The Never-Ending Facebook Poking War

17 Feb

I’m in a never-ending Facebook virtual “poking” war with my wife. I don’t know when the hostilities started, and there is no foreseeable end. I  have no exit strategy. Who has the advantage right now is anyone’s guess. All I know is that the more I poke, the more I am poked in turn. And I often ask my self why – Why this senseless violence?

Like actual war, the poking war is of course futile, and hopelessly cyclical.  The war is however a war of affection, in which each poke is a statement saying, “I am flirting with you”. Since she is my wife, and our marriage is based on some reciprocity, I naturally feel the inclination to return this thoughtful gesture. Still, I am unsure to what degree my return poke is from genuine flirtiness, or rather simply an OCD urge to restore order to my disorderly cyber-universe, like a suspended 4th itching for the resolution to the tonic chord (that’s fancy music-talk);  Or rather still, is it just a desire to politely resolve the uncomfortable imbalance inherent in a yet unreturned whimsical declaration of  endearment? After all, not to do so would be like dropping the paddle and walking away from a ping-pong table, a dick move. With respect to my marriage, I find that minimizing the frequency of dick moves is always the best, and most enjoyable route.

Such is the plight of a socially networked human being.

In some way, the same basic principle in the dilemma of the poking war can be found at work in the sad world of the friend request.  Many of us have a growing queue of unanswered friend requests. Even in this vast world of internet life, where such connections are just as often  professional as personal, I still feel the need to be selective in responding to these.  In the logical part of my brain, I know that the person’s emotional investment in the extension of their virtual hand in friendship was impelled by little more than the habitual, glazed-over clicking of the +1 Add Friend button, which appeared to them only as the result of an automatic suggestion, generated coldly and indifferently based on our mutual network, by the minute algorithmic calculations from the faceless, Facebook server. Or SkyNet, I haven’t quite decided.+

In the human part of my brain however, the one innately programmed to empathize, to help old ladies cross the street, and return a majority of high-fives, I naively imagine that little avatar face, floating in virtual space, smiling, waiting hopefully at the computer for my response. “Please,” they say, “Don’t you <like> me? Are we not <friends>? Have you forgotten about our <4 mutual friends>?…our <8 mutual friends>?…even our <16 mutual friends>?

The desire to reciprocate. The uneasy feeling of neglecting a friendship. The fact that those tendencies cultivated over millenia of evolution already find expressions of themselves in this sterile, 2D format – is amazing and fucking terrifying. How else will humans evolve to adapt to our increasingly mediated existence? Maybe we are all..just got poked again BRB…

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