Social Networking

In the closing stages of 2009 I moved, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century: I joined the social networking world. That is, I created a Facebook page.

I caved on my long-standing aversion to groups of any kind (an invitation to a tea party is likely to send me running for the first ferry off the island or remember some long-standing, non-existent prior engagement).

This came at the behest of a cousin in England who informed me ?were all on!!get with it U!! U an im sb on 2!!!!!!!? (as in: we’re all on. Get with it, you. You and him should be on too).

Freedom from spelling and grammar rules, not to mention an allowable overuse of the apostrophe, is obviously a draw for some people.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it a whirl and so spent a relatively painless few minutes pasting a photo of my dog doing an imitation of me on my ?wall.? I carefully avoided all questions about what I like for breakfast, what I want to be when I grow up (still working on that one anyway), and where I like to go on vacation (get your own holiday ideas!).

Now, I have more ?friends? than I know what to do with; half of them I don’t actually know and half of the other half I’m not sure I’d socialize with in the ?real? world. Each day, Facebook gives me hints as to who might make a good friend. Generally, if You’re a friend of another friend then You’re deemed good enough to be my friend. I thought this was very generous of the nice people who administer Facebook, until my husband’s ex-wife was suggested. Repeatedly.

I was an awkward teenager (there are some who would say that I’m still awkward, but That’s another topic altogether) and found it difficult to make friends. If I was a teenager today, it would be so easy: just click that ?Add as friend? button, wait for them to confirm, and You’re all set. Then, when people see that You’re a friend of Joe Smith over in New York, they can’t wait to make you their friend. You must be cool if you have friends in New York, I guess.

My brother’s name is Rob Purfield?he’s into self-promotion so he won’t mind me sharing that with you. One of our cousins, who splatters her whole life on Facebook but who probably would mind if I told you her name, decided that she’d like to add my brother as a friend. So she searched for his name on Facebook and got about 15 results, one of whom is my brother. She then requested friendship with all of them. She now has every Rob Purfield in the world as a friend. Except my brother. He has a Facebook page, but apparently he’s very fussy about who his friends are. He hasn’t accepted my plea to be his friend either. He obviously still has outstanding issues about me sitting on him and pulling his hair when he was seven.

When I was a kid, if you were nosy about someone’s life you surreptitiously rifled through their desk at school, or you took a little peek at their well-hidden diary before rushing out into the schoolyard to tell all. Now, you openly browse their Facebook pages and they kindly lay it all out for you so as to save you the bother of looking or?heaven forbid?phoning and asking how their life is. Who has time for that these days?

I’ve actually found it quite fascinating how we’re all eager to share every minute detail about our lives with virtual friends, not to mention virtual strangers. It’s no wonder that humorists have picked up on social networking as working fodder:

The phone rings. ?Hi, Twitter was down this morning. Could you just tell me what you had for breakfast? Thanks!?

Or someone arriving at the pearly gates: ?What have you done with your life?? ?What? Haven’t you been following me on Facebook??

And my personal favourite: ?Got nothing to say? Say it on Twitter!?

The really amusing thing about social networking sites in general, and Facebook in particular, is how people manage to trip themselves up without thinking. There are stories in the media about how insurance companies check Facebook pages to see what claimants are up to. Why would you claim a debilitating injury after a fender bender and then post a picture of yourself two days later doing the samba with a glass of wine in one hand and waving a piece of underwear in the other?

How about the woman who phoned in sick and then immediately went on Facebook to exclaim how dense she thought her boss was, because he didn’t figure out that she was faking . . . again? She’d forgotten that she’d added him as one of her three thousand friends. Oops.

One of the benefits of having a friend on Facebook is that they can be ?unfriended? in a nanosecond. And the word ?unfriend? was the word of 2009 for the New Oxford American Dictionary. doesn’t that tell us something?

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