Friday, April 12, 2013

Facebook Formu-lay: In which I discover The F.L.O.P System

Formula: A method of doing or treating something that relies on an established, uncontroversial model or approach

I knew from an early age that most things in life have a formula to them, an approach where x + y = a result.  Study + Go to University = a Degree.  Work + Effort = Reward.  Planking + Bakasana (crow pose) = Rocking Biceps.  Vodka + Club Soda = tasty, low calorie beverage.  Sperm + Egg = 9 months of Ice-Cream.  But relationships?  Relationships defy any kind formula.  You can’t predict them, or determine their longevity; they are the radioactive isotopes of the formula world.  There is no secret formula of Chemistry + Effort = Relationship.  The components are inconstant and unstable and have the tendency to explode at any minute… 3—2—1…

Lately, there has been a wee thimbleful of introspection in the Chernobyl Cataclysm of the Dating World of Eleanor and Friends.  Reader, come closer, let me whisper into your little peach-fuzz-coated ear, “It isn’t pretty.”  I’ve heard of dating disasters so diabolical, they would turn your skin Springfield green.  And it was thinking of this little Tour de Farce, that I realized there is a common thread here, a formula of sorts, not of components, but a formula that set the whole toxic leak flowing, it’s… Facebook.  The Facebook Formu-lay.

I canvassed women and men--well, a man--on the subject and it seems that Facebook is just another online dating site without the online dating stigma.  You may be a happily-coupled FB user merely chatting with old friends and uploading hundreds of photographs of your delightful little child caked in whatever it has been eating.  You may be content in your little fuzzy wuzzy world of joint bills and laundry-folding.  My clean linens swoop the floor as I try to fold them single-handedly like a drunken Tyrannosaurus Rex.  (And I HAVE relatively long arms.  How midgets fold king size bed sheets blows my mind.  I digress.)  Brace yourself, Contented Couplet, for as you post your Easter pictures of eggs and bunnies and unseemly amounts of chocolate, some FB acquaintance somewhere is messaging a woman/man they don't really know.

The canvassed male, let’s call him ‘Bruce’--his identity protected for the sake of his reputation with the fair ladies of Scranton—was in denial at first that any such system existed, that he had even used it himself.  But he had!  I showed him the volley of messages he had started between us, when ours was but a foetal friendship.
“It’s just how people communicate nowadays,” said he.
“But, examine the evidence, Bruce!  There is an undeniable system here.  Say a chap ‘friends,’ a lady; say he ‘likes’ a few pictures, maybe makes a few funny comments, he engages her in a private message, asks her questions about herself—that’s the small talk.  And this is the weird female bit, ladies who often have absolutely no interest in FB fella, who find this unsolicited attention a complete nuisance at first, sometimes even borderline harassment, suddenly become almost addicted to the attention.  The flurry of messages in a lady’s inbox makes Suzie FB Surfer completely enamoured, because she feels special.”
Bruce listened, unmoved, silent, processing.  I blathered on,
“And there will be some exchange of telephone numbers.  He will create some kind of plausible excuse to volunteer his digits or ask for hers.  A ‘Well, I’m going to be downtown at First Friday too, probably at the Radisson or wherever.  Text me if you want to know how it is over there, I’ll give you the 411.'  Or, 'I’m driving down to South Carolina, so I’m not going to be able to Facebook.  What’s your text number?'  Or, 'If you’re not going to chat with me via text I’m not going to bother writing to you anymore.'  So you give your number because, even if you weren’t interested at first, now you rather enjoy these messages!  They are exciting.  And, let’s face it, even if they weren't who wants to be the arsehole who doesn’t accept the friend request or refuses to give her number?  You know you are only going to see them at the bar, and you will awkwardly slosh your martini down your dry-clean only dress in a quick elbow-jerk reaction, and smile tightly over your brim, as you wish to Christ you lived in a bigger town."

“And THEN you are text buddies.  That’s the way it works, Bruce.  You may be strangers before, you may be freshly-friended acquaintances, you may be reunited old school buds, but that’s how it flows, from the natural springs of unpolluted friendships, to the stagnant cesspool of FB dating.”

Bruce rubbed his face, soberingly, his beard bristling as he did so. 
“Okay, okay.  So that may be true, but it’s not just men.  I’ve been solicited by women on Facebook.” 
“Really?”  I think I sounded more surprised than I intended.
“Yeah, I’ve even been blatantly propositioned by a married woman who works with my Dad.  So does her husband.  That was awkward.”

Which brings me to a side note:  Facebook, text, email, it makes cowards of us all.  We think it makes us brave, that we are taking a chance and sending someone a compliment, maybe typing something bold, risqué, adjectives and verbs that you would never dream of saying out loud to their face; but surely, if we would never say it to their face, should we type it?  Sorry Sexty People, but breathless descriptions are best gasped into the ear of the Intended, not typed to be read out loud to friends or forwarded to others.

“I’ve got it!”  Exclaimed Bruce.  “It’s the F.L.O.P. System.”
“I’m sorry?”  (I was still imagining him being cornered by the photocopier by his father’s busty, over-zealous married co-worker.)
“The F.L.O.P. System:
‘Friend’—that’s self-explanatory.
‘Like’—like a few of their posts or pictures so they get familiar with the name and knows the new friend to be friendly.
‘Observation’—take an interest in what they do, where they go, who they are friends with.  There is only one degree of connection in NEPA, so that’s a great way to start.  'Oh, you're friends with So-and-So!'  To a lesser degree, this is due diligence; to a greater degree it’s surveillance."
"Or stalking," I interjected.
‘Private Message’—engaging in private messages can be very revealing.  ‘Pokes’ and other FB comments one can ignore without seemingly being rude, but a private message is harder to shrug off."
"Especially," said I, jumping in with alacrity, "since you know you will see them at that bar over the sloshy rim of that that martini again!  It’s fate!  It’s going to happen.  That’s how it works, Bruce!  YES!  The F.L.O.P!  It doesn’t always secure a date, but the investment time of private messaging certainly increases the chances.  And if the date is firmed, it’s really F.L.O.P.D.!”
(this is when we laughed: “BHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Ha.  BHahaha. Hee.”)

FB has been the conduit that lead to 1, 2, buckle my shoe, 3, 4, maybe more, of my recent dating misadventures.  Heck, I suppose you have to ‘meet’ and get to know people someway, and at least on FB rather than some dating website, there are usually mutual friends who can vouch for Suddenly Chatty Chuck not being a complete weirdo who thinks he’s a Jedi Warrior, owns a collection of dolls and only eats jello.

I don’t mean to be disparaging, especially in the light of the whirling gauntlet we all duck, dodge and dive through, there just isn’t as much time to go around socially as if campaigning for an eligible male.
“Hello” *shakes hand* “My name is Eleanor and I’m campaigning for a bachelor with good teeth and …”  Can you imagine?

I have some friends, who worked the F.L.O.P.D. system and now they are happily living together and that’s great.  Yay!  Go them. 

I have some other friends who have been worked by the F.L.O.P system, desolate after the Flopper has flipped off and never communicated again.  It seems so ironic in a way that a tool that can be used for aiding and abetting communication, can be withdrawn at any time, or used against one in a hostile stand-off of silence.  I see some Machiavellian moustache-twisting and maniacal laughter as the Flopper ‘defriends’ his conquest.  Did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg foresee that his social networking could be used as a game of sexual strategy, a communicatory/non-communicatory Battleship to find ones’ needs, ones’ weak spots?

As I thought more about this cruel retraction of ‘friendship’—that clearly was no true amity to begin with—I recalled the “D.E.N.N.I.S System” from Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  A girlfriend uploaded it on Facebook after her supposed boyfriend had ‘Separated Entirely.”  Sure, it’s funny.  Because it is true.  There are some men (and women, I am sure) who enjoy the power of game play, and I have to wonder what weird positive feedback they get from hurting people.  Were they not hugged enough as an infant?

Mindlessly disposing of people without a care in the world is beyond my ken, and a dangerous sociopathic path that seems all too common.  Perhaps behind the shield of a computer people feel disconnected and can dissociate words typed from words spoken.  Piffle!  There’s no excuse.  Interact with the human race, communicate, use Facebook if you must; and if you no longer want to do that then have the decency to say so using words, not silence.  We are not 10 years old, Dennis.

1 comment:

  1. How did we meet? Please remind me.

    Oh, that's right...