Socially transmitted disease

By Tilly Gokbudak

It may seem like a cliche, but it really was a very busy Monday afternoon when I had decided to take a break at work in Danville, Va. around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 13. to venture to my Facebook page.

I was talking to Jason, my friend from my hometown of Roanoke, Va. who has recently opened up a microcinema downtown there.

It was as I was talking to Jason that an attractive Turkish woman named Asli, whom I had recently friended on Facebook, started to send me instant messages. I did not know Asli personally, which I now realize was a huge mistake, but most of us who are of Turkish heritage (my late father was Turkish and my mom is American) are very trusting of each other. Asli had sent me a request several weeks before.I know this may seem curious to an outsider, but those of us of Turkish heritage are very trusting of each other, so much so that we would probably let a passerby spend the night at our house even if they were on “Istanbul’s Most Wanted.”

Asli then asked me what my favorite restaurant was. In hindsight, I now want to yell as I type these words, but on Monday, Sept. 13 at 3:30 p.m. it seemed like a rather innocent point of conversation. I had completely forgotten that was in fact my security question on Facebook! I told her the names of two Turkish restaurants. One is Talullah’s in Chapel Hill. The other was the answer to the question.

After a few minutes, I checked her profile. She was in Istanbul. Uh oh. I tried to send her an instant message, but she didn’t respond. I thought it was yet another case of a pretty woman deciding to be aloof. But it wasn’t.

A few minutes later, I had two strange e- mails on my personal account saying that I had changed my user e-mail on Facebook. Then I got another weird e-mail telling me I had changed my password on my Facebook account. And, to add to my shock and horror, I got a similar message from my own e-mail server. I was in deep $%&*!

Through some manuevering, I was able to retain my e-mail server and get that straightened out. But Facebook was another matter. There was no one to talk to. There were no 1-800 numbers. There was no one in Boston or Tulsa, Okla. or Fairfax, Va. or even Karachi who was going to help me.

I opened a new account with my current e-mail under my nickname “Tilly” instead of my real name, Attila. Strangely enough, “Attila Gokbudak” had sent me a Facebook request. By chance, even with my diminished techno-wizardry skills, I was able to figure out a way to report this person for impersonating me.

It was a surreal moment as I looked at the image of myself holding up a dog in front of my cousin’s house in South Carolina. I had changed my Facebook profile picture for the first time in two years just a week prior to this incident.

I had only had three negative incidents on Facebook before. Once I was arguing with an arch right-wing friend from high school who was comparing Barack Obama to Mao Tse Tung, and the other two involved prototypical misunderstandings with women.

And I thought about all the Facebook friends I had made — more than 1,200, including three Olympic athletes, a few graphic artists like Keith Knight who pens the comic strip “The Knight Life,” Greensboro folk singer Bruce Piephoff (an actual friend), four sitting members of Congress — two of whom are actually Republicans — and one Mickey Rourke impersonator.

I had also become reaquainted with a girl who I had gone to elementary school with in Turkey more than 30 years later. And she was the one who found me! I had also rediscovered very good friends from high school and college.

Recently, I got a postcard from a friend who was traveling with Cirque du Soleil in an Eastern European country. It was enough to make me forget about what had happened two days before. I sent her a messaage from my new Facebook account telling her how glad I was to get the postcard. I have yet to get a response. I imagine it is perhaps because she is very busy, but another part of me wonders if she doubts that I am who I say I am. The irony is indeed an unsettling one.