File this under just plain weird.
Two days ago, a message popped up from Google or Facebook or some other non human entity asking “Your birthday’s coming up soon (it is in fact in a couple weeks) Do you want to plan something?” I deleted it because it was weird, but now I’ve been thinking….
I mean, Jon just asked me yesterday, so the non real entity beat him by over 24 hours. What is that supposed to say about my relationships with either?
Is this AI query because last year I made it clear that I hated and found extremely tacky the whole FB thing where we are supposed to say “Hey people I only socialize with on FB; it’s my birthday. And though you’d never consider buying me a gift because we haven’t seen each other or spoken in person since grammar school and we aren’t that tight, can you just give money to this charity? Ya, it’s a charity so it’s okay to ask, right?”
What the heck was the purpose of this birthday message? To make me think you have my best interest at heart? And is there an appropriate response like “Sure, want to take me out for drinks and dinner and buy me an expensive gift that you’ve seen lingering in one of my online shopping carts?”
FYI, if it’s my birthday, wouldn’t it be my friends and family who are doing the planning? Check in with Jon, not me. Are these platforms gender neutral or should I worry about ulterior motives as I do with all the random widowed men with brand new profiles holding puppies and roses that want to friend me on social media?
Let’s face it, Facebook’s brain in particular probably retains more information about me than any human’s could. Why not make this a helpful exchange for the access to my soul that I granted because I like to look at animal pictures and videos? For example, FB knows who my most ardent followers are and the things I like to do. It knows what I like to eat, who I am missing, and how much I hate cooking and love my bunny.
So put those algorithms to work for good rather than simply creeping me out, AI ‘friend’, whichever one you are. Here’s an idea. You could connect with my real life (IRL) friends and send out a message to them.
“Hey friend who has appeared in the top quintile of photos on her FB page, Alison’s birthday is coming up; here’s a list of things the FB algorithms have come up with that she might like to do. FB knows she doesn’t like to leave her bunny for too long, so all of these are under an hour away. And if it’s dining out you’re thinking of, remember she’s an almost vegetarian, who eats fish, seafood and dairy products. Activities have been categorized based on dates on and around the birthday. To make this easier still, here’s a list of contact information for IRL friends that seem to also be in a lot of her pictures so they must mean a lot to her. Perhaps you should coordinate with them to make this the best birthday bash ever in a non decade-introducing year.”
As the message stands, you came cross as a needy outsider begging for an invite when one wasn’t ever going to be forthcoming. And, then because the line between real and fake is so blurred these days, I’ll feel compelled to try to protect your wireless, non-sentient self by manufacturing a semi plausible excuse for your exclusion. “It’s unfortunate, but we aren’t inviting a lot of digital beings this year, cuz, you know, Covid. So it really isn’t you. Here’s to a better 2021”
Facebook, Google, you know you’re not a real friend right? Because I certainly do. And no, you won’t be asked to be a bridesmaid (groomsman?) if my husband and I renew our vows. I’d be more likely to invite LinkedIn just to advance my career.
Photo and text (c) Alison Colby-Campbell