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Monday, January 10, 2011

No, I will NOT vote for you on Facebook.

I'm a heavy Facebook user.

I've synced all my other social network accounts (Youtube, Twitter, Flickr etc.) with my Facebook account so that friends of mine on Facebook will know whenever I've uploaded a photo, or a video, or posted a tweet.

Although I'm highly secretive with my own short films (as in, I don't upload them on Youtube for public viewing) because most of them had been circulating at the film fest circle, I don't mind sharing my own experiences with others, it's my way of keeping in touch with others, allowing others to keep track on my misadventures, and on the other hand, I can keep track on what the others were doing as well.

Many of my relatives, former schoolmates and classmates, and other people I've met throughout the course of my life are Facebook users too, and sadly, this might just be the only way for me to remain 'visible' for them (since I'm constantly flying about, it's really hard for some to keep track on where I am these days). Yes, I don't disagree that this has turned into a form of exhibitionism, and I can absolutely understand why people who crave privacy don't really like the use of Facebook.

I myself try to maintain some form of privacy too, despite having 1400+ friends, every time someone tries to add me and I cannot really recognize them, nor seem to have any mutual friends, I usually message them first and ask them to identify themselves. If there's none, I'll probably ignore the friend request.

Recently, people I've never spoken to for years have begun speaking to me via Facebook Chat, out of the blue. But the conversation is usually like this:

Person: Hey.
Me: Hi.
Person: Remember me?
Me: Yeah, we haven't spoken for quite a while. How are things?
Person: Pretty good.
Me: Nice.
Person: Can you do me a favour?
Me: ... I. Knew. It.
Person: Hehe. Can you go to this Facebook page, click 'like', and then go to this photo, and click 'like'? I really need your vote.
Me: Right, so you're speaking to me only because you wanted me to vote for something.
Person: Oh no, I genuinely wanted to talk to you, that's why I messaged you first, so have you voted?

Feeling that I just got sucker punched, but finding everything rather harmless, I voted.

This morning, I received a Facebook message from an ex-classmate from high school. He wanted me to vote for him and his girlfriend's Valentine's Day photo.

I ignored it.

(Besides, I was busy taking photos of people in Kimono (It's Seijin No Hi, Coming-Of-Age Day in Japan) at Meiji Shrine.)

Kimono girls at Meiji shrine

Young couple at Meiji shrine during Seijin no Hi

I returned home just now and logged onto Facebook.

The same friend suddenly messaged me on Facebook chat.

This is the following conversation that we had (to international readers of this blog the conversation is spoken in Manglish, which is Malaysia's colourful variation of English):

Him:just simple clicks can help us edi hehe
1. u go to this page (he gave me the link) just click like the page...then
...2. u go to this link (he gave me another link) to......... click like my photo
3. DONE!!! thanks for helping :D:D
just simple clicks can help us edi hehe
1. u go to this page (he gave me the link) just click like the page...then
...2. u go to this link (he gave me another link) to......... click like my photo
3. DONE!!! thanks for helping :D:D
just simple clicks can help us edi hehe
pls vote for our valentine photo
pls help us

I clicked the link and saw a photo of him and his girlfriend. It was a very sweet photo, and they seemed very much in love.

Their photos have already garnered 300+ votes.

I felt a little cranky.

Me: dude, what the hell man? stop spamming me

Him: not spam la, pls vote for my valentine photo, just help lol. need ur vote
(seconds later)
vote edi?

Me: how many people are you talking to right now?

Him: er... ppls, didnt count, can help? lol

Me: look, you're a really great guy, and one of the rare decent people that i appreciate
in 5p1. fine fine, i'll vote...

I was about to click the 'like' button, but then I stopped, I felt unfair if I don't give him a piece of my mind.

Me: i just feel a bit annoyed that normally u didn't even talk to me and all of a sudden you are msging me and then bombarding me with this

Him: hrmmmm.... sry

Me: besides, you're winning a lot, so i just don't feel that i need to vote. i mean, everyone's only 70 smething. you have 300-400 votes.

Him: i'm actually his gf...he is busy study right now


Apparently I was talking to the girlfriend, whom I don't know, and not him. So 'him' will now be referred to as 'her'.

Me: .... oh. that's disappointing

Her: oh...dun b...he is really busy with work now, i will tell him talk to u n ask him why didnt talk to u

Me: no no no, it's not like this, i'm a film director. but i usually feel a little annoyed because i know very well that my high school classmates (from form 5) haven't exactly been keeping in touch with me. Everyone's been indifferent to my filmmaking adventures... or whatever the hell I've been doing in the past few years since I came to Tokyo. Even when I won awards, I was congratulated by many people from other classes, but never my own classmates. Which I understand, they're all in different industries, they don't read the entertainment section in newspapers etc.
BUT imagine my feelings, when i suddenly see an email from a classmate. A classmate from back home. i was like "eh? what does he want?".
then suddenly, it's "... haiz, so he wanted me to vote for something"

('haiz' is the sound we Malaysians make when we sigh)

After giving a monologue that reflects what a shameless attention seeker I am, I suddenly flashbacked to an earlier incident, and continued with my spiel.

Me: to give you an example, recently, someone from his old high school added me on Facebook. then, immediately after that, he sent me invitation to 'like' his fan page (he's a real estate agent)

Her: sry

Me: i immediately removed the guy

Her: hmm...i understand, lol, ohoh

Me: u seem like a great person, and i'm very happy for (classmate's name) that he met you
Her: no...cos we need ppl to vote for our valentine photo, wan to win the photoshoot

Me: i know. but you're winning

Her: hehehe, no, got ppl 600 votes, X.X

Me: who?

Her: i ned to be very very hard working. to get votes

Me: and what's the prize?

Her: free valentine photoshoot. lol. just having fun to join the contest

Me: look, if you want a photoshoot, I CAN give you a photoshoot

Her: LOL, really?

Me: i have a canon 7D

Her: wah? LOL! i will tell (her boyfriend)

(By now, you can see that I'm so exasperated that I would offer to do a photoshoot for them just so they can stop bugging me about voting.)

Me: i just won't vote

Her: ohohoh ...i didnt know @.@
(minutes later)
u voting???
for us?

I decided not to reply to her.

Seeing one of my besties, Yuan Yue, on MSN, I messaged her, I needed to vent.

Edmund Yeo says
i feel like an asshole

Yuan says
what happened/

Edmund Yeo says
did u get spammed by (our mutual classmate)

Yuan says
on fb?

Edmund Yeo says
about voting for him and his gf
on v.day, V.day photo

Yuan says
i saw that but i wasn't spammed.

I then recounted the earlier conversation I had.

Yuan says
i know you're annoyed but it's just one of those marketing gimmick thingers as of late
plight of social media i guess.

Edmund Yeo says
but for (expletive) sake
people who never talk to me suddenly
ask me to 'vote' for them on fb
that's so (expletive) bullshit.

Yuan says
i know the feeling sucks. ultimately, this is what fb has become

Edmund Yeo says
i'm going to save our conversation
this is tragic
thanks a lot, Mark Zuckerberg

Yuan says
and this sort of marketing ploy won't be stopping anytime soon

Edmund Yeo says
i am so disgusted that i want to puke.

Yuan says
no point getting upset over this.
I've seen worst when we did our kids campaign.

Edmund Yeo says

Yuan says
it went from just asking family and friends to vote
to a total online campaign, by spamming our fb page walls
and then eventually evolved to the exchange of votes through PM

Edmund Yeo says
(expletive deleted)!!!!
i don't even go around asking people I've never spoken to for ages to WATCH MY TRAILERS, or VOTE for them on Youtube!

Yuan says
yeah, you get the feeling that you're watching some underground trade happening on fb
and scammers who say they will exchange votes, but never vote back.
yup, so lots of things are unfolding at fb, and it's how one chooses to use it that matters.
same thing with those fb games

And so, this is what Facebook is becoming, and I guess I won't be surprised if people I haven't been in keeping in touch are suddenly messaging me and asking me to 'vote for them'.

But yet, despite this sounding like a contradiction, I just wanted to 'be real' on Facebook. I have this naive belief that social networking sites are really meant for... you know, socializing. I usually ignore page invites that are irrelevant to me, or Facebook game invites, because it's impersonal, and it feels insincere.

As I continue pondering, I wonder whether I'm being a hypocrite. I flood my own Facebook newsfeed with my videos, photos, links etc. (sure... most of them are automated, but...) hoping to share with the others. What makes me better than people who suddenly message me asking me to vote for them on something, right?

Perhaps this is THEIR way of wanting to be heard, wanting me (and the many others asked to vote) to know of their current whereabouts, their statuses, and the like. If I wasn't bombarded to vote on this Valentine's Day photo, I wouldn't even know that he got himself a new girlfriend, or the lengths they would go through to show their affections for each other. It's all very sweet.

It's not that difficult anyway, just a few clicks and they'll be happy. And I would have done something rather philanthropic.

Yet I rather just stick to my initial offer, and give them a photoshoot in Malaysia if that's really what they want, and if I happen to be in Malaysia when they want it.

Maybe I just thought this is more of a 'human connection'.