Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blog posts past: I discover the joys of Facebook

I’VE been traipsing around the country a bit this week, so really I should tell you about our climb up Mount Snowdon  (on a train), trips to Chester Zoo and Legoland, and an overnight stay in a motel where a name badge for a certain “Shag-able Sue” was found in the wardrobe.

But instead, I’ve decided to write about the new obsession that is taking over my life - Facebook. Or, to give it its full world wide web URL. Set up in the USA three years ago as a social networking website for college students, it now lets everyone and anyone join. And indeed, it appears like everyone and anyone has now joined - or if they haven’t, they will do very soon.

Unlike Myspace, where most members aged over 25 felt like interlopers in a world that was just a little bit young and cool for them (unless you were a band member, DJ or Teen Spirit It Girl), Facebook embraces the geek in all of us. Whereas with Myspace your chosen wallpaper, font and general page design reflects how “with it” or not you are (and confirms for me that most young types have way better eyesite than I do - some of their pages are illegible), the look of Facebook is clean, functional and designed not to baffle those who grew up with BBC computers at school and Sinclair ZX81s at home.

The result is that although I was introduced to Facebook (as I am to most latest crazes) by someone 10 years younger than me, many more of my generation appear to have signed up to Facebook in recent months than ever dipped their toes into the world of Myspace. I am back in touch with old school and uni friends, workmates and exes that I haven’t seen for years; several of whom I am unlikely to meet in the real world ever again (they thought they could shake me off by moving to another country - they were wrong).

So what do we do on Facebook, apart from write endless cryptic messages on each other’s walls with the main aim of baffling other readers who aren’t in on the joke? Mainly poke each other. “Poke” as in “prod across cyberspace”, that is. And when we tire of that (which is rarely), we resort to the superpoke (tickle, irritate, defenestrate, use the force, throw a sheep at, etc). It’s extremely satisfying, and great for finally resolving those frustrating unspoken issues that have rankled for years, such as “why did you dump me in 1993?”.

And once all energy is spent, we can buy each other drinks; send flowers; replenish friend’s aquariums; turn people into vampires, zombies and werwolves, and compare people’s various traits (apparently I’m the second best dancer in my network of friends, which is a bit worrying. There can’t have been much competition). None of it is real, of course. But then, what is reality?

There are various interest groups to be joined, but most of them tend to peter out pretty quickly into a list of comments such as: “I love Derren Brown!”, “Me too!”, “I love him more!”, “Well, I’m going to marry him!”, “No, he’s mine!”... you get the idea. Facebook isn’t a forum for great thoughts or philosophical discourse (I’ve got the Digital Spy website for that).

But if you’re procrastinating over the commencement of your homework, housework, commute to work or the fact that you really ought to get dressed at some point today before it gets dark, Facebook could be the distraction you’re looking for. It’s changed my life. And my ability to meet deadlines, communicate with family members and maintain reasonable standards of household hygiene and personal grooming. Doesn’t matter though - I look always great in my Facebook profile photo.

* Actually, I will mention Chester Zoo, just for the amusing incident (for everyone else) where I got buzzed by a massive fruitbat in the bat house and fell over a rock in the dark. Bats are amazing, but a bit scary when they’re heading straight for you. And yes,  I know they’ve got sonar systems and would never get tangled up in your hair, but I dare you not to duck.

  • First published on in 2007

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