Tuesday, January 13, 2009


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.


Joe said...

Who are you on Facebook? John? Jacob? Tillerman Beads? Dicey? Not Carmen or Lizzie?

Greg and Kris said...

I've been MyBooking or whatever for a while now. I like that I can see what my kids are up to, who their friends are, and how they are doing. The sort of thing that I would know without having to check-in electronically if we all lived in a sod hut on the Great Plains. But we don't, so I faceSpace instead.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. You were missed. I had similar questions about FB. Where I netted out is that I use FB only for people I like and use Linked In for building a broader business network.

In the main my FB "friends" are people I have known for a while, ie real friends and people who I am getting to know, ie potential friends. In that regard folks like you and Ed Killeen are people I have a lot in common with and although I only know you virtually, I consider friends (if I may be so bold).

For people, I have met once or been referred to, I use Linked In. I am not particularly discriminate here. As a result I have 900 people I am linked to in LinkedIn, some of who I actually know :)

One of the things that took me a while to get used to with FB is "ignoring". If someone you have never heard of "friends" me, I have no qualms about "ignoring" them. As a result my network on FB are people I like.

O Docker said...

Oh great, yet another NewTech language I've got to learn.

I'd just figured out the difference between bloggers and goobers - and it turns out, in some cases, there's no difference at all.

Did you know that Smuckers actually makes a product called 'Goober' ? It seems to be Uncrustables without the crust. Those guys are always thinking. I'll bet THEY have a Facebook page.

BTW, did you stop blogging for a while?

bonnie said...

Ah, so that's where you've been!

EVK4 said...

I am fascinated by the intersection of blogger and facebook. For example, you can blog about facebook replacing your blog or write on facebook about a blog post you wrote about facebook.

Tillerman said...

Perhaps I'll just write a book about blogging about facebooking about writing a book.

EVK4 said...

Now *that* would make a good movie. I'll start the "making of" documentary now.

Tim said...

Sad isn't it?

What am I doing here?

PeconicPuffin said...

I'm one of Adam indiscriminate LinkedIn connections...it's an honor.

Facebook often seems like a waste of time, but I've enjoyed the high school reunitings, and younger (under 40) people seem to prefer FB email to regular email.

Twitter is the thing that seems a complete waste of time to me.

Carol Anne said...

My connection at home is too slow for Facebook -- it uses a LOT of graphics. And I'm not allowed to use it at work -- it uses a LOT of bandwidth.

Anonymous said...

According to my HR department, Facebook is a personals and dating site... Fortunately, they are wrong. Actually, it is one of the first and still few places on the internet where people are actually themselves - no fake names Tillerman. It might be too low key for a retiree like you but the true advantage of facebook is that you don't have to actively participate, it is just an easy way to stay available and in contact with old and new friends. Don't try so hard, after a few years you'll appreciate it more.

David Fuller said...

I use a lot of these sites. For me, each has a different purpose. I use Facebook only for friends - like a constantly updating address book that occasionally tells me what a mate is up to on the other side of the world. I rarely connect to business colleagues on Facebook. The only exception I have to that was last week I added Rich Wilson.

For business - Linkedin is a better model. You don't have to be friends. Its about getting things done. Finding opportunites. Networking on a massive scale.

Twitter is interesting. Microblogging allows you to just send short 140 character messages into the universe. People can 'follow' your twitter stream, but again they don't become friends as such.

One of the cool things about twitter is that you can integrate it with your blog and your facebook status update.


EVK4 said...

Anonymous seems to think that Tillerman isn't your real name. I think you should officially change your name so that nobody can accuse you of using fake names.

It's funny when I see Zen I call him Zen despite knowing his real name. I imagine I'm going to do the same thing with Tillerman when I finally meet him.

-EVK4 (both a real and fake name simultaneously)

Greg and Kris said...

Four more friends and I'll have 200. That's as many people as are probably watching Tommy Sheridan and Coolio eat sandwiches and talk about game show ideas on Big Brother live right now.

Yeah. It's just as riveting as it sounds. I can barely tear myself away to watch English people walk by on the sidewalk outside my hotel. Their so exotic.

Tim said...

To be fair I am a user of facebook but my main interest is to keep in touch with my children who are scattered about the country. For that it is really very good. I can also keep in touch with other family, friends and colleagues but I resist the urge to live my life like I'm in some kind of peep-show. Blogging the odd bit about boats,sailing and the like is enough.

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