Friday, May 01, 2009

This week, I have been mostly reviewing my relationship with Facebook. First things first, I've found the whole shebang faintly sinister since I read a Daily Telegraph magazine feature about the founding of the site. I sat, riveted to the bog, by the details of how a high-achieving Billy No-Mates code monkey stole a couple of fellow students' idea for helping people at their institution keep track of each other socially, and turned it into a global business. It struck me as one of those horror B-movie plots - "Muhahaha. Nobody wants to be my friend, but I now OWN THE CONCEPT OF FRIENDSHIP. I have codified social interaction, and in so doing become the king of the friendship hobby. Next stop, the world...". After wiping my arse and shuddering a bit at what I'd just read, I decided that I didn't trust Mark Zuckerberg to run a whelk stall, let alone look after private messages between me and my (real) friends. Consequently, unless it's been impossible for whatever reason, I've tried to steer conversations onto nice, old-fashioned email, which, once my ISP's handed it on to me, lives on my hard drive and is backed up daily.

My disenchantment with the whole Facebook experience has been enhanced by the recent remodelling of the site, taking on some of the dubious innovations of Twitter. I can't see the point of Twitter at all. It seems to consist of drab people writing haikus about their wretched lives in the mistaken impression that they're remotely interesting, and celebrities giving a false impression of intimacy to their fans in the hope that it'll shift more product. In the case of Adam Woodyatt, it somehow manages both. Facebook users now post status updates, whereas once they might have had conversations using the site's Wall feature. For a while, I quite enjoyed coming up with what I thought were amusing status updates, but I suddenly realised that it was just a way of showing off, a nasty habit I've spent most of my adult life trying to break. We seem to be saying more, but communicating less than before, and that's sad.

I don't know what other people's policy for accepting friend requests is, but mine's always been that I have to know and like the person in question. Having been on or around forums and mailing lists since the Internet was just fields, I have quite a few close, valued associates I've never actually met, but I believe that qualifies as knowing someone. Conversely, there are people I've known personally for years, and I've suddenly realised that I have nothing in common with them other than the fact that I've known them for years. I don't actually like the buggers, and I know the feeling to be completely mutual, so why do they try to add me? Then there are the "Friends all over the world! All over the world! None in this country..." operatives who seem to be just hellbent on racking up a high score as if the whole thing's a gigantic pinball machine. An American writer I'd never encountered in any way, shape or form added me, and got ferociously humpty when I rejected her very politely explaining that I didn't know her from Adam. I was missing the whole point of networking, she blustered, and in so doing, did nothing to persuade me that I hadn't been very wise in not accepting her invitation.

So, what's a lad to do? Deactivate my Facebook profile? I tried that once before, for 24 hours or so, and many friends were so concerned that they practically asked me to surrender my tie and shoelaces. If HM Bateman were alive today, 'The Man Who Took His Facebook Profile Down' would be one of his best-loved works. On Wednesday, I finally hit on the compromise. Post a status update saying that all was well, and that if anyone needed me, I could be reached via email. Since then, I've dipped into Facebook for five minutes here and five minutes there, and I feel strangely liberated. The site has its uses (marking birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), but it's my bitch, not vice versa.

Isn't it a bit hypocritical for me to be blogging about the whole matter? Isn't this showing off too? Maybe. I keep this blog as a jotter for random thoughts about subjects that interest me: entertainment, broadcasting, technology, etc, to which like-minded individuals (recent surveys suggest that I have enjoyed at least a pint with 99% of the people who leave comments on this blog) add their valued opinions. As such, I prefer to think of this posting as a starting point for a discussion among friends about how much information we give away about ourselves, the nature of modern friendship, the point of social networking, why withdrawing from Facebook isn't tantamount to topping yourself and why Twitter's for cunts.


Apres la Guerre said...

I was saddened, shocked and stunned to read that you were reading the Daily Telegraph magazine.

I sincerely hope this was because it was too shiny to attach to the nail next to the bog.

LF Barfe said...

Which hand do you use to wipe your arse? Ha. The D Tel is the least worst daily newspaper, although we only get it on Saturdays.

Roman Empress said...

There's a scene in Play It Again Sam where Allen is trying to chat up a girl at the party. He dances up to her, claps his hand above his head, attempts some awkward line or exchange, takes two steps back and then repeats a few times. I see Social Networking a little like that.

That's all I want to say on the matter, really, because I'm a bit irked by this trend of analysing everything into the ground.

LF Barfe said...

Interesting, RE. Does the above-head hand clap not work these days? It's been ages since I watched Play It Again Sam, but the scene in the Chinese restaurant where he's shovelling the rice into his mouth sticks in my mind, as does the scene where he's waxing lyrical about the record he's playing (Oscar Peterson? Miles Davis?) and flings his arms apart, making the record fly out of the sleeve.

Roman Empress said...

It should work. I'd find it hard to resist.

Simon said...

As one of the 1%, I'd just like to say I that should you want to venture down the coast to Felixstowe I'll be happy to share a pint with you.

MrsB uses Facebook mainly for challenging her friends at Word games, the odd live chat with her niece in Canada and browsing other relative's photos. There are other ways to do all three of these online but the other parties don't want to use them so she has to follow suit with Facebook. I'm not a member myself.

LF Barfe said...

Welcome aboard, Simon. I've often wondered about getting off at Ipswich and exploring Felixstowe. I've seen it from Harwich, but that's not quite the same.

The penetration of Facebook and other people's utter dependence on it is the reason why I can't withdraw completely. There are too many good people I would lose touch with completely if I bowed out. However, how in touch with them am I really? It's the illusion of intimacy - we're all growing closer together in some ways and further apart in others. Anyway, I think I've got a handle on it now. Instead of leaving FB on in the background, I check in once a day, very fleetingly, to see what everyone's up to. I'm placing a complete moratorium on status updates about events from my life, because, quite frankly, who cares? In short, I now use Facebook. It doesn't use me.

Richard Lewis said...

i agree with spiny norman : as long as we are discussing it it has power over us. i take my father's philosophy: ignore it and it will go away