Okay, yes, I know I’m not the first person to call Mark Zuckerberg’s evil brainchild this, but the title is apt.

Many of the complaints I’ve seen about the way people use Facebook are based on the user experience, which up to the last half of 2012, described my full understanding of the service.

Between the humble bragging and the over-sharing, it basically boils down to the fact the everyone you’re really friends with only says things that are touching or witty, and everyone you are pretending to be friends with says that are stupid or pretentious. How odd, our social sensibilities are the same online as they are off it, only on Facebook, no one can tell you’re still wearing pyjama pants at two in the afternoon or examining your nose pickings.

All of the irritations and emotional angst I’d experienced thus far however couldn’t prepare me for what two weeks of community management over the December holidays has wrought on my soul, however. All the time I’d been using Facebook as a regular user, I’d never aware of the nefarious powers at play using this platform as a means to slowly accumulate unimaginable wealth and woo political favour. I have discovered a quasi-criminal underground and it’s got Santa-babies for avatars.

Our unnamed client was targeted by one, or perhaps many, ‘voting syndicates’ that operate on Facebook in order to incredible prizes, like in our case a R1 000 rand shopping voucher at a local hardware chain! That’s right, R1 000 at a local hardware chain. Did you just crap your pants? I thought so. After being warned by ‘fans’ of the page that our competition was an easy target by one of the psychopathic members of a voting syndicate herself, I was left to deal with a deluge of angry private messages by other serial-competition enterers* on how we had handled the first winner.

*Sidenote: I know you entered other competitions because I run other pages. I remember your name, I know where you live and I’ve seen where you sleep. Boo.

Best of all, I had to deal with this tirade of hate over Christmas. A week away past my 30th birthday (this is where the sad music comes). When I should have been relaxing, contemplating my goals and preparing myself for the next decade in my life, I was sitting in my cramped office at home, eating up my personal bandwidth answering message after raging message. For a R1 000 gift voucher at a local hardware chain. You’d have thought we were giving away the cure for AIDS.

By now, of course, in tears, I told my boyfriend about the competition SNAFU and asked him to start working on a new monthly budget going forward, one based on his salary and whatever I can afford working in an falafel van at local soccer games. As a social media manager who actually really likes doing social media, he opened my eyes to the dark world of organised Facebook voting. He pointed to the top names of the ‘haters’ on the message board and told me that he recognised their names from brands whose pages he had run locally.

All of the people getting upset about who had nabbed the first prize, and accusing the winner of being a cheater, were members of voting syndicates themselves. One look at the very long lists of corporate sponsored ‘likes’ on their profiles revealed that they had about as much brand loyalty as most avid Facebook users have self-esteem. I mean really, nobody actually ‘likes’ Telkom, right? And if you did, why would you tell your friends. The better half then asked some questions which put things into perspective:

“During the competition, how many likes have you gotten and how many messages?”

“2 800 and 6.”

“And how many of those six people do you think were genuinely interested in the very specific financial service your client provides.”



Okay. People are assholes. You only have to be a person to know that this is true. I’m not entirely sure of the legalities of voting syndicates, or their inherent moral wrongness. I have friends on Facebook that I only befriended because of an existing business connection. Or because I was just very surprised that they weren’t dead yet.

(And of course, there are my real, true friends- like anyone who reads this blog every 4 months.)

I’m not even sure how to check if someone is in a voting syndicate- for all the issues you might have with Facebook’s privacy measures, it does keep you pretty safe from companies if you’ve got the right settings- and I don’t know that checking isn’t crossing some kind of line. Also, the dazzling, coveted prize that has driven these loonies to drooling lust is, let’s recap one last time, a R1 000 gift voucher to a local hardware chain.

This is less than 100 pounds sterling, 100 euros and will leave you with 100 American dollars and change for lunch. It’s not a fuck load of cash. Ocean’s 11 aren’t planning a heist on the page for it any time soon. And even if it was a lot of money- you can only spend it at a local hardware chain. Unless you are a professional tradesman or a serial killer, there are only so many paint samples and tubes of superglue you actually need.

I have learned though, that the reason I’ve never won anything is because I believe in chance.  And that if you are joining voting syndicates, stalking small companies for competitions and then sending aggressive, abrasive emails to community managers (who, let’s face it, are NOT that high up in any company’s food chain and probably don’t have the power to actually do anything to help you) then you are an asshole and I recommend you do the following, in order:

1. Get a job

2. Get a life

3. Get fucked.

Oh, and don’t forget to like my page on Facebook.