Friday, 22 August 2014

Jimmy McButt

And so I walked from the burning wreckage, reborn, as Mr Jimmy McButt.

It all started with logging into stuff. There was too much stuff. Passwords, usernames, security phrases, captchas, taste tests -- when I wasn't struggling with a long lost password I was straining to remember my own goddamn name. It was a daily struggle. One time Yahoo decided to link my Flickr account to my Yahoo account -- which I hadn't touched since 2001. Handily, they sent me a new password to my Hotmail account -- also unused since the early 00s, and now long expired. I stared into the night, a broken man.

And then they did it: the 'sign in with Facebook' option. Whoever came up with that - they're a genius. Not only because it stopped us all from punching our computers into the sky, but because it effectively let Facebook loose on the entire internet. Your Facebook account could dig its data-hungry fingers into every single site you visit, letting them (THEM) capitalise on your laziness by finding out even more about you. Right now, as we speak, they're tailoring their ad space to your specific interests, curiosities and perversions, and then charging their advertisers accordingly.

You, in return, are spared the agony of remembering and typing in a password.

It was sort of win-win, if your idea of winning is to have the websites you sign into randomly post crap on your Facebook feed and to have an enormous humming server in Salt Lake City know more about you than you do.

Personally, it was just too high a price. I enjoyed the ease of the Facebook sign-in -- but not the data-mining downside. I concluded that there must be some way to have the best of both worlds.

Which is where Jimmy McButt came in.

Mister McButt (Jim to his friends) served as a forcefield, a splatter-guard -- a fake Facebook account with which to "sign in with Facebook" to 3rd-party sites, without coming back to me. The real me.

Jimmy McButt would happily sign in to Facebook to hold forth on the comments threads of Youtube and Buzzfeed, and had no qualms whether anyone liked his opinions or not. Nor would he care if Youtube and Buzzfeed decided to pump his Facebook feed with "Jimmy McButt commented on this: 16 Facts About Marty McFly That Will Totally Blow Your Mind". McButt was cool with it. He was very chill. Relaxed. A cool guy. Calm under pressure. Good with heavy machinery. And cars.

From that day on I traversed the internet as Jimmy McButt, free from molestation of my (real) gmail account, while Jim's gmail took a pasting. I even got postage delivered to my house under Mr McButt, safe in the knowledge that Amazon had a record of only Jimmy's horrendous taste in books, and not of my own.

I continued to wear the Jimmy McButt costume, and his internet presence grew: Twitter, Flickr, the bank, this blog -- everything was easier as McButt. Life got easier. I became addicted. I couldn't go back. Not now. I clicked 'like' on another Buzzfeed post and felt a zing of excitement as it notified Mr McButt's Facebook friends without me giving the slightest of shits. Go back to my old ways? No. There was too much at stake now.

And so one evening I did it. I plucked up the courage and made it final. I drove the Skoda hard and fast to Lower's Peak, tossing myself from the driver's side just in time to see the bodywork shine briefly in the yellow moonlight, hanging in the air like a sharp intake of breath, before slamming nose-first into the rocks below.

And I walked from the burning wreckage as Jimmy McButt.

Doors began to open to me. People would call me 'sir' in the street. I'd enter 4-star restaurants and be shown to the best table in the house. Valets would pull up with my car as soon as we stepped from the lobby, our cheeks blossomed with fine wine and expensive steak.The lights shone brighter than ever before, and they shone just for me, Jimmy James McButt -- wheeler, dealer, and fearless orderer of dubious goods online. It all happened so fast, and it all felt like a wonderful dream that would last forever. But it never could. Nothing ever can.

One morning I awoke to a knock at the door. The postman had been, he'd got the wrong house. This must be yours. They handed me the parcel. I looked down at the address: a parcel for Mr McButt. For me.

"See you round, Jim", said my neighbour, as I stared after them. See you round, Jim. I closed the door.

And I knew. They'd got me. They'd finally got me. All this time, hiding behind a new identity, a new name, a new personality -- I was merely grafting it onto my old one. I ceased to be Michael Kerby and was now Jimmy McButt and it didn't make a goddamn lick of difference.

I sat down, hard, on my computer chair. I was dazed. In shock. Where to now? Where do I go? I looked up at the ceiling and imagined thousands of tiny cameras, tiny eyes, staring down at me, watching me, logging my every movement and microscopic sniffle under McButt, J. It was hopeless. Or was it?

I turned to the keyboard. Facebook. Delete profile. Yes, I'm sure. I watched Jimmy McButt vanish into the ether. See you round, Jim.

Register. I thought for a moment, staring at the empty space, at the new beginning, another one, stretching out before me.

I placed my hands on the keyboard, tapped in a new name, and was reborn.

Experienced, sophisticated, worldly. A better model.

"You Won't Believe These 11 Cats That Look Exactly Like Marty McFly"

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