You know how Facebook has that rather infuriating way of suggesting friends to you? People who you had sex with when you were seventeen and have studiously ignored ever since? Or people with whom you had a very dramatic falling out at university which resulted in the writing of fervent and angry poetry about the darkness of their soul?
And you know how each time you see those suggestions you want to punch Facebook very hard in the testicles and say LEAVE ME ALONE FOR GOD’S SAKE! IF I WANTED TO BE FRIENDS WITH THEM I BLOODY WELL WOULD BE! DO YOU NOT THINK THERE’S A GOOD REASON WHY WE HAVE 49 FRIENDS IN COMMON BUT ARE NOT FRIENDS OURSELVES? GO AWAY YOU INTERFERING VIRTUAL DICKHEAD. GO. AWAY! (etc.)
Yes? Well, then you will sympathise with my latest plight: the suggestion of someone I met on an internet dating site who I never even met. I logged on yesterday morning and there he was, looking like a complete tw*t in sunglasses that might work on a teenage boy who wears jeggings but look pitiful on a man of 38 with a pot belly. “People you might know!” blinked hopefully above his head as he stared cockily out at me from my homepage. (That’s MY homepage, Facebook, which should be filled with MY friends, not with pictures of men I ditched before we even went on a date.)
I stared at him, appalled. Why? HOW?
I whipped off a very angry email to the internet dating site.”How DARE YOU!” I wrote. “HOW DARE YOU SHARE MY INFORMATION WITH FACEBOOK!”
If emails could kill they would have been dead at ‘Dear.’
I got a very prompt reply. “We do not share your information with anyone,” they said. “Our servers are protected by a very strong firewall. There is no chance that details of anyone with whom you made contact could possibly have been passed on to Facebook or any other website anywhere in the world.”
I believed them and sent a rather red-faced email of apology. Then I rolled up my sleeves. Someone was messing with me and I wanted to find out who.
The truth of the matter is that when I had realised, after a few emails, that this man was not going to become my lover or even my casual acquaintance with whom I perpetually avoided having coffee, I terminated our email correspondence. He then sent increasingly irate messages to me until I was forced to send him a polite two-liner explaining that I was not interested in him. He replied to tell me that he had blocked me on the dating website. I had smiled: he seemed to have missed the point, somewhere along the line, that it was me who had decided to terminate our contact. But never mind. I knew our brief i-romance was over and thus forgot about it.
Staring at his stupid face yesterday I was quite clear the last thing I wanted was for this oaf to find me and start hassling me on facebook. So as I said, I rolled up my sleeves to track down the offending information sharer. After an infuriating half an hour I was bashing out “how the hell do you actually contact facebook because they go out of their way to make it damned-nearly impossible” into google.
Facebook replied to say that they get their information for people you might know based on things like friends in common and previous email contact.
Nope, neither of those applied.
So I asked my trusty IT geek friend. HOW DOES FACEBOOK KNOW WHO I CHATTED TO ON INTERNET DATING SITES, I yelled via skype messaging.
He emailed back a smily emoticon.
THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER, I roared in a text-based fashion.
It is quite likely, he replied, that this guy’s name was suggested via your google account. Have you stalked him?
I broke off, shame-faced.
Of course I had. As usual, even though I had only his first name and two emails to go on, I’d found out his surname and work history in five seconds flat and had also seen some fairly unfortunate pictures of him. (Don’t you dare judge me! You’ve done the same and you know you have!)
And so Google must have told Facebook about my shameful habits. And Facebook rubbed my face in it. Stalking ALWAYS bites you on the bottom. If it doesn’t mess up your date, it’ll get you somehow. Be warned.
And I just wanted to end this little tale with the breaking news that Spring really is now here. I am sending you the first of many blogs written on my balcony to the sounds of live music, barking dogs and ancient buses. Directly in front of me is a most pleasing orange sunset, to my right a packet of herbal tea and some paracetamol (I am ill again. WTF?) and to me left a tree which has burst into leaf. I AM FEELING VERY EXCITED, LET ME TELL YOU. Very excited. I started planning the ‘travel’ bit of my trip today and nearly wet myself. Taking a gap year aged 30 is mega.