I’m afraid this may come as a bit of a shock to some of our younger readers, but I don’t like Facebook. I use Twitter instead at work because you’re only allowed to write a few words so you’ve got to keep it short. This means I can’t get swamped by Uncle Tim’s tediously long diary of a visit to his old school or, worse still, someone or other’s pitiful round robin of a Christmas news letter. In fact, a Christmas Twitter-Card would be great as there’s only enough room to tweet “Hi. I’m alive. Hope U R 2. Mry Crmas. x H.” This is much better than receiving a normal posted card in an envelope as it only contains the essential info of who, status and salutation. No need to guff on about the kids or how Aunt Jenny’s lumbago has got worse. Just who and what and happy Crimbo and voila!
But I hate Facebook because it is so invasive and all pervasive. Not a morning goes by without someone plopping a Facebook reminder into my email inbox. “So and so wants to be friends with you” etc. I mean who cares? And do I really want to know what Sally got for her birthday or where Mike’s going on Friday evening? No I couldn’t care less and who is Sally anyway? As for Mike, the last time I spoke with him was 30 years ago in the BBC canteen and he hasn’t kept in touch with me since then. And nor have I with him, so why on earth does he appear out of the blue and want to be friends with me now? And yet—here’s the clever part about Facebook and one of the reasons it’s so popular—I feel somehow guilty at saying ‘no, go away’. Their invitation invites a sympathetic response… how kind of them to think of me! So I used to sometimes say ‘yes, I want to be friends’ without really thinking about it and that’s when the trouble started.
Every week for the next five years I got news of their favourite recipes, movies or books as well as photos of their unknown children playing on unknown foreign beaches. And each time, I pressed the delete key and it’s gone without me even needing to read it. Of course, I could ‘un-friend’ them and remove them from my social milieu but it seems kind of heartless or mean to do so. Of course, the real blame is not Facebook itself—it’s the users. Or at least some of them… the ones who dribble random thoughts online every day about non-events. They are obviously deluded if they think that we (the recipients) really want to know what colour they’ve painted their kitchen or the name of their favourite restaurant in Luton. So I now feel I’m carrying out a public service and an act of great kindness to them by staying ‘friends’. They possibly feel the same way about me…
Of course there are many more such social sites with weird and wonderful names such as Tumblr, Wanelo, Linked In (which I do use) or WhatsApp etc, but they all seem to try and satisfy similar concepts of humanity’s basic yearnings—i.e. the need to feel loved and wanted plus the advantage of being part of a semi-private online club to fulfil these needs. They are all (including Twitter) sort of modern day secret societies where groups of people can communicate with each other without everyone else being in the loop. In the old days or during times of war, such members would definitely have been arrested for treason. “Oh yes sir, sure thing sir. Telling a few friends about your cat named Tinker were you? Ha Ha! That’s a good one, sir! OK guards, lock him up!”
To take us into the 2015s, I feel we need some really useful new lateral networks for the future. Here’s what I’m working on over the winter:
STINKSTER: a mobile ap that automatically sniffs out frivolous social messages and then posts the most inane and embarrassing ones to an open Blog viewable by all so everyone can see what a prat you were to write such drivel.
SLUDGEBLOK: If you’re on your phone for just one minute over its permitted maximum 6 hours of continual use, it turns the inside of your mobile to a sort of sticky grey silicon sludge. The goo is tasteless and harmless but it renders your phone completely useless for ever.
QUEUELINE: A social network with a difference—you never get to meet anyone! This is because all members are held in an everlasting queue online and fed messages like ‘Press key number 4 to return to the main menu’ or ‘Nearly there—you’re only number 127 in the queue’. You may never get anywhere, but the fact that you know that countless unseen others are online in the same queue as you, provides a sense of warm communal companionship. Some people can get completely addicted and stay online for days (unless they’re also online to SLUDGEBLOK—see above)
SPARRAHAWK: Sits on your phone and destroys small blue birds, all types of Twitter and incoming Tweets.
WAREWOLF: a viral network that climbs out of your phone at night and eats up all your junk email and useless media and then eats the phone itself to destroy all evidence that it ever existed. One more thing… when it’s done, it also eats you.