Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A few thoughts on Facebook...

Oi! Facebook! No!
I've always said that I would never sign up to Facebook. I simply couldn't see the point. But now I've done just that: I've signed up to Facebook. Why? You might well ask! Well, it's simple. I'd just finished reading Bill Bryson's excellent book, The Road to Little Dribbling – more notes from a small island, and I noticed, having accessed Bill's website, that he runs a Facebook page. I thought I'd sign up and let him know a couple of things: one that I'd penned a small post on wooden bus stops; and two that I really enjoy his writing and even quoted him in a recent leader article I wrote for a global magazine. I think I thought – wrongly – that he might read the blog, check out some of the funny features and get in touch for a chat (in the same way that Bryson often wishes somebody would recognise him in the street). Anyway, he never got in touch and, in all honesty, I didn't expect him to, but now I'm on Facebook, I'm on it. There's been some plus points.

After many years of wondering about a dear old pal of mine, somebody I used to work with in what was then called Shinner's in Sutton – now Allder's, although I think Allder's has gone too – I found him on Facebook. One of these days we'll meet up. He lives in Wallsend, but the opportunity will arise and I look forward to it. The last time I saw my old pal Joe I was still in my teens.

But outside of re-establishing contact with Joe (and a few others) and linking up with existing pals, like my fellow cyclist Andy Smith and Dave (our pal with a Harley, who Phil bought his bike from), it's been a strange experience.

I've only been on there for about a fortnight and I've limited myself to making wise guy comments against things others have posted and occasionally posting something myself, normally promoting this blog. I've even set up a special page for No Visible Lycra, not that it's doing the blog any good. But then I often feel that way about social media, that it doesn't really 'do' anything. And that always leads me to wonder what the hell does it achieve? A lot of people embrace social media and conduct their entire lives on it – or so it seems. Others (I'm guessing) create a reality that doesn't really exist; they put across a version of themselves that, perhaps, is unreal – and there's something sad about that. They want to create some kind of artificial life for themselves, something that portrays them in a certain, more positive light, a better light, perhaps, than the awful reality.

There are people that appear to be on Facebook 24/7. Why? Haven't they got something better to do? Probably not.

I quite like following some of the radicals, like Anonymous, who regularly have something to say about something or other. I occasionally have something to say too. But I'm still wondering about the whole thing and I'm seriously considering closing down my account because there is something addictive about it and I feel drawn towards logging on every morning and at night. I like making inane comments against other people's posts. Today, I was going to make a joke about Agent Orange – something along the lines of 'wasn't he in Take That?' – but I decided that it was the wrong subject to make jokes about and so I refrained. Instead I wrote something a little more intelligent.

I'm still considering calling it a day, but for now I'm rather enjoying linking up with people, albeit fleetingly, and a long way from that much better form of communication – face-to-face contact.

The worrying thing about Facebook (and other forms of social media) is that it lulls you into a false sense of security, a bit like so-called 'fly-on-the-wall documentaries'. You forget that the 'cameras' are there watching you (and the authorities) and eventually throw caution to the wind and start saying outspoken things – and that, of course, is when you're judged by your peers and 'those in charge'. Expect a knock on the door in the early hours.

Recently I wrote a blogpost here on No Visible Lycra about how insular everybody was becoming. I moaned about how people kept in touch on Facebook and I still feel kind of odd, almost hypocritical, about having my own Facebook account. On another level I feel kind of stupid too. Kind of annoyed with myself for weakening. I blame Bill Bryson. Well, you've got to blame somebody, haven't you?

Postscript: 24 February 2016: This evening at around 1930hrs I deleted my Facebook account – it's too boring.

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