Like an acquaintance without any sense of boundaries, Facebook has been getting way too pushy and wanting to know weird details about my personal life. It’s getting creepy.
A section titled “Did You Know?” popped up on the left sidebar of my personal Facebook page in December, and I’d always ignored it. But this past weekend, as I sat waiting for a long document to print, I idly clicked on the little orange cloud. I was instructed to answer a question.
And just like one of those characters you know is doomed the moment she appears in an episode of “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone,” I began typing responses.
Then I started looking at all the other questions.
And then I got scared.
Maybe that’s because the first question was, “Would you like your parents to be on social media?” To which I had no alternative but to reply, “Sure, because it would prove that there’s Wi-Fi after death.”
Was I missing the spirit of the question?
According to reports out of Silicon Valley, Facebook designed the “Did You Know?” questions to help people get to know each other better by offering information about their inner lives. Presumably this was because the only thing people were doing was posting pictures of brunch.
Scrolling through the questions initially felt like prepping for the Friendship SATs. Perhaps it’s generational, but I hadn’t realized that identifying a person’s favorite cheese and the ingredients in their ideal taco would necessarily promote a greater sense of camaraderie among widely disparate individuals.
Facebook wanted to know how I “disguise my lack of sleep,” what was the last book I’d read without “skipping over anything” and the funniest thing that happened “when I was looking at my phone while walking down the street.” Because I take sleeping, reading and walking upright seriously, I felt these questions weren’t getting at my deepest issues.
Other questions were even harder to take seriously. “Between sunrises and sunsets, I prefer —-“makes any reader of “Dracula” want to say, “To sleep in a coffin filled with soil from my native Transylvania.” Of course, you’d only know that if you didn’t skip over parts of the book.
To the question “Between an ice cream cone and a cup, I choose —-,” my pal Barbara Cooley answered, “Wine.”
Being asked that “I always wanted to have a kid to teach him/her —-” prompted my friend Nick from Nebraska to say, “To be suspicious of anyone wanting to have a kid for the express purpose of teaching them something.” My answer was that I would teach them “not to have children,” but I was already getting annoyed by that point.
I was starting to notice unnerving patterns within the questions. Whereas one question invited members to share “the best piece of advice I got from my dad,” the one about mothers prompted, “I cannot stand when my mom —-.” Even my deceased mother was tweeting about that slam of parenting inequality.
Concerning the importance of education, “Did You Know” prompts included the following: asking for “a good excuse for avoiding homework,” “the most boring lecture for me in school” and “the most useless class in school.” Can you connect these dots? If you paid attention in class, I’ll bet you can.
How about the one illustrated by a diamond solitaire that reads, “For me, the perfect age to get married is —-“? That was followed by “The most original pickup line I’ve heard recently was —-.”
Most disturbing, however, were questions about a favorite pet, whether I lived in the town I grew up in and the first car I ever drove. Call me cynical, but my credit card company wanted to know precisely the same things. I’m thinking that if I get all that information from my friends, I could rob them, or at least set myself up as Madame Gina, internet psychic.
At the very least, I could start writing some questions for Facebook, such as “What is your favorite bank routing number?” And “What are the last four digits of your favorite Social Security number?”
Friends have to get to know their friends, right?
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.