The Facebook algorithm had been working overtime. For days now it had been huffing and puffing, working overtime, showing me a thread with multiple people on it, begging me to engage – 23 other people had reacted to just a comment on the thread, was I really not going to react? Not even one Like?
The algorithm reminded me of all the busy-bodies I knew in life. The ones who took it upon themselves to come and deliver sensational news, and then dutifully take our responses back to all concerned.
Did I not realize?
Do I agree?
And off they would scoot, before you could hail them, to convey to the other end, that even I agreed with it.
How the world would function without their valuable services no one knew.
I had enough of this – time-boxing as the Productivity experts called it. A tiny peek outside was enough to convince me to shelve the whole thing- no more human conflict for me! “Bye-bye algorithm!” I muttered.
I stepped out into the beautiful Spring evening, and a great whiff of fresh air gave me a spring in my step. I bounded outside cheerfully and had hardly moved 3 feet before I was waylaid by excited children – huffing and puffing with the news.
Did I know?
There was a kerfuffle in the park!
The biggest one ever.
Before I knew it, I was being prevailed upon to resolve the situation. It was too late to turn back and head home. I checked.
On getting there, I saw one child crying, and another with a gleeful expression on his face. Reluctantly pulled into this sort of thing, I found out that the latter had “accidentally” slapped the former. The former had apparently thrown a stone at him “by mistake”, and the slap that had accidentally landed squarely on the cheek was in retaliation.
This is the sort of problem that teachers swat out with their left arm and keep striding on, but it ruffled me. What do you say to this? Every child shouted out their own opinions and account of what happened, and suddenly the Facebook thread looked sanguine.
I mopped the brow, wondering how on Earth I found myself on the spot. In any case, I reached for my stern tone from the recesses of the brain, and gathered all the children around me. I told them that this sort of physical fighting was unacceptable. They all knew they were good children right? I was “disssapointed” in them.
Those who had done nothing (this time) looked stung. How could I hand out a less than satisfactory verdict like this? There was an outpouring of comments:
“I never hit anybody.”
“But he always hits and then gets away by crying!”
“I Am VERY Good!”
I heard these recriminations and glowing testaments to their own characters, and found myself unequal to reacting. Also, I could feel my audience’s attention dithering and tried my best to wrap up the unfortunate matter of the accidental-slap and the mistaken-stone-throw soon.
“The two of you”, I said pointing at the miscreants in question, “need to take a break, and come back to play later. This is not acceptable! Physical fighting – goodness me! And from such good boys too! My my!” I told them in my best shocked-school-marm voice. They had the grace to look discomfited and I hastily beat the retreat.
The United Nations could learn a thing or two by doing these exercises.
A few minutes later, I peeked at things from a safe distance and found harmony reigned once more. I asked them how things were, only to find out that they had all but forgotten about the furore and were enjoying themselves in a vigorous manner in a new game. The Slapper and the Stone Thrower were best pals now, I was told.
Online however, things were not so sunny.
A couple of days later, I found the algorithm still going strong. It was pulling all stops: This could be the best fight, and you could miss the chance to accidentally slap someone, or throw your stone by mistake. Are you sure, you don’t want to react?
The original thread-starter was now defending himself in so many directions and in such ridiculous ways that there was no saying which way he may react. He had become his own troll, and could not back out gracefully. He was getting nipped and bitten on all sides.
There was no shocked-school-marm to put a stop to it, and the sour-dour algorithm’s spite rankled on, like a river in spate.
I wonder why we cannot all move on to the next game with the dexterity and open-mindedness of children.