BELIEVE it or not but the internet – that global network of information and communication that virtually rules our lives – already reflects the social hierarchy of society. For a start, you will always find the naive beginner on Facebook or social media who we geeks (know-it-all users) call a newbie. The newbie likes everything on every platform until all the likes come back to haunt them in the form of a zillion Candy Crush invites. They then grow up and begin the serious unfriending process. Let’s call this digital rightsizing – getting the right group of friends that you talk to, who listen and talk back with some respect. To the newbie Candy Crush is a great game which has the annoying habit of invading your friend lists and inviting them to play.
What about other online “bies”? Here’s a few festive examples I made up while imbibing my favourite beer with Vuyo, the marketing face of Hansa.
Take for instance the wannabie – those desperate, shameless social climbers who follow and latch onto public figures or groups they want to suck up to. This breed of internet parasites like everything they target, and only what the target says, regardless of the content. This, I regard, as a form of digital worship. Just look through your friends’ list and watch as they like everything the target says to a point where they even ignore a friendly post where you compliment them! (The wannabie is however quite distinct from the internet stalker, a serious topic which we should talk more about next year).
Another group are the freebies. They spread virally across the internet inviting friends and contacts with the ultimate intention of building a mailing list. They leverage – or should I say peddle – this freebie mailing list to further their professional careers. They completely ignore your posts, then suddenly, in the friendliest way possible, will inbox you to support their public campaign and generate enough likes to become Mr or Mrs something. Which translates to: I accept your request, just in case, I need you. Until then, I will ignore your digital presence. I dismiss this group as the politicians of the net who, quite frankly, should just F(ace) Off.
How about another pleasurable stratum of the internet society that I call clickabies. They just like everything and love everyone. It’s easy to distinguish these folks from the wannabies. These clickabies are clickoholics who are the grandmas and grandpas of our walls. Ever so sweet and always encouraging, they click because they care. We need them because they are our omnipresent internet moral compasses.
Yet another group, the needtobies, will do anything to get to the magical 5000 friends. They need to be important and grandiose is everything to them. They also write themselves into every narrative.
One local leader had the audacity to insult people after he had reached the magical 5000, declaring: ‘See if I care, I have reached the number, unfollow me if you want.’ So, I unfollowed him and it felt good. It was excellent therapy. I am now free of reading his self-indulgent drivel.
What? My writing is also drivel, you say? Well, that may be so but at least it has an academic veneer. Now that I have been bie-littled, I’m planning to take revenge by unfriending a few wannabies, some freebies and every-other-‘bie’ that I don’t care much about. Try it during the holidays. It’s good therapy , so much better than beer or Myprodol.
As we enter this period of love and happiness, here are a few suggestions for the festive season. Back up your photos – using Google or Flikr to do this. You can recreate everything else if your device dies on you, or goes awol, but never, ever your photos. These remain the simple unintended usefulness of posting – you have an online copy! Also think about giving the newbie a chance – you were there once. To instill discipline send them a candy crush invite.
While you’re at it, won’t you send me a friend request – I too am trying to get to 5000 friends, but only as a research exercise, you understand? Let’s form a “Coalition of Likes in Need” (CoLiN). I will like what you post, you like what I post.
Finally, firmly invoke the computer binary spirit of on and off. Switch off for family, comfort and to recharge so we can switch on to an awesome 2019!
Try this neat trick of mine. Switch the household router off. In a few minutes the family will emerge from their respective rooms in a perplexed state asking about connectivity. Tell them it’s a warmware problem. That hardware and software is on a short break and you are experimenting with an ancient concept called Family and Face to Face communications. Don’t text and drive. Do surf well and surf safely – though only in the new year!
From the e-Skills gang, me and mine, to you and yours, Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
• Dr Colin Thakur is DUT’s e-Skills CoLab Director. His demystifies the joy and idiosyncrasy of technology through irreverence. This appeared in Innovate Durban