Over the weekend, after reading a message that had just come through on my phone, I let out a small huff. It was the kind of huff that acts as a tiny, audible exclamation point; the kind that tells you something has been noted that doesn’t deserve the energy or attention of actual words.
Across the table from me, my friend raised an questioning eyebrow, and I turned my phone so she could see the screen.
“Why does my ex-boyfriend always show up as active on Facebook messenger?”
She leaned forward to examine my ex-boyfriend’s smiling face and shrugged.
“Hmmm. Are you still friends with him on Facebook?”
“No!” She may as well have asked if I regularly abseil down the side of my building instead of taking the stairs. The very idea was so ridiculous that it made me laugh. “Definitely not!”
“You must be,” she insisted. “Otherwise he wouldn’t show up.”
“He’s not. There’s no way,” I assured her. “He just always shows up there for no reason.”
She didn’t believe me, so together we checked my Facebook page.
Definitely not friends.
“You SEE?” I said triumphantly. “And yet, he always shows up there in the ‘active now’ list. I don’t get it. There are so many other people I’d rather see there. Why don’t they free up that slot for somebody else?”
We both stared at the screen, puzzled.
“Maybe if I block him, he’ll be replaced?”
My friend shook her head, baffled. “I don’t know. That’s very strange. I’m pretty sure people who you aren’t friends with shouldn’t show up at all…”
I took my phone back and idly scrolled and tapped, searching through Facebook messenger.
“Where’s the block button? Why is this so counterintuitive? Where- Oh, found it.”
I had reached a screen with a long list of all my active contacts and, next to their names, a little hand. For the briefest split second, I wondered at the decision to make the block button an ambiguous hand emoji. Was it a hand block, like, ‘HALT in the name of Caesar!’ or was it a ‘Bye, Felipe’? Without giving it too much thought, I pressed it with a little sigh of relief-
… Which was immediately followed by a despairing, “Ohhhh no!”
My friend, jolted by my reaction, tensed. “What?!”
I turned the phone so she could see the message that had immediately popped up on my screen:
‘You have sent *ex-boyfriend* a wave!’
There was a frozen moment as we absorbed this new information; a beat of silence as we both internalised what had just happened.
Then we locked eyes, and we burst out laughing. We laughed so hard I dropped the phone. We laughed so hard actual tears were streaming down our cheeks.
She finally managed to gasp out, “What? HOW?”
“I just … I pressed … the hand emoji!” I was laughing so hard the words squeaked out of me in bursts.
“But… but what did you think it meant?!”
“I thought it meant, like, “BYE!” or maybe “See you later!””
This sent her into fresh hysterics.
Whenever the laughter started to subside she would lift her head and give a stiff little wave of her hand, and we’d go back to giggling so hard we almost fell off our chairs.
My phone pinged to alert me of a notification, and I wiped my eyes enough to see a message from my ex-boyfriend appear on the screen.
“Hmm.” It read.
Then, immediately afterwards, “Typo?”
Still laughing, I typed a simple “Yes.” I finally located the block button (not actually an ambiguous emoji, as it turns out) and firmly pressed it. Then I folded my arms on the table, lay my head on my forearms and laughed until my sides hurt.
Once we could speak in sentences again (rather than trying to communicate in a pitch only audible to dogs), we leaned back in our chairs and wiped the tears of laughter from our cheeks.
“At least he recognised I would never actually have contacted him on purpose,” I said, looking for the silver lining to my cloud of idiocy.
“True, true,” said my friend, nodding sagely, “And now you know that waves are a thing. And you know how to send one. And you know how to block people. And at least now he’s actually blocked, so he won’t show up anymore! You can just pretend this never happened!”
We reached for my phone and looked at my Messenger.
An incredulous laugh bubbled out of me as I looked at the screen. Guess who was first in line in the ‘Active Now’ list?
Still showing up.
Facebook Messenger must have a sense of humour.