Facebook?

Facebook, oh Facebook – what for art thou Facebook? I’ve been on Facebook for three years now, lured in by my friend Elizabeth (who almost immediately stopped using it, the bugger) and then enticed to stay when a friend moved abroad for a while.

In that time it has been a source of comfort and despair, a portal into other people’s lives and a link to the past; a place to post my joys and (very occasionally) my miseries; somewhere to seek people out when bored, or drunk, or lonely. It’s been a short cut to friends and a way of discovering and establishing new connections.

When all’s said and done, I am definitely in credit to the bank of facebook – it has given me far more back than I have ever put in. I’ve connected with near neighbours and found an easy way to keep in touch with relatives near and far.

I enjoy the ‘live’ interactions – when you post something and get an instant riposte, and so begins a banter, with all its weird tangents and footnotes and crazed insights into the minds of people you thought you knew but who actually have hidden depths (they can recite a Shakespearean ode! they also like Throbbing Gristle! they too think the new Orla Keily wallpaper is to DIE for!)

I like viewing people’s pictures, particularly to have a nose around their homes and gardens; I enjoy being kept up to date on their biggest achievements, holidays, nights out, how well the kids are doing, and so on.

I mostly enjoy some of the excellent witticisms, which tend to come from other people’s threads rather than my own (thank you especially Mark Nelson & Sophie Everett, for being funny and entertaining and having friends on the same wavelength). Were I to abandon Facebook the single thing I would miss most would be Friday Night Build Up (you’ll all have to befriend Sophie to get in on the act).

At other times these are precisely the things that I hate about Facebook. A wise woman (well, Suzy Scavenger) once warned me that joining Facebook was akin to going to a school disco; if you were one of the popular kids, you’d probably love it, with your 6,000 friends and 50 apps and mad social life and dazzling existence. The rest of us would be stood around like wallflowers on the margins, feeling like failures for not being interesting or witty enough.

Facebook, you are truly no use in times of trouble. In my experience, the worst thing to do when you’re feeling life’s a bit crap right now is to log onto Facebook. You won’t feel better; any feelings of worthlessness will be further enhanced by seeing everyone else living it up on holiday, or announcing their recent promotion or lottery win, or telling you how marvellous their kids are (especially when your own has just told you you’re the worst mum EVER in the history of the universe.)

If you do decide to issue a cry for help and bare your soul about your miserable existence via a status update I’m not sure the existentialist musings of Dave, who you last saw on a bus in Redditch in 1987, will do the trick; nor does it help when Michelle, who you don’t like that much but felt you had to befriend when she sent her sixth request, tells you to keep smiling 🙂

So, my summary is this: Facebook is fab when you’re feeling fab; great too when you just want cheering up and happen across some witty friends online; but is shit if that’s how you’re feeling.

Of course, all this analysis hardly matters a jot. By the time my kids are old enough to have their own facebook accounts, in three and eight years time, it will be passe, history, yesterday’s news. After all, nothing ever lasts forever. (Remember Friends Reunited?)

It’s already been supplanted by Twitter, a medium I started to use a few months back for work purposes. (I even get measured on my twitter interactions, which is pretty galling.) However, I’m learning to love it – for a homeworker like me, Twitter is the equivalent of standing round the coffee machine exchanging a few words with workmates about the issues of the day. I’ve made loads of connections, helped by the fact that I have something people want (access to free editorial space for their company, idea, etc). I’m meeting up with three Twitter followers on Wednesday in fact. What I really like is that it’s in real time – people respond there and then, just like in conversation. For a home-aloner like me it’s a perfect place to enjoy a coffeebreak.

Well, not perfect exactly. That would be a coffee break with real friends. Nothing’s better than the real thing.

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