I commented on every Facebook
thread in my feed for 72 hours
In 2004, I was in college and a few friends of mine were suggesting this new internet thing that was like our campus’ book where you look at faces. It was called Facebook. It wasn’t very cool but neither was I so I joined it. There you could see lots of people who also weren’t cool. Actually nobody back then was very cool. 2004 was a really uncool year.
Flash forward to 2015: Hopes&Fears asks me to comment on every single post in my Facebook feed for 72 hours. What a dick move. Advertisements, event invites, image posts, all were subject to mandatory comments. And if someone replied to me I was obligated to reply back. Basically I had to become a living spam bot spreading annoyance and frustration throughout the land like a mormon with silly string.
At first I thought I was going to have fun doing this project. I’m a thoroughly unlikeable person and this is only amplified by the web. My typical comment on someone’s page is the net equivalent of a fart. I have no shame, no doors are closed to my bad commentary. Actually, I’m very paranoid about what I post. I often get cold feet and delete things because I can’t Yolo with the kids these days.
I want to note that before this challenge I had taken the Facebook app off my phone. I needed more RAM to play Final Fantasy VII. Doing this was transcendent. I was happy without it. I made some new tunes on my computer. Started reading a new book. Explored the world of ghetto tech singles on Youtube. Did some yoga. Pet my cats. Did my laundry. Cleaned my fingernails. Masturbated. It was like 2004 again. I could hear the wind in the trees; the rustling of wet leaves under my feet. In other words, dunking my head back into the data stream was the worst sort of relapse possible.
Enter the Yak Back
Many people in my feed are my family, friends and neighbors. Most of those I’ll comment on regularly, like my mom will post a photo of Pompeii or something and I’ll be all like “TIGHT YO!” or like my friend Sheila from high school will post a selfie and I’ll be like “Hey Sheila! 1992 called it wants its denim back!” (Sheila had to go get some aloe after that burn). These remarks are the bulk of my Facebook comments usually. Most of these people already know that I’m a terrible person so I can scrape the barrel for them and they’re fine with it. I can spit dumb comments out like a Darth Vader PEZ dispenser.
My first ten comments were for replies to my new profile pic. Business as usual. I like it when people say nice things about me, doesn't everyone? In the real world if someone were to say my haircut looked good I’d say thanks. On the internet I’m more likely to just accept a compliment without saying anything, I mean replying “COOL DUDE” is at least seven seconds of feeling, thinking, typing. If I’m replying to everyone’s opinion of my selfie the full turnaround is going to drag at least three minutes of my life kicking and screaming into hell. No thanks, I’ve got better shit to do like read Chaucer or Sonic The Hedgehog fanfiction.
Day one I clocked in almost 150 comments from Noon until midnight. I didn’t have to work those days slash I don't have a job except for my sucky band PILL so I did it for a sizeable amount of time. There were few breaks. I lay in bed like some kind of leech sloth crustacean or I’d get up and sit in my comfy chair looking at the obelisk (hand computer) and just plug away on all of my uncool friend’s observations or sadnesses or pure moods or tinfoil hat conspiracy or whatever the hell kind of internet fetish sex demon advertises for a Fantasy Foot/Ball party. I commented on all of them.
A majority of the first day’s comments weren’t even words they were onomatopoeia or exclamations like “WOOP!” “YEAH” “COOL” “SLAMMIN!” “YO” “DIGGIT!” like the canned presets on a Yak Back. No problem. Writing throwaway stuff like that assured that I wouldn’t receive a reply to which I’d be obliged a retort. My goal was speed and breadth of annoyance.
Fear is a weakness
I clocked in about 100 comments from 10am to midnight. Like the day before most of these were single word comments that served no purpose, did not contribute to any conversation and were generally ironically distanced. That day I encountered a post in which I had to be serious. A friend of mine put up a photo of herself with someone who had just passed away. I'm not going to shout “WOO” at death like an extra on MTV GRIND. I’m a classy guy. Instead I just wrote the word “LOVE” so I could move on quickly. Not to be crass or anything but the word “LOVE” became my cheat code for posts that required actual sincerity. My transformation into a spambot was liquefying real sincerity.
At some point during the second day I clocked myself to see how many comments I could throw up in one minute. I maxed out at eleven. That’s one comment per 5.4 seconds. I was already worse than a spambot. I didn’t even look at what I was posting, I didn’t care. Furthermore, I noticed that, as long as it was remotely positive, most people didn’t even bother to “like” anything I wrote. It was like running down the middle of Broadway and pointing at people screaming “WHAT ARE THOOOOSE?” and moving on to the next poor schlub, “I CAN HAS SIGNIFICANCE?”
There were tons of advertisements on which I had to comment. The more I commented the more Facebook’s metrics would dredge up insane products. One of the most common ads was a company that claimed to reveal surveillance on their clients government or otherwise. I kept trolling them asking for my nudes that I put on the internet. The more I asked for my nudes the more the ads came back. Some algorithm thought I was all about that surveillance info and kept shooting it back into my feed. I kept getting an ad with a glitter pooping unicorn too. This is not real life.
About four years ago when I installed the Facebook app on my phone I began indiscriminately friending people whose profile pictures looked cool. Prior to that I treated Facebook like it was “The Internet Book of the Faces of the People that I Know and am Friends With”. At some point I decided why the heck stop there? I mean if I read a person’s avatar wrong and they start posting things like “WATCH THIS GUY GET HILARIOUSLY TROLLED BY HIS OWN GOD” then I’ll just dump them. It’s a hell of a lot easier than dumping people in real life. A large part of my Facebook friends these days are people I don’t know but whose work I admire. And by work I mean their general disposition in comments, their actual creative work like their clothing line or music, their taste in memes. These were the tough ones. Often I would cheat and “accidentally” refresh my feed.
This level of giving a hootenanny had to be stricken from my being. I realized that I was only skipping posts because I was afraid. Afraid I’d get unfollowed or that my crush would think I liked them. I’m a cautious person in real life, I like to keep my thoughts to myself. On the net there is no culpability, fear is a weakness.
Be it a bigot or a saint
I clocked in 75 comments from eleven am until ten pm. I was slowing down. It was the last day and I was just phoning it in really. I mean who really wants to comment that much on Facebook? What the hell is the point was really my mentality. I had commented on so many people’s posts that I was coming to the conclusion that nobody cares, everyone just wants a little bit of attention. Can you even remember what you did two weeks ago at eleven pm on Tuesday? What party you were at? What you ate? I can’t remember what I did.
Who remembers anything about what they said online. Somehow Facebook sits on the knife’s edge of the creative process (coming up with a joke or an observation) and the consumption process (watching a video) which, by the way, is exactly what is so attractive about video games. But Facebook isn't a video game, there’s more to it than that. You could meet your future lover or get a job from your interactions on Facebook. If you’re a bigot or a saint online there are real world implications. There is now an extra layer to reality that literally wasn’t there before. In the same way that language communicates concepts the net expresses collectivity.
In the real world, some days you wake up squealing like a beached whale; those days where you’re too sad to make coffee. Those days where micro aggressions get to you so bad that you just whip up your tears into a fury of commentary on someone’s page. Some days you wake up shooting the Care Bear Stare out of your belly and everyone has to bend over backwards to get away from your happy-go-lucky ass. Ultimately, it’s all futile, just like real life. So comment away! Nobody cares! Should you learn something from it? Nobody cares! There is no God and if there is, well, he probably doesn't care either.
Facebook records everything for metrics. As a spambot, I see the future. In 90 years, there will be a supercomputer cataloging all this data. It will process our personalities via comments, likes, twitter jokes, who we talk to, etc and extrude our bodies from a flesh tube based on our profile pictures then upload us into that pile of mud. I’ll probably be quite the austere idiot since all my comments are apparently one liners, bad puns, and single words.
The fleetingness of a moment has a doppler effect, we hear it coming, it’s here and then it bends away from us forever. Am I wasting my time any more commenting upside down on my living room chair than I would be jumping out of a plane with a stolen wax replica of Ronald Reagan filled with diamonds and cocaine? Can’t I just like my latte art for how it looks, with sincerity, just for a moment before it breaks against my lips?