COLUMN: February 9, 2011

I’M QUITE mild-mannered, really. If I worked on the same newspaper as Clark Kent, and somebody referred to “him over there with the glasses, the mild- mannered one” they would be talking about me.

It takes quite a bit to rile me: somebody parking across two bays, Piers Morgan’s continuing success, hearing the words “Chancellor George Osborne.”

But nothing has got my dander up quite so much and so often as a social networking site of which I, until very recently, was a member. For legal reasons I will not name the site in question. Hereafter, I shall refer to it, entirely appropriately, as LockedIn.

LockedIn allows business people to set up connections between themselves and other business people. If you can imagine Facebook without any warmth, wit, or sheer positivity of the human spirit, then you’re very close to understanding what LockedIn is all about. You’re also very close to understanding what Facebook is all about.

I was press-ganged into LockedIn by a former colleague and zealot supporter of all manner of social networking sites. “It’s really good,” she said. “You can connect with all sorts of people who could help your career.”

“All right,” I said. At this point, the only person who could help my career would come equipped with paddles and a defibrillator, but I gave in and set up an account.

For around the next 12 months, my colleague was my only connection on LockedIn. And that was fine. I didn’t trouble LockedIn and it didn’t trouble me. I forgot about it.

And then, one day, an email arrived. From LockedIn. “Oh, yes,” I vaguely remembered. “That’s the site that was going to connect me, etc.” The email was a notification that somebody wanted to connect with me. This somebody sits roughly 15 feet away from me. And if he was going to help me with my career he’d have done it long ago. In any case, I couldn’t remember my password, so I left it. But LockedIn wouldn’t. Every few days, it would send me another little reminder. And another, like a passive- aggressive nag. I buckled.

But, over the next six months, I received an email from LockedIn every other day, asking me to check in and confirm that I knew people. I stopped being discriminating. I would accept anybody, just to stop the needy little site wheedling away.

The final straw came when somebody I slightly knew asked me to write her a recommendation. “I am not a vicar,” I railed. “I can’t write a eulogy for somebody I don’t know.”

I logged on and spent 20 minutes trying to find the hidden instructions on how to destroy my account. The best it would let me do is deactivate my account. That was OK, it had nothing of use in there.

Even then it begged me to tell it why I was leaving. “Look, it’s not me, it’s you,” I told it, albeit at greater length. It felt liberating. I could begin my life again.

Then, at 4.30am on Monday, my email alert rang on my phone, waking me. I checked it. It was LockedIn, the jealous ex, telling me that another work colleague from 10 feet away wanted to connect with me. And there was a little note at the bottom. “Don’t want to receive email notifications? Adjust your message settings.”

But I couldn’t! I’d deactivated my account! Wasn’t that a big enough clue? What did I have to do? Take out a 30-second ad during Britain’s Got Talent? Change my name to Lockedin Isrubbish? Not only was my dander up, but they had also got my goat and were twisting my melon.

I wrote them an email in anger.

“Dear LockedIn,

“I deactivated my pointless account. Stop sending me email reminders at 4.30am, you magical bunch of shit-for-brains idiots.

“Yours lovingly,

“Gary Bainbridge.”

I’ve had nothing since, but I know this isn’t over.

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