Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The 'F' word

Way back when, before the likes MySpace and Twitter, If I’d referred to ‘the ‘F’ word’ we'd have all known that I was talking about the four-letter expletive. Now, in the digital age of blurbs, blogs and celebrity Twitter pages, it has taken on a different meaning. It’s grown. It’s got double the letters and a few more spikes. I’m talking about Facebook, and yes, this ‘F’ word is beginning to make me feel as dirty as the profane version.

(If I could just throw out an informal, backtracking-before-I’ve-even-begun disclaimer: I am on Facebook. Although I’m not on it very often, everything I say applies to me too.)

In the good old days, Facebook was only for uni students and you were safe in the knowledge that any mishaps would be kept between you and your fellow students. It was a comfy place - and then your mum, your nextdoor neighbour and his cat (literally) and your great, great aunt all jumped on the bandwagon.

Now we all have to tread so carefully. Suddenly we’re haunted by stories of people being fired after inappropriate status updates about skiving off work or entire relationships dissolving at the click of a button revealing: ‘it’s complicated.’

It uncovers the narcissistic nature in us all. Hours are wasted choosing the most fitting, attractive but cool yet nonchalant profile picture. Nights out become punctuated with cheesy Kodak moments and squeals of ‘Ooh I'm going to tag you in that!’

Unwittingly we’re engaging in an unspoken competition to see whose life turned out the best. We’ve all spent hours weeping at the wedding pictures of first loves before stalking the new spouse in question to discover faults - like that Rick Astley fan page on her profile.

We know better than to go on Facebook when feeling down. Your mopey self inevitably ends up reading status update after status update of vague acquaintances saying things like ‘Oh I’ve just got my dream job and I didn't even try!!’ Not to mention the sickening, ‘I have the best boyfriend in the whole wide world; he made me breakfast in bed’, or some do-gooder letting you know they’re ‘feeding Nepalese orphans after having built a school with my bare hands in India’. I’m drowning in everyone’s fancy, overachieving, loved-up, saving the world-spangled lives.

Think, when was the last time you actually wondered what someone you used to know was upto? Can’t remember? Well neither can I, because they are all on Facebook! These people could have been anybody in our imaginations. The troublemaker from school could have been the graphic designer his talent suggested he could be. Instead he turned out to be the waster everyone predicted, still knocking around the same haunts and spending too much time on Facebook.

It takes away the element of mystery and reminds us of the sheer banality of other people’s lives. I know what almost everyone from school became. Surely no good can come from such knowledge. Didn’t we learn from Friends Reunited?!

In the beginning it was so enticing. I was drunk on the power of knowing, of being reacquainted, but that interest dwindles. After the initial curiosity is sated and you soon realise that you are forever stuck with their inane comments about Home and Away, and you realise why you lost touch with them in the first place

More than just disappointment, there’s also the whole new level of malice: the delete button. ‘She upset me ... that’s it, I’m deleting her ass off Facebook. That’ll teach her!’ Sometimes it has to be done. Realistically you are never going to see the guy wearing the Guinness hat at that house party again. But what to do when you bump into someone you deleted on Facebook in real life?! Play nonchalant? Be coy? Feign indifference? Thinking about this brings me out in cold sweats.

Who knew there was an etiquette to it all? People get upset if they’re not included in a note. And if I personally take the time to write someone a long message, the last thing I want to see is them updating their status every two minutes about the growing levels of mould in their fridge instead of replying to me.

I decided a long time ago to distance myself from Facebook. I’m still there because we can’t deny it does have some brilliant uses. Yet I even find myself generally drawn to those who don't have a Facebook profile; they’ve become like the new elite cool set people I want to get to know. Conversation is a delight with those ignorant about pokes, fan pages and tags, and who know the forgotten joys of emailing. Brave new world!

I feel better for having got that off my chest. Now if you don't mind, I’m just off to post this link onto my page ... Read more by Selina.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net