For the last two years, I’ve been spending less and less time on Facebook. Nothing makes you realise how strange the world really is than scrolling through your feed during a political crisis. Someone posts an inflammatory article or writes a very politically incorrect comment, and I think, “Huh. She really believes that?”
“She said that?” my sister Michelle PM’d me once.
“She’s posted two articles like that in the past three days!”
“How is she our mother?!?”
And now, it turns out that so much of what we were reading on Facebook at the time simply wasn’t true. It was made up or heavily tweaked by other users.
“So bad, hor?” Sharyn said the other day over a breakfast of roti prata at Lau Pa Sat. “Why they must make story up, har? Dey all very free, issit?”
“I wonder what else is fake?” Saffy mumbled through her mouthful of economy bee-hoon. “Maybe David Bowie is really still alive?”
“No, I’m pretty sure that one is true,” Amanda said, her eyes misting over at the mere mention of her All Time Favourite Singer.
“How you know?” Sharyn said. “Maybe he and Carrie Fisher have affair and run away and hide on his private island?”
Saffy, Amanda and I paused chewing, three sets of eyes staring hard at the wrought-iron rafters of Lau Pa Sat as we imagined Princess Leia exchanging witty jokes with Ziggy Stardust whilst sipping margheritas under a palm tree.
Saffy’s bosom trembled. “As far-fetched stories go, I’ve heard worse.”
“Yah what!” Sharyn said, warming up to her theme. “How you know Russia did not kidnap them and Whitney Houston and that whole jing gang and replace them with loh-bot like in Westworld?”
Amanda turned to Saffy, widely acknowledged from Sengkang to Serangoon as the country’s leading Sharyn Whisperer.
“Robots!” Saffy said.
“But that doesn’t make any sense, Shazz,” Saffy said. “What would Russia replace them with robots? They’re already dead!”
Sharyn sighed. “Put in the coffin, lor! Aiyoh! Some time funeral got open casket, mah! Cannot anyhow put dummy inside, right?”
And then a few days later, the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. For a whole week, Amanda was glued to her newsfeed as the full extent about how personal data of 50m Facebook users had been harvested and sold to a company that then manipulated the information to influence the US election.
“My God!” she sighed at one stage. “And that’s just the US and this one company! Who else has this information been sold to?”
Saffy’s Instagram feed that morning had a meme that said: “On reflection, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to give Facebook all my personal information in exchange for seeing a picture of what my cousin had for dinner.”
“Yes, but Facebook also owns Instagram!” Amanda told her.
“We’re so screwed,” Saffy sighed. “And not in a good way.”
My 13 year-old god-daughter Mina doesn’t know what the fuss is all about. When I FaceTimed her, she shrugged. “I’m on SnapChat. Facebook is for old people,” she pouted, a comment I found particularly inflammatory and dangerous considering she’s the principal beneficiary of my extremely small estate.
Anyway, this morning, in protest, I deleted my Facebook account. I had to read several online articles on how to do it, and I had to click through several barriers, but I did it. At first, I felt a bit of a panic. How will I get in touch with all my friends? I thought, but then I realized that in the two years I’d been drifting away, I’d been staying in touch just fine.
“What, you just deleted it? You didn’t deactivate it?” Amanda asked.
“Nope. It’s been practically deactivated all this time, and I’ve not missed it at all, so I just hit delete!”
“But you delete, then how I get in touch with you?” Sharyn bleated.
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Hello, you see him practically every day!”
Sharyn turned pink. “Oh, yar, hor?”
“Oh my God Shazz, I swear one of these days you’re going to give me a heart attack!”
Meanwhile, the world hasn’t come to an end. None of my 359 Facebook friends have sent frantic messages wondering if I’d died. Saffy says this only just goes to prove that you really could count on one hand all the real friends you have in the world.
“No, lah, I must need two hand, at least,” Sharyn said even as she mentally ticked names off on her fingers.