“Facebook spoils lives. Fact!” ranted Rich, banging his desk. “If I wanted to keep in touch with someone I once knew ten years ago, I would have done. There are reasons why I don’t – our lives have moved on, maybe we’ve moved away, or maybe, just maybe, we just don’t bloody like each other!”
“Surely there’s no-one in the world who doesn’t like you, Rich,” I ventured, chummily.
He ignored me.
“The embarrassment and pain of someone getting in touch, and asking, ‘so, how have ya been for the last ten years then?’ is a totally pointless question!” he shouted. “I mean, where do you start?? What’s the point even starting?? And where does it stop?? No-one wants exes, psychos, and weirdos from folks’ closets given the power to get in touch, and end up in a situation where you have to answer questions that you never thought you would need to! Am a firm believer of past is in the past.”
“What about Twitter?” I said. I knew I was goading him.
“Don’t start me on people who stick updates about what they had for breakfast, whether they liked it, whether they would eat it again, or maybe choose a healthy alternative!!” he yelled. “I DON’T CARE!! I can see its uses for folk who are maybe traveling, and wanna send pics to folk, but nothing more….I am pleased to have NOT joined and succumbed to the ‘revolution’, and am hoping it phases itself out…”
After his outburst, I suggested he have a nice cup of tea and a sit down. He was sweating slightly and his eyes were bulging. Clearly, this was something he felt very passionate about. And I thought he had a point. Surely there is the danger of offering too much information on social networking sites?
Are friends electric?
Reader, I’ll level with you. I’m on Facebook where my friends are actual friends. I know. It’s radical. I use it to connect with my family, mates and colleagues past and present. Sometimes strangers make contact with me on Facebook but it’s my personal policy not to make Facebook friends with people I don’t know from Adam. But that’s just me. To be honest, I’d find it a bit freaky to share intimate-ish details of my life with complete randoms.
That said though – and here you might accuse me of being a lousy hypocrite – I’m on Twitter where anyone who isn’t obviously crazy can follow my updates. My reasoning behind this is all about personal boundaries.
Personally, I keep my personal life personal. I don’t share information about my private life online at all. There are (to my knowledge) no pictures of my husband and children online and to be honest, that’s the way I like it. What if I was to publish pictures of them they didn’t want to be seen by other people? Surely that’d be an invasion of their privacy. And if I want to talk turkey with my close friends and family, I will do…but I’ll do it privately.
Now I know this view is unfashionable. For lots of people, Facebook is the world’s window into their crustiest crevices. I have one friend who feels the need to share his lavatorial habits with his Facebook friends. (This habit is not helped by his insistence on using the euphemism ‘download.’) Another friend conducts her entire romantic life on Facebook; every day we find out what she and her boyfriend have eaten / seen / stained. I’ve known people have stand-up rows with their new partners about when they should change their relationship status on Facebook, as if a public declaration of love and commitment matters far more than anything they could pledge to each other in private.
And it’s this bit of Facebook that I don’t get.
I love Facebook for the way I can communicate with my friends and see what they’re up to in a general sense.
The stuff I tweet about on Twitter (and I’ll admit the terminology of this technology is a bit embarrassing) is very general. Again, I don’t talk about my life in close-up personal terms at all.
It’s all a question of tone.
I tried to explain this to Rich but he just started shouting about the “good old days when it was rude to phone anyone after 10.30 at night!”
For Facebook, my postings are pithy, general and only rarely do I publicly discuss how I’m feeling about something. On Twitter, it’s the same except with tighter ‘rules’ – because I don’t know some of the people following me. I don’t want to overwhelm them with fatuously gratuitous information and besides, I like keeping my private life…private.
I need privacy; basically I’m a socially-autistic only child who works out of a converted lavatory all day, so maybe I’m in need of a little more social interaction. But I guess that’s the point. Social networking sites don’t offer social interaction – it’s pretend interaction.
But me and Rich both agree on a sort of ‘Rules of Engagement’ for social networking sites. If the popular press is to be believed, Facebook leads to divorce, can ruin your life, wreck your relationships, get you sacked and even killed. So maybe it’s wise not to make private issues public. And after all, it’s always a risk to rely on the comfort of strangers.
I did obtain Rich Sweetman’s full permission to publish his comments in this blog. He did want me to point out that he is not aLuddite. He asked me to tell my Readers that he lives in the modern world and even owns a mobile phone.