Gay men, Facebook and Pakistan

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Exactly 7 months after starting the full time [loveMachine] project, here are some numbers and speculations around this experiment.

As you know, the [loveMachine] is a bot that logs into my Facebook account to click on every possible like button it can find (although it doesn’t click on ads, neither becomes fan of new pages by itself). For a while, I was clicking likes on both posts and comments, but since Facebook detected unusual behavior and was blocking the old script too often, I had to switch to a different approach which doesn’t like comments anymore.

There has been lately an American journalist who has tried this “liking behavior” manually for 48 hours. He has extensively written about the experience from a news feed point of view and this has even made ripples in other medias. But messing up with the Facebook news filtering algorithm, although interesting, is just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that the influence on your friends, or new friends, is the next one. Once your news feed is messed up, there is not much to say about it anymore. It’s funny or horrible (or both) but not really something you can speculate further on. This excessive liking behavior, when done over a long period of time, has more impact than just messing up with the news feed algorithm. It attracks new friends. I’m also barely scratching the surface here but I guess we enter here the world of (obsessive?) attention seekers or something related to this.

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So, after 212 days (7 months since February 4th), I’ve finally passed the 1000 friends limit. And to celebrate this, since I don’t know half of these people anymore, I’ve change the privacy settings to “public”.

Since this project started, I’ve received 685 friend requests, all accepted, but I only count 555 new friends so far. There might be many reasons for this difference. I guess the most obvious one is that people “unfriend”, or even ban, me afterwards when they realize I’m not the friend they expected.

I can’t really tell precisely who all these new friends are. I sometimes try to find out. But it’s mostly pointless since for most of them I don’t speak their language. The automatic Facebook translator is of little help here also, totally lost in translation.

What I can say though, is that I’ve somehow attracted Pakistani profiles. Some are maybe Facebook bots (I’ve given up trying to detect who was a bot or not), but some are “legit” profiles of what seems to be gay men living in Islamabad. How did I get into the gay community of Pakistan is a mystery. It could be through the gay community of Tel-Aviv, because that’s where I got a lot of friend request from, at the beginning. But I can’t even tell. Why the Israeli gays then? The magic of 6 degrees of separation and some facebook algo-randomness, I guess. Who knows?

But what strikes me the most is that all these men are from what I call “religious states” (no offense meant). It’s just that what western medias are showing from these countries is what seems to be conservative and religiously (if not rigorously) oriented governments. So it first came out as a surprise to me that there even existed a gay community in these countries (sorry for lack of culture here), but I was also impressed by the excessive activity this community has on Facebook (this might explain also why I get so much friend request). When I mean excessive activity, it’s that it takes a good chunk of my Facebook news feed. So since my bot likes everything, you can guess how the spiral effect takes place.

For any journalists or sociologists, I think there is some research to do here. Again, pardon my ignorance if this has been done, but I would certainly find interesting to research and expose the relation between Facebook, gay men and “religious” or conservative states.

Tel-Aviv, as Wikipedia will tell you, is the Mecca of gay middle east. It has its own gay pride parade. But Pakistan is not what we perceive as a gay friendly country (I’m not even sure Israel is really a gay friendly country either). But I’m sure these men might have a lot to say about how Facebook is a key (or not) in an environment where they might not be so welcome.

Sorry if this article is half way written, but I’m going to leave it like that. Been trying to put my head around this subject for a while, but I can’t find a better angle of approach than just telling things this way. I’m mostly lacking language knowledge and time to investigate this further, so if anybody feels this interesting enough, I can “filter” some of my “friends” for you to approach and interview.

Although this article will be automatically posted on my Facebook profile, I certainly feel that we are drifting apart. Today Facebook asked me if I was living in Pakistan, I guess they won’t bother asking if I’m gay.