Sunday, July 15, 2018

How About an Anti-Social Network

Credit: lorrie handwerger

After forty years of hiding from my former high school sweetheart – going so far as to wear one of those Groucho Marx masks when I’d go to the city where I’d been told that she lived – I was found...

I heard on the T.V. this morning that if Facebook were a country, it would be the sixth largest country in the world, a tidbit that sent me racing through cyberspace for data. Within milliseconds I found what I was looking for. Facebook, were it a country, would have a population somewhere between that 153,546,048 and 172,800,048, these two figures being the populations of Bangladesh and Pakistan, currently the seventh and sixth largest countries, respectively. I could flaunt my cheaply got knowledge by giving you the headcounts in China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, and Brazil; but to what end?

A propos of nothing in particular, I can’t help but wonder if I would have had the intellectual discipline to gather this information had it not been available at the click of a mouse. It wasn’t for nothing that, just last year, I donated all of my encyclopedias and almanacs to the library book sale.

Facebook, I am finding, is an incredibly powerful tool. After forty years of hiding from my former high school sweetheart – going so far as to wear one of those Groucho Marx masks when I’d go to the city where I’d been told that she lived – I was found. Two days ago. On Facebook.

Actually, it was my wife, Lorrie, who was found – but it was a close enough match to elicit the following correspondence:

I read There’s a Plunger in My Tree, by Alan Handwerger, and realized the author may be someone I knew very well in Providence in High School… My name has changed several times, but he knew me as Debbie Hindenberg, now Debbie Lowenstein , living outside of Akron, Ohio. If you don't respond, I understand. It is kinda weird. I just wondered if he was the author of that book. Maybe I can get it autographed?

Sounds innocent enough –right? That’s what Lorrie thought too, when she made the unilateral decision to give Debbie my e-mail address.

Well, apparently there is no statue of limitations on what Debbie deems to have been my myriad trespasses over the course of our two-year relationship. Nor is she beyond taking out on me her wrath for injustices visited upon her by subsequent suitors. It is either that, or she legitimately has me confused with some guy who really did leave her on a dark country road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.

That Debbie has, by her own account, had a number of different last names does not come to me as a shock. And as for the guy who left her on that dark country road? If I were on the jury, I’d recommend leniency in his sentencing.

But I didn’t sit down this morning with the intention of Debbie-bashing – gratifying though the exercise has become. Which brings me to my point. Why not create a network that enables people who couldn’t stand each other in the past to reconnect. Why not let’s all expectorate our collective venom into one purposefully designed spittoon, and leave the Facebooks of the world to their own fun-loving, good-hearted devices? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to open our Facebook pages without the fear of lurking ex-significant others.

“… and I remember the time you introduced me to Ellen at the Junior Prom,” Debbie wrote. “You were already seeing her, weren’t you, you b …” Debbie, Debbie, Debbie. Still a nag. That’s why I dumped you. And if you don’t believe me, ask all of those other last names.

Maybe it should be called In-Your-Facebook – a site for sore heads; a place to grind your ax, to broadcast your bile, to disseminate your dourness…


It didn’t take long to get the ball rolling: I google, therefore I am. But once I had disallowed from my hate list all of the editors who had rejected my manuscripts, and the food critics that had been somewhat qualified in their adulation of my cooking – in short, anyone who might have bruised my vanity -- I was left with just one entry: Dexter Peters, my high school nemesis. Dexter’s superciliousness seemed a worthy place for me to spend my penny of rage.

Dear Dexter,

How are you, you pompous, anti-Semitic jackass? Are you still as firm in your conviction that God loves the people in sailboats more than He loves the people in powerboats? You have lived in my mind as a cartoon character for over forty years, and I want you to know that whenever I hear the word boor, it is your image that springs to mind.


Stop! I told myself. You are not cut from such sardonic cloth. Besides, even as I wrote to Dexter, with the hope that he might become my first member, I began to suspect that I was not alone in envisioning a site dedicated to mean-spiritedness. I went and had a look on the Internet. There were several.

Snubster – look it up if you don’t believe me – has only recently been introduced. Its founder, software engineer Bryant Choung, had set out to develop a site that would satirize the social discovery services like Facebook, Linkedin and MySpace, his feeling being that such sites too often devolved into “an attempt to get as many fake friends as possible.”

But Snubster, a bit like the Frankenstein monster, has taken on an identity of its own, and has become a site that “lets members create public lists of people and things that rankle them…. People surf each others' hate lists and occasionally make contact.”


There’s nothing new under the sun, I decided, as I abandoned this foolish exercise. Yet I was left with a certain frustration, a feeling of incompleteness …

Dear Dexter,

Alan Handwerger here. Long time. Just wanted you to know that I heard from Debbie Hindenberg the other day. Perhaps you’ll remember her. Well, we got to reminiscing, and if she didn’t bring your name up twenty times, she didn’t bring it up once. Anyway, if you’d like to get in touch, her e-mail is …

Hey; no one’s perfect.

About the Writer

alan handwerger is an editor for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on How About an Anti-Social Network

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By Gurmeet Mattu on December 21, 2009 at 05:35 am

Oh yes, I like this. I don't know if anybody's lurking in my background but I'd love to know. High school sweethearts are out, I went to a boys only school (though who knows?) but there are ladies I've parted from with a certain amount of acrimony. I now know the meaning of fear.

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By Theresa H Hall on December 24, 2009 at 01:52 am

Alan, as ever you are a consummate welder of words and descriptives. I am with you wholeheartedly on this subject because I have remained above the waves with some of those old school friends, with an elegance of sidestepping and dips, so as not to disturb the crest. I may think about some of these people from the past but there are less than one hundred I would really connect with. Our is a cozy circle. I love the way you tell a story. Happy Winter Holidays.

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