A couple of weeks ago I started using Facebook to see if it's any use for old farts like me.
My sons and their ladies had been using it for a while and so I was wondering what I was missing. When I asked them why they used it they said it was the main way they keep in touch with their old high school and college friends.
Hmmm. Even supposing that I actually wanted to re-establish contact with those annoying people that I knew at school and university, they are all part of the baby boomer generation, a.k.a. old farts, so I suspect most of them don't use the Bookface anyway. I mean, if a smart, hip, IT savvy dude like me doesn't use it yet there's no chance for them others.
But occasionally I would receive an email, usually from another blogger, asking me to be their "friend" on Facebook. And I had actually responded in the past and had somehow accumulated a couple of IDs on the Facebook Machine, one as Tillerman Tillerman (don't ask) and one under my real name. But until a couple of weeks ago I had never really looked at the Book of Faces.
So I went on to The Facebook and started looking around. What is it for? Why should I use it? Is it any use?
I soon found several ex-colleagues from work, some family members, and various random people that I had sailed with. I invited them to be my "friends" and I was up and running.
I joined some groups and a network or two. These seemed particularly pointless exercises. It was really quite depressing to find out that "there are 19,603 people in the Newport, RI network" and that NOT ONE of them is my "friend". Bummer. What a loser I am.
But what is a "friend"? In Facebook it seems you can ask anyone to be a "friend" and indeed the Facebook Machine even suggests people I might like to make my friends. These are people I might have heard of... cousins of my son's in-laws, folk who know people who know people I have sailed with... But I resisted the temptation to go around grabbing friends willy nilly. Basically I applied the "would this person recognize me if they saw me in the street and if so would I admit that I knew them?" test.
But maybe I'm doing this wrong. A few days later I read that some of the candidates for chair of the Republican National Committee were competing for that coveted and prestigious post by boasting about how many Friends on Facebook each of them had, and/or how many Twits they had on Twitter. (I may have got that last bit wrong. I don't Tweet. At least not yet.) "Nah, nah, nah, nah I've got 40,000 friends on the Facebook Machine so vote for me." Yeah, right.
When he was a little whippersnapper, my younger son had an imaginary friend called Flash. We often had long chats about Flash, what Flash was doing today, where Flash was, what Flash looked like etc. etc. Facebook is a bit like that. All these imaginary friends whom you barely know tell you the most mundane details of their lives and show you embarrassing photos of their other imaginary friends. It's amazing. And strangely addictive.
It was good to connect with people I had lost touch with years ago. Most of the people I worked with seem to have gone on to lead rewarding, challenging lives... competing in Olympic triathlons, climbing in the Himalayas, starting their own companies, becoming VPs of cool-sounding business. Makes me feel quite inadequate. Of course they could all be lying through their teeth. I haven't quite worked out the etiquette about lying on the Facebook yet.
I was able to share photos with various family members and have a good laugh about how different everyone looked thirty years ago. That was good.
But I am still wondering, "what's the point?" Apart from distracting me from doing any blogging for a couple of weeks, how is thing going to make my life better? On the other hand, perhaps preventing me from blogging for two weeks has already made the world a better place.
I guess I'm starting to see some benefits. One of my new "friends" (in truth someone I have never met in real life, whom I didn't even know existed before) and I did have a long on-line chat about some news relating to my old employer that was vaguely interesting. And when I mentioned on the Bookface that I was planning a sailing trip in March, one of my Bookface sailing "friends" inquired about it and is actually going to join us for part of the adventure. So that's good too.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and write on a wall.