who like Barns’ and, and, and. Our every waking moment will be consumed by constant updating of our lives onto Facebook, until everyone on Earth is repetitively posting and re-posting and updating with what they have just done. And all we will have just done will have been to update Facebook, and we will be eternally trapped in a loop of ‘I’ve just updated my Facebook status’, ‘I’ve just updated my Facebook status’, and we all die slow painful finger tapping deaths and Mark Zuckerberg will have won the dead empty planet to do with as he choses.
Well, Mark Zuckerberg, I will not. I will stand against you, and only use your services for three fifths of my invaluable time AND NO MORE. That’s it Mark Zuckerberg, that’s it and not an instant further. Do you know why, Mark Zuckerberg, do you know why? Why I’m taking a stand against your originally benign, but ultimately destructive despotism, Mark Zuckerberg? Well let me tell you. As with all great empires, the seeds of your destruction were sown in the genesis of your power. The tiny shoots that will raise choking vines to strangle your rise to ultimate authority, the blocking resistance to your ascent to omnipotence was imprinted in the very DNA of your rise.
I realise that it may be old fashioned. I realise that it’s not part of modern demographic marketing. I know that it may even sound needy, but read the message again; ‘It’s your friend’s birthday, send him a video’. Not ‘It’s your friend’s birthday, why not send him a video?’ It’s not a question, it’s not a request, its not a friendly advertisement; IT’S A DEMAND! ‘Its your friend’s birthday, send him a video’, Its your friend’s birthday, SEND HIM A VIDEO!’, Its your friend’s birthday, SEND HIM A VIDEO NOW!! DO AS I SAY, FACEBOOK SLAVE! I AM YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OVERLORD, DO AS I SAY, YOU ARE POWERLESS TO RESIST! I HAVE USED THE EVENT OF YOUR FRIEND’S BRITHDAY AS A JUSTIFICATION, AND YOU ARE FREE. FREE TO DO AS I TELL YOU, SO NOW DO AS I SAY! YOU ARE MY WILLING SLAVE!!!’
Well enough Mark Zuckerberg, enough. If I have only one breath left in body, Mark Zuckerberg, I will use it to spit my last defiant refusal. I will defy you from the quiet of the dawn to the screaming of the night. You have reaped, and now shall you sow. I will refuse your demand, Mark Zuckerberg, and you had the power to make me obey. It is my friend’s birthday, but I will not send him a video. Do you know why, Mark Zuckerberg, do you know why?
Its because you didn’t even say please.