The Five People You Meet On Facebook

1.The OCL – Obsessive Compulsive Liker

This friend is the greatest cheerleader of all. They like all your posts. All. Your photos, your opinions, your jokes, your memes, your videos. Everything. If you “checked-in” at the toilet and updated your status to “pooping bricks”, they would probably be the first to like it. And there’s never an accompanying comment to even indicate that they’ve processed what you’ve said. Always just that good old…

Sure, we all need someone in our corner supporting us no matter what. But usually, that role falls to either your Mom or your Significant Other. When it’s done by someone with whom you’ve shared neither a gene-pool nor a jacuzzi, it can seem weird. You begin to doubt the sincerity of the attention. Maybe it’s just a brush-off? Maybe he/she never even read it or opened the video? Or maybe…(queue Law & Order suspense music: duh-dunk!)…maybe it’s a sarcastic like?  That last one, you have no choice but to think that if you’re Trini: the national pastime is “shittin people up”, “chaining them up” – insincerely egging them on for our own amusement, e.g. “Yeah, for sure, we voting for you boy! You go win!” Social media is a fertile space for those kinds of mind-games.

Men, I’m telling you, beware of the OCL. In some romantic relationships, being found in possession of a disproportionately high number of “Likes” from one FB friend is regarded as an offense. A strict liability offense, i.e. it doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or not, if you know the person well or not, or if it’s been ages since you last spoke. From your Significant Other’s perspective, the crucial question is: “What going on between you and she? Why she liking up all your posts so?”

Truth is, I’m borderline OCL. And I prefer to think that all the OCLs on my FB feed are simply well-meaning but busy, just like me. They scan Facebook and try to keep in touch by extending quick, supportive gestures to people they consider worthy of their time. But I could be wrong.

2. The Phantom

While the OCL is highly visible on your FB Timeline, this other friend is nowhere to be seen. While your most mundane post will make the OCL spring into action, you’d need a séance to make this other friend show herself. Oh but she’s there…you can feel it. Like all forms of paranormal activity, you can sense in your bones that The Phantom is reading and gobbling up every damn thing you post.

As we say in Trinidad, she’s a macco. And that’s why she doesn’t “Like” anything: she doesn’t want you to know she’s the Macco Superior of your Timeline. Or maybe she’s an ardent fan, who doesn’t wish to be mistaken for a macco. Or maybe she knows that Facebook broadcasts all “Likes” and so she is careful to only associate herself with posts which directly reflect her personal tastes. Or maybe the bitch just can’t stand you, spends her days sticking pins into a doll that looks an awful lot like you and she would rather die than acknowledge your merit in any way. Whatever.

Trinidadian folklore is well acquainted with the problem of surreptitious, hovering beings. Take, for instance, that blood-sucking nocturnal hag, the Soucouyant. If you think there might be one of these stalking your neighbourhood, you confirm your suspicions by baiting her with heaps of raw rice around the perimeter of your house. She won’t be able to stop herself from picking up each grain; dawn will find her at this task and she’ll be exposed.

Same goes for The Phantom. If you know her well enough, post something you know she won’t be able to resist. Something that will fall in her yard; she must bend and pick it up. Or to paraphrase the great Bob Marley, throw your corn – you ain’t call no fowl. All of a sudden she’ll make contact, and just casually slip some mention of that post into the conversation. Chuckle internally – a nice, long evil chuckle – as you smile and play along with her hide-and-seek game. She ain’t fooling you.

3. The Amnesiac

This friend “Likes” and responds in all the appropriate ways, at all the appropriate times. Birthdays: you get a personal greeting – not just “HBD”. Anniversaries, Bar Mitzvahs, childbirth – this friend is on FB biggin’ you up. You tag each other in posts, share jokes, you’re active in each other’s FB feed. But when you bump into this character in person, she acts like you just escaped from a leper colony and your hand is dropping off.

Due to Trinidad and Tobago’s multi-ethnic society, the national calendar of public holidays and religious observances is always packed. It’s not just about Easter and Christmas. No, we have Eid-ul-Fitr (Muslim), Divali (Hindu), Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, Indian Arrival Day, Independence Day, Republic Day, Labour Day etc. Amidst all these festivities, The Amnesiac remembers to get on Facebook and send you best wishes or an inspirational quote. But, in person, if you wave, smile, make any overture of friendship, this person will turn away and deny you thrice before the cock crows. It can be scary.

However, in these situations it helps to remember that, just as with the spider in your bathroom, this friend is probably more afraid of you than you are of her. Not everyone feels comfortable in face-to-face interactions. Social media is the only space where some people can be social. They aren’t bad people, they are just shy. Don’t take it personally.

4. The Foster Sibling

Here we have the antithesis of The Amnesiac.

So you worked with this chick five years ago in a company whose phone number you’ve long since forgotten. In fact, you didn’t really work with her – you just said hello every once in a while; and at the Staff Sports Day you ended up on the same tug-o-war team and she fell on top of you. She adds you on Facebook and you accept because, well, you’re that kind of person. Then, couple months later, you see her at the gas station and she’s like, “Girl, your mother could real cook! I see all them pictures you does be posting. When she inviting me? But your brother, he need to leave that girl he dealing. I know somebody who does live near that girl and they say she’s a real ho. He could do better than that.”

Too familiar. So wrong. Being Facebook friends with someone is not your right. It is a mutual privilege. Every time someone “friends” you, they commit a vulnerable act: allowing you access to their personal life. But you don’t have the right to assume that life, to presume that it is yours. Their friends aren’t your friends; their family isn’t your family. Know your place.

5. The Arsonist

This friend seems to trawl from status to status, friend to friend, making inflammatory comments. They never have anything positive to say in response to your (or anybody else’s) posts. But negative comments, objections, arguments and counterarguments – they have them at the ready to pelt like scratch bombs, to “bun down Rome”.

I often wonder why. If someone posts their opinion on their Facebook page, that is their platform, their right. If I have a different opinion, the place for it is on my Facebook page. What is there to be gained by posting contrary, argumentative comments on their page? I am not Luke Skywalker; I am not interested in turning anybody from the Dark Side.

In fact, science has proven time and time again that you can’t just change someone’s “false beliefs” by giving them information or even arguing. If information doesn’t square with someone’s prior beliefs, he simply discards the information if the beliefs are strong. Continued intervention and pushing more and more information or arguments at such a person can even have what’s known as “the backfire effect” of deepening his beliefs. I think we all know this instinctively. I think the Arsonist knows this – he/she is usually quite intelligent. So I can only guess that the Arsonist’s goal is self-aggrandizement: to preen and display his/her perceived intellectual or moral superiority.

Depending on the frequency and intensity of the fires being set by the Arsonist, it may be best to just go Elsa on his ass and let him go, let him go-o-o-o-o.


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