Last week a young lady of my acquaintance posted a humble plea on Facebook that set off a totally mundane chain of events that, while being the very definition of the term “first-world problem,” nonetheless raise a number of ultimately unimportant questions I feel compelled to examine.
Her plea (paraphrased): “Help me win a free vacation! Go to [beach resort’s Facebook page] and Like or Comment on my post on their Wall! The person with the most Likes and Comments wins 2 nights at the resort, all expenses paid!”
Being the charitable sort — by which I mean willing to click something if it will help someone I know — I clicked through and found the photo in question: it was of this young lady of my acquaintance, looking beautiful in a bikini, sitting on the beach. I saw that only one person had Liked this photo before me, I brought the tally up to two, and went on about my important business at work: writing “Manimal” fan fiction, bidding on commemorative coins from the Bicentennial, and trolling the “Smallville” message boards.
Maybe five minutes later, the IM window pops up on my screen:
Jennifer: why are you liking photos of hot young girls on facebook
It’s my wife. (The question mark on her computer is broken.) It had not occurred to me that she would see that I had Liked this photo, nor had it occurred to me how it would look when she did. My wife and I are almost 40. The young lady in the photo is indeed a hot young girl of, I dunno, 25? 26? Not sure, but under 30. I felt confident that my wife would be satisfied by my explanation, which had the benefit of being the truth:
me: she asked everybody to like it so she can win a free vacation.
Jennifer: oh ok
I never doubted that my wife would believe that there was nothing untoward going on, because a) there isn’t, b) the marriage is solid, we get along great and always have, and c) she is my alibi for my whereabouts nearly every waking, non-working moment over the last 13 years. She knows this dog never leaves the porch.
But even though my wife has heard my explanation that I only clicked on the bikini photo because I was explicitly asked to and I swear I’m not a creep no really I’m not, none of my other Facebook friends (18 and counting!) has heard that explanation, and now they all have “Alex Castle likes a photo” of a hot chick not my wife in a bikini in their news feed. I barely even remember the photo, so I go back and look at it again to see just how creepy I am for Like-ing it. It is not like a super-erotic Sports Illustrated photo of a well-lit underwear model slathered in vaseline, wearing just bikini bottoms, and covering herself with her hands. It’s just a candid shot of a very pretty girl at the beach.
By now many more people have acquiesced to her request that they Like or Comment on the photo; she is up to 25 Likes and 10 Comments. My eye is caught by one of the comments (paraphrased): “[Name of beach resort] looks amazing. As do you babe!”
Now, I’m sure this person meant nothing by that comment, other than that this gal looks good in a bikini, which anyone with eyesight would agree. But I feel a little creeped out by his comment nonetheless, the same way I’m creeped out when another lady friend, who’s sort of famous from having been on a reality show, gets 85 “You’re so beautiful” comments on any picture she posts of herself. If you verbally said “you look amazing” or “you’re so beautiful” or “you’re really wearing that bikini” to someone of the other gender who you weren’t dating, you’d feel a little creepy/desperate, right? It’s not like I made a creepy comment, but I almost feel like the thumbs-up of a Like is even worse, like the Facebook equivalent of a wolf whistle.
Since my lady friend here openly solicited the Like, I know there’s nothing creepy about it in her eyes, and I know that my wife bought my explanation, so I’m not worried about either of them. It’s just that Like-ing a bikini photo of a hottie ten-plus years younger than I am on Facebook doesn’t look good to all the other people are seeing it, and I’m not comfortable with it. I’m Facebook friends with my parents. With my wife’s parents! This does not look good, so I think about my options.
Should I un-Like the photo? If I do that she might not win the contest, and since the contest depends on her Likes, she’ll notice that I un-Liked it and that would be weird under the circumstances. Would it even get the Like out of people’s news feeds? How does that even work?
Do I post a Status Update with a short explanation of what happened? That could only read like the paranoid rantings of a deranged psychopath (quite unlike this blog post). Right?
You may have seen that I Liked a photo of a lovely young lady who is not my wife. Rest assured that I do not like her like her — I’m quite happily married and have been since the Florida recount — I just “Like” her like her, like a friend Likes another friend so they can go on vacation. Seperately! Not together! She’s going on vacation, with the friend of her choosing (not me) if enough people “Like” her photo. So you see, It’s the friendly thing to do! #KONY2012
Yeah, we’re not going to be doing that. So where does that leave me? Nowhere! I look like some kind of weird Internet pervert trying to hit on my Facebook friends. Thanks a lot Facebook! Why does everyone have to see everything I Like anyway? I see headlines for news articles that interest me and I don’t click on them because I don’t want “Alex Castle read ‘Lindsay Lohan’s Mochachino Disaster’ on Washington Post News Reader” to be popping up on everyone’s news feed.
And while we’re at it, why do I have to see everything everyone else Likes? I know everyone has privacy options for what portion of their Facebook activity is visible and to whom. Any chance I can change my incoming options? Can I opt out of seeing what other people Like? Do I really need to be alerted when one of my friends communicates with another of my friends? Is there a “Don’t show me strangers’ sonograms” box I can check? (That last joke was actually my wife’s. It’s one of the reasons I don’t cheat on her.)
Maybe it’s not Facebook’s fault, maybe it’s my fault for not thinking it through, that everything I do on this stupid website can be seen not just by all my friends but potentially my friends’ friends’ friends, which could add up to like 30 or 40 people (I’m not much good at math). Or maybe it’s my friend’s fault for putting me in this position. Sure, she needs a vacation, but what about me? What about my marriage? Did she ever once think about that? I have a wife and a son! Actually, it’s that stupid resort’s fault. How dare they get people to post pictures of themselves half-naked for other people to see and look at and Like and post vaguely creepy comments to? And for what? I never did find out if my friend won that vacation!