Ironically, one of those Facebook memories popped up on my page the other day and because it reminded me of something I didn't want to be reminded of I got rid of it and was told that Facebook was sorry and they would try not to post memories like this again. The following day a similar post appeared and it was a mixture of annoying and upsetting. I wanted to complain and then realised that an individual can complain until he's blue in the face and not a single human being at Facebook central will see it or give a shit.
This reminded me of the changes Facebook made probably getting on for 8 years ago now, when they introduced Timeline and as many as two million users 'rebelled' against it. Except Facebook claims to have over 2 billion users, so 2 million of them equate to essentially a 'lunatic minority' and frankly had 1.9billion people complained Facebook would have taken as much notice of them as an elephant takes notice of a flea. There is no 'democracy' on the commercialised internet.
In recent years Google has been changing everything; getting rid of old things, replacing them with substandard alternatives all geared for the mobile market. They changed the essential Google Maps from an easy user-friendly application to something that really only works for kids on smart phones and there were so few people complaining you only knew about the complaints if you were one of those complaining. They added 'extras' to Chrome, which had a couple of thousand outspoken 'lunatics' bemoaning it for as long as Google allowed the thread on their notice board - three days of quiet and they shut the discussion down - because they knew it was unlikely that even the most devout nutter would start it again elsewhere.
There is a message being disseminated across the corporate internet - it's a subtle one but it's there for all to see. 'We don't give a fuck about you and less about what you think!'
The reason for this isn't as malevolent as you're probably expecting. Companies such as Google probably do take into account feedback, they just choose to ignore it. They are also acutely aware that the vast majority of pissers and moaners tend to be people over a certain age demographic. It is pretty much a given that someone under 30 will accept changes to services without a single qualm, while people over 40 (like me) who have wistful memories of Windows 3.1 and dial-up internet connections, are averse to change and can't accept it. Some don't understand the need for fixing things that aren't broken and others find it too difficult to follow and the reason they are ignored and abused is because they will be dead long before the people who couldn't care less - probably from apoplectic heart attacks caused by anger and bile-spitting.
The internet is a business now; it's not been this FREE anarchic haven of the fair-minded and the idiotic for over a decade and it will never be that again. It is now just a mode of entertainment and information delivery that has changed the way we think about certain things irrevocably.
Don't get me wrong; it isn't just a fascist dictatorship; sometimes changes are so inept or stupid that things are changed back: take Yahoo's redesign; who in their right mind would put the main parts of an email program in the bottom left of a page, a fraction of an inch above the PC's big start button? However, equally an important icon used by Chrome for user-switching and changing the set-up is put right next to the minimise button and despite untold amounts of logical reasons why it was not a good redesign, was steadfastly ignored and when developers prevented users from switching back to older versions of Chrome it felt like they were just taking the piss and doing it in such a way to make sure everyone knew they were in charge and no upstart user was ever going to change it. Where else (apart from a Tory government) would you keep a bad idea just to piss people off.
Does anyone remember Gamehouse Scrabble on Facebook? It was allegedly an unauthorised version that looked suspiciously like the version most people played when they were growing up and many still play today. It was taken away and a replacement that looked like a garish Game Boy version replaced it with added features that now cost you money. There were stories in National newspapers; over 5 million people on line complaining about it and all Mattel and the new on-line developers did was ignore everything until everything went away. That's what happened and today there are a handful of people steadfastly refusing to use the new version and they are seen by others as obviously cutting off their own noses to spite their own faces. The message being sent out is 'Live with it because you can moan until you die and we're going to take zero notice of you'. And remember all of this stuff is free so you haven't even got an economic leg to stand on.
Margaret Thatcher destroyed the British manufacturing tradition and turned us into a service industry-led country - a place where 60% of the country's GDP came from service-led models - but I get the impression she might be turning in her grave (and not on a rotisserie) at how the Service Industry has become the No-Service Industry and a place where the customer is not only no longer always right, but can go fuck himself while he's at it.
The Little Britain 'Computer says No' sketches are actually quite prophetic in their deadpan approach to being told to fuck off, because even if we have a logical and legitimate reason for contacting the infamous 'customer service' desks, we end up walking away feeling as though there wasn't even a hollow victory to be gained. "I'm sorry that isn't possible", "I'm sorry that can't be done", "That isn't company policy", "We can't do that", "It isn't company policy to comment", or, in many ways worse, "We will look into this." Because you know that it's just another way of saying 'Fuck You' but with a time delay to lessen the impact.
If you need to make a complaint about something, or even contact someone for a legitimate reason, finding the route to contact the right person is a minefield in itself. Companies don't want people contacting them; people are nuisances and really if it wasn't for their money...
I wanted to send a letter of complaint (I'm in my 50s we do that kind of thing) to the CEO of a company that I believe not only fucked me over, but did so in a cold heartless way. I found out the name of the CEO, but could I find an email address or even a postal address for him. I approached the company via Twitter and was told to direct any correspondence to their customer advisor desk. I tried the same approach via Facebook and received the same response. I asked the people at the other ends of these pointless accounts if they seriously wanted me to ask the same question, a third time, to an email address, when all I wanted was confirmation of a mailing address. That was exactly what they wanted.
So, despite wanting to kill something by now, I contacted the suggested customer advisor desk and asked them if they could confirm the address I had as an address I could contact their CEO from. They replied by asking me to share my complaint with them. I said it was far too important and personal to share with them and I wanted to contact the CEO as he was the person best placed to deal with my problem. They just repeated themselves and I repeated myself, with some more colourful metaphors thrown in and they just repeated themselves - literally. I was not going to get past their first line of defence under any circumstances. I told them I would send the correspondence to their registered address and if that didn't work I'd resort to smearing their company all over social media until it trended or they talked to me. I get the impression from their lack of response they couldn't give a shit what I do.
Now I actually felt that the complaint I was making was valid. I know anyone can say that, but I'm a reasonable person and this wasn't about something trivial that I was going to piss and moan about for 24 hours and then move onto the next trending moan, this was something I regarded as a direct transgression towards me and my life and I felt the CEO needed to know that some of his employees were running roughshod over people...
Then it dawned on me. He wouldn't give a fuck. No one does, so why should I expect some rich and warmly-wrapped CEO to even acknowledge my letter let alone look into it?
We now live in a world where complaints are just passed off as the ramblings of the latest internet nutter or troll; because it's really easy to be disgruntled at someone because the internet allows it to be very easy; rarely is anything dealt with unless it means money being lost. Complain to Virgin Media about something and you'll be put on hold or shoved from one useless tech support person to the next; threaten to cancel your direct debit and suddenly they have members of staff falling just short of offering you some kind of hand relief and ratcheting up discounts just to ensure they continue to get your money.
It's that facile and hideously transparent.
What is worse is places where this should never apply is now their mantra. The BBC lets you complain and then essentially tells you to fuck off once they've deemed your complaint to be that of a loony - which, according to some things I've read, is always. And there's this new wrinkle, which is if you complain about something publicly you're branded 'left wing' ... Seriously, I have seen repeatedly that people who complain are left wingers, or Corbynistas or communists and what's worse is people are believing it, the same way they believe Jeremy Hunt's lies over the words of 53,000 junior doctors who you all might depend on some day. I mean, who would you believe? People who save lives or a person who has made it quite clear is only interested in the deconstruction of an institute to replace it with a paid for service that only the rich can afford. Well, if the BBC carries on doing Hunt's job for him then I know who most people will believe.
Let's finally put a little perspective on this. People reading this will counter with arguments about how they've never felt that complaining falls on deaf ears or will argue that they've been suitably dealt with by the lower echelons of management quite adequately and in reality if most people have a genuine complaint and go through the long-winded channels to solve it, they probably will... but they have to negotiate that minefield first and minefields are places to deter people from crossing.
What you'll also get is a lot of 'sorry' despite its impact having been lessened by years of politicians using the word like kids eat bogeys. It's like an apology is absolutely fine and dandy and makes everything good and everyone happy.
Plus everything seems so corrupt now; it's almost like its being done out in the open because the only people who will complain about it is The Daily Mirror and a few Corbynistas and, frankly, who gives a shit about them? George Osborne's younger brother has pretty much been outed as a devious sexual predator who is also a practising psychiatrist; who fancies a £5 bet that he'll walk away from his latest scandal completely scott free?
At some point the ordinary person will say enough is enough, but unfortunately for everyone else, no one will take any notice and the ordinary person will just be called a left wing loon and if you ignore him for long enough he'll go away, or die...
This is our world.