Monday, September 30, 2019

New Follower!

"New Follower!" "New Follower?" "New Follower ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" How do you read it?

Personally? For who knows how long, I worked in an industry that actively inoculated its members to be suspicious of new contacts, cautioning us that there was a lot of potentially career-ending paperwork that accompanied making friends with a non-citizen. "Each of you and each of those around you are potential targets." This coincided with the rise of social media, wherein anybody -- even computer programs -- could appear as a friendly stranger or even as someone you know, and those someones you know could appear as other identities online. And after that, I worked in an industry that sometimes leveraged that.

I remember one day popping open a virtual machine with anonymizing software to check a few details of a suspicious new follower and to help contain any damage that might make its way in from clicking a malicious link. What made the contact suspicious? It was primarily suspicious because it was a new follower ("Why would anyone follow?") and because it wasn't obviously machine-crafted nonsense. After all, what could be more suspicious than a potentially legitimate, authentic human being -- especially when they're so few and far between?

I honestly don't know how many hours I lost over the years scrutinizing individual contacts. What I also don't know is if I'm better off for having habitually lived that way.

This morning, my phone is off the hook with notification alarms. Yesterday, I popped open a popular social media site and I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled until the page was filled with a thousand suggested contacts. I popped open a browser console window, I examined the page's details, I wrote a few lines of javascript, and I hit return. With that final keystroke, one thousand invites were on their way...

... and the phone began to chirp: Bling! Bling! Bling!... It was quiet overnight -- largely due to "quiet hours," it seems, as the alarms resumed at 7 A.M.

It was clear that some were auto-responding and others were close by their phones or computers. Reviewing some of those early responses, I didn't recall knowing them and presumably they didn't recall me either, so indiscriminate acceptance.

There are pleasant surprises in there too, people I'd lost touch with. I see there are pending invites to people who I would never deliberately follow for any number of reasons, but who knows how it will turn out? Once that final keystroke landed, the status quo was disrupted; there's nothing to do now but handle what comes...

... which is fundamentally not different than any other day -- but maybe with a different perspective.

Now to think that there may be someone enjoying a morning coffee now, suspiciously eyeballing this rare invitation to connect, wondering what it means...

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