Billy scrolled further and further back into his Mama’s Facebook — which was older than he was. It was eerie, maddening, and yet perversely gratifying to see her self-promotion documented for 12 years, eight months, and nine days, this August 10, 2019. The longevity of the pattern justified and fueled his hatred. He was right to hate almost everything about his Mama, including her name, “Mary.” Just like Jesus’s Mama, his Mama wanted a statue and candles lit in her honor or at least 500+ thumbs up.
For example, the June 19, 2007 photo of his face smeared with chocolate cake was something Mama had done to him. This was because a photo of a kid’s face smeared with chocolate would earn like clicks. The caption read, “Thumbs up for the chocolate monster?” The replies were even more nauseating, beginning with, “LOL!!! 100 thumbs up for the adorable monster!” and, “How cute! A million thumbs up! I want to take the monster home!!!” Billy clenched his jaw and stopped reading.
That was Billy’s Mama, the self-proclaimed “addict.” She supposedly redeemed herself by admitting she was “powerless” over her “defects of character,” which obviously included being “powerless” over her need for thumbs up and like clicks.
In addition to “cute” themes, Mama enjoyed posting on her “spirituality,” working the idea of being “blessed” into as many posts as possible, which also earned like clicks. If Mama hadn’t gotten like clicks, she wouldn’t have posted.
Mama wanted a thumbs up from every single one of her 900+ “friends” as often as possible.
Thus, she alternated between conservative and liberal posts. Therefore, she favored prison and even death sentences for drug dealers but also posted on ending racial inequality. However, most arrested drug dealers weren’t white. Therefore, prison for drug users/dealers was a form of racial inequality. But both kinds of posts earned like clicks, so his Mama posted both.
He’d even made a study of what his Mama’s “friends” posted. He noted 58% were liberal and 42% conservative — independent of how often they gave a thumbs up.
Billy’s conclusion: Most of Mama’s “friends” only paid enough attention to Facebook to mistakenly think Mama shared their political views.
A similar pattern held for Mama’s posts on exercise and dieting. Sometimes, Mama posted on what a great workout she’d had. Other times, she posted on her dislike of exercise and love of donuts, cake, and cookies. He repeated an exact quote to himself, “I never worry that one day I will look back and say, ‘I could have jogged more.’ I worry that I will look back and say, ‘I could have eaten that cookie.’” It had earned 35 heart clicks and 467 thumbs up.
Thus, he told himself his motives were pure. His protest of like clicks was political, health-focused, and perhaps even religious, or better yet beyond religion. Thus, it seemed inevitable, natural, and even righteous when he took the loaded the gun that he’d found in the back of his father’s truck and yelled, “Who gets the thumbs up now?” as he emptied its barrel into the computer while his phone streamed the events onto his favorite YouTube music channel (Finnish Gothic Metal), which he’d hijacked.
Billy pondered this choice for years afterward, not the choice of music (he still loved HIM and The Rasmus) but the effectiveness of challenging social media. He’d wanted to challenge the concept, precept, and design of social media. He had wanted to say that like clicks or thumps up were inverse to integrity. Yet, his vision had been sophomoric, but since he’d been a high school freshman at the time, he didn’t feel particularly ashamed of the effort.
Indeed, while this attempt had earned five years of court probation, he’d also accumulated over thirty million followers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Who wouldn’t want that? Especially after being hired by Google as the youngest on the Trend Analyzation Team — 300k a year.
So, Billy’s mature view on “integrity” was that it was a matter of perspective. As long as one’s efforts were epic, wasn’t that a kind of integrity?