Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does Facebook hate shy people?

I lost my Facebook account yesterday. "This profile can not be used," it said. When I tried to log in I was asked to verify my non-robot status by copying some randomly blurred letters. Then I was directed to page that told me, obligingly...

"We've received feedback that your account may not be real. Facebook is a community where people share and interact using their real identities.
Facebook does not allow accounts that:
  • Pretend to be someone else
  • Use a fake name
  • Don't represent a real person
In order to regain access to your account, please complete the following security check to verify your identity and help keep Facebook secure."

Okay... Not sure why Facebook thinks I'm not real, but I'm game to prove my status... at least I thought I was.

Could you identify 5 randomly chosen Facebook connections (out of 200 say?), given 3 randomly chosen photographs of each with six possible names below them, and allowed only 2 skips and zero errors? What if the three photographs showed

  1. a sky lit by fireworks
  2. a baby
  3. and the back of someone's head.
Another option was a gray-haired lady obscuring two dark-haired colleagues, a dark-haired teenager with a book in front of her face, and a computer screen. Are you surprised I failed? And, having failed, I had to wait half an hour, and again, and again, and again, before I could get back in. Luckily I was given pictures of two close friends and three authors identifying themselves by their book covers in my final selection. I won, at last

But seriously, do you know all your Facebook friends by sight? Would you recognize their baby pictures, or the living rooms of their houses, or their favorite computer games? If you're shy, you probably have far more virtual friends than real ones--According to the book Quiet, by Susan Cain (reviewed below), a lot of shy people surround themselves with friends on the internet. If they're anything like me, they surround themselves with frequently faceless friends, because it's the interactions and conversations that count, not how the person looks. And now, if they offend the feedback robots scouring Facebook pages for fakes, they just might find themselves unable to get back to the relationships they've so painstakingly created.

Why would Facebook suddenly hate shy people after courting them so well?

Anyway, I'm back, and having failed to post any book reviews yesterday--something to do with wasting the day trying to recognize random pictures--I'd better get them posted here today. So grab some coffee; there's only three books in this set, but they were really good and deserve a really pleasing brew.

First is Quiet, by Susan Cain, where a shy author takes readers on journey to explore her own and others' shyness and the value of quiet introversion in society. Sadly, soceity's enjoying a cult of personality and tries to each even little kids to be extroverts, but Quiet provides a well-reasoned and encouraging counter-argument, one I very much enjoyed with several cups of 4-star richly elegant complex coffee.

Next comes The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. We're reading this in our book group, and it provided an interesting counter-point to Quiet as it looks as man's (and therefore society's) influence on the way plants evolve, rather than society's influence on character development. Of course, the influence works both ways, as man and the apple, tulip, marijuana plant and potato co-evolve. I wonder if Susan Cain would say society is evolving as a result of overly rewarding the extroverts? Anyway, it's fascinating to learn the history, biology and sociology of plants that satisfy such basic human desires as sweetness and control. I struggle with the bits that anthopomorphise the plants--maybe 'cause I hear my son in my head complaining "Mum, the apples don't care!" But I did enjoy the book. Drink some smooth full-flavored 3-star coffee with this book full of so many fascinating side-tracks.

And finally, there's Exploring Faith and Reason by Bruce Glass, where I can follow those evolutionary and co-evolutionary threads and put them together, without offending science or my faith. I like the fact that the author's an agnostic, equally respectful of the foundations of faith and science, and unwilling to have the wool pulled over his eyes.

So there you have my non-fiction reading marathon. Back to fiction book reviews next time, but I really enjoyed this digression. And here's hoping only posting three book reviews at once will avoid the Facebook robot rejecting me again.

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