WORKING ON THE VIRTUAL CHAIN GANG
by guest editor Kelly Huddleston
It is Monday, otherwise known as social media day. I get up, make coffee, walk into the office and login to Facebook. Of course it’s not my Facebook account I’m logging into, but one of my social media clients’. My client list fluctuates. At the moment I have four accounts: two tourist hotels, one restaurant, and one moving company.
As usual I begin with the easiest accounts—the hotels. The first hotel account goes off without a hitch. It’s not too difficult, I have noticed, to get people to “like” beach, pool, booze, and party pictures. I repost a guest photo that shows the entrance of the hotel framed by lush green palm trees. Then I digg, stumble, pin, tweet, and tumble it. I sip my coffee, sigh contentedly, and feel that all is right with the Internet universe.
I login to my next hotel account. The first thing I do is post a new pool picture on the hotel’s Facebook page with a caption that reads: “Mondays are fun here.”
I haven’t been to the pool lately myself, and I honestly can’t say that I agree that Mondays are fun here, at least not in my sweltering, non air-conditioned house, but my spirits lift when I see five “likes” within seconds of publishing the post.
My eyes zoom to the hotel page’s message area. There is a new message from a man named John, who writes: “I already sent you an email, but just in case you haven’t received it yet, can you please tell me the exact location of the hotel including street address, zip code, and GPS coordinates? I need it for my sat nav system. Thanks.”
The street address and zip code I can swipe from the hotel’s web site, but I have no clue about the GPS coordinates. I copy and paste John’s message, open a new tab, login to my email account, and paste and send the message to the owner of the hotel, who also happens to run the reception desk. Her response comes exactly one minute later. It reads: “He is already at the hotel. I can see him right now sitting at the Wi-Fi center. Why doesn’t he just ask me?”
I howl. Then I start to sweat. I am, after all, in charge of answering all client messages that appear on the hotel’s Facebook private message area. I begin to craft a short response to John: “Dear John,” I write, “Thanks for your message! Since you are already at the hotel (and are in fact sitting at the Wi-Fi center, which is about ten feet away from the reception desk), might I suggest…”
No. No good at all.
An email pings into my box. “Don’t worry,” it reads. “I just went over there and told him.”
I kiss the computer screen. I actually feel as though I have accomplished something. Logging out of the hotel’s account, I switch to the restaurant account—an Italian restaurant owned by an Italian man who speaks very little English and who has asked me, via an exchange on Google translator, to try to bring more local business to his establishment.
“Fresh fish, mouth-watering pizzas, refreshing cool drinks!” I write with gusto on a Facebook group created by and running wild with locals. My profile picture shows a grinning man in his late sixties with a beard and glasses. There is a smudge of flour on the collar of his shirt. I smile back at his big goofy grin. “Group parties receive discounts! Free ice cream for kids under the age of twelve! Visit our web site for more information!”
I get myself another cup of coffee. When I return I am delighted to see three local “likes” and one comment.
“It might be a good idea to post a price list,” reads the comment. By the profile picture and the name attached to it, I discover, with some alarm, that the comment is penned by none other than my next door neighbor.
“Thanks for the suggestion!” the grinning Italian restaurateur promptly writes in the comment box. With goodwill flowing through his caffeinated fingertips he hits the “Post” button.
That’s when I look out my window and see my next door neighbor in her garden. She is watering flowers with a hose in one hand, and in the other she holds her pink iPhone. I can’t help but feel deceptive. Maybe I should just shout out the window to her that there’s a full price list available on the restaurant’s web site. No, skip it. I don’t want to freak her out. Plus I’m already in character. I open a new tab, bring up the restaurant’s web site, copy and paste the price of a complete salmon dinner, and post it underneath my last comment.
“Too expensive, but thanks anyway,” comes the quick response from my neighbor.
I feel gutted. I log out of the account, do a couple of neck rolls, click over to YouTube, listen to the theme song from Rocky, and then proceed to the next account.
The moving company—the dreaded moving company!
I check the clock, see that it’s time for lunch, and go to the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. A brainstorm hits me as I swallow the last bite of my peanut butter baguette. Rushing back to the office, I quickly type “on the road again” into YouTube.
“Hey, folks!” I write enthusiastically, back on Facebook. My profile picture shows a man in his mid-forties with spiky brown hair, a deep tan, and a carefree smile. I roll my eyes at his digital representation before I proceed to pretend to be him.
“Guess what? We’re ON THE ROAD AGAIN! But you can head on over to our web site to see our projected delivery schedule at our north side warehouse. In the meantime, feel free to sing along with us!” I feel clever and confident, anticipating a multitude of “likes”, as I copy and paste Willie Nelson’s upbeat, synergized song underneath the message and press “Post”.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ARE ON THE ROAD AGAIN!?” comes the reply in swift vicious all-cap letters. “YOU FORGOT TO PICK UP MY SOFA, YOU IDIOT! THIS IS THE THIRD TIME YOU’VE DONE THIS!! I ALREADY PAID YOU A DEPOSIT, YOUR PHONE IS SWITCHED OFF, AND YOU HAVEN’T REPLIED TO ANY OF MY EMAILS!!! HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT TIME WHILE YOU’RE ON THE ROAD AGAIN WITHOUT MY SOFA!!!!”
I choke on my now cold coffee. I fight the urge to crawl underneath my desk. I hide the comment, then unhide it, then hide it again.
“Yes. You are right. I am an idiot,” I have to stop my fingers from typing back furiously in response. “Not only did I forget to pick-up your sofa, turn on my phone, and answer any of your emails, but I have also forgotten to pay my very hard-working and underpaid social media strategist before I went back ON THE ROAD AGAIN!”
Obviously I am feeling quite sorry for myself. I log off Facebook, now finished with my social media accounts for another day. I head back to YouTube, plug in my headphones, turn up the volume as high as it goes on my laptop, and listen to The Pretenders’ version of “Back on the Chain Gang”. And there’s no pretending I don’t like it.
Kelly Huddleston is a writer, small press publisher, and social media stooge. Her published novels include The Perfect Pearl, Alone in the Company of Others, and A Week with Fiona Wonder. Her articles have appeared in a number of online publications including AlterNet. To help pay the rent she administers a number of social media accounts for independent businesses. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, and any other social media site worth visiting (or not).