My arteries are already hardening due to the hours spent sitting in front my computer, and it seemed an act of madness to commit to more. My colleagues Tweet and blog and I wonder if that, too, will be my fate. Yet for the moment when that dreaded e-mail arrives with news that someone wants to be my friend, I put on my hangdog face and mutter “Don’t rush me. I’m not ready to commit.”
It happened the other day, and I felt so guilty that I had to call my wannabe friend to explain my dilemma. She was understanding -- or pretended to be, and explained that Facebook had become her lifeline. She is a determined cook and had decided to devote herself to writing up her mission of finding fresh produce and interesting recipes into a blog. She does a brilliant job and “cult figure” is not too strong an expression to describe her status now. The blog is called a seasonalcookinturkey in case you want to have a look. Except you can’t. Since the site is hosted on blogspot.com, it is banned along with literally hundreds of thousands of other Turkish blogs.
My not-yet-Facebook-friend is the victim of a bizarre form of collective punishment. Because someone used Blogspot to post what would otherwise be pay-per-view football matches, it seems some 2 million Turkish users of Blogspot have to suffer. Digitürk, the pay-per-view channel, has taken out an injunction. So if you type in seasonalcookinturkey into your browser you are presented with a right-there-in-your face logo of a gavel hitting a block and the bold type warning that you have been caught in the act of trying to reach a site that access to has been banned by a decision of the courts. You feel like a pedophile on the prowl. “But I just wanted to know how to cook with pomegranates!” you explain, but no one answers, and you realize that you are still going to be punished for just as long as it takes for the court to hear the evidence.
My friend has now been forced to join a Spartacus-type underground of rebels who access their own blog sites through proxy servers. When she wants to post a new addition to her page, a relative does it for her from America. But it is not really satisfactory, and I feel her pain. In the interim, she explained, she has turned to Facebook, where the people who would normally write into her blog now fraternize.
I did a quick calculation. Turkey is the third-largest user in the world of Facebook. There are well over 26.5 million people online (or over 26,500,001 if I activate my account). A disproportionate number of them vote or will be able to do so soon. “Ergenekon was wasting its time,” I told my friend. “If they wanted to make this government really unpopular and provoke a coup, they should have got Facebook banned alongside Blogspot.” Then I bit my tongue. Suppose someone, somewhere was listening in to my phone.
“I was just wanted to know how to cook with pomegranates,” I’d explain to the examining magistrate. But I could already see from the look on his face that the only thing being cooked was my goose. He’d already asked, “What does that mean in code?”
It gets worse. I’m taken off to Silivri and thrown into the same cell with a reporter from odatv.com who looks as if the last time he’d taken a shower was in 1998. And over the public address system, Big Brother asks, “Are you or have you ever been a member of Facebook?” I weep. I’m still trying to make up my mind.