Facebook: Friend, Foe or Farce?

Have Facebook and Twitter changed the definition of friendship? And have they altered the way we view and approach friendship?

A quick look at some of your Facebook friends’ friend lists will reveal that some have literally hundreds of ‘friends’. How many of these would have been termed friends before the advent of social media? Before the likes of Facebook a friend would have been someone you met up with, if not frequently then on some kind of regular basis. Even the couple you met while on holiday in Gran Canaria would only be your friends if you maintained face to face contact with physical visits or repeat holidays. Unless you’d exchanged addresses and phone numbers the holiday friendship would disappear into the photograph album along with the memories.

Is it some kind of competition? As in, “I have five hundred friends and you have six, therefore I am infinitely more popular and a social butterfly whereas you are a sad, lonely individual”.

Is there a need for a new set of rules, an etiquette for social media sites? I’m wondering because besides the well documented episodes of Facebook bullying there is a boulder-strewn precipice of a path to negotiate where social media friendship is concerned.

What should you do if invited to become a friend by someone to whom you do not wish to expose your life? And what of those to whom you’ve extended ‘friend’ invitations and have received no response? I must confess here, reader that I have experienced both these occurrences during my few years of Facebook. Does the pleasure of ‘friend’ acceptance outweigh the pain of ignorance? It is worthwhile considering, here, the nature of the friendship-if the ignoring ‘friend’ is from a mere, fleeting holiday encounter it can be dismissed. If, however it is your childhood best buddy, the inseparable companion you grew up with, shared your innermost secrets with, laughed and cried with, it is understandable to feel a degree of rejection. But it is worth remembering that these names on the screen are not really real friendships; they are mere digital contacts.

Among my own friends, old and new, a number do not participate at all in social media. Their reasons vary from ‘not knowing how to use it’ to ‘it’s boring’. There is an element of truth to the second complaint, in that we all have FB contacts who spew out the minutiae of their daily lives like effluent, although I point out to those who criticise that there are ways to avoid seeing tedious posts [eg turning them off or scrolling past them]. And unlike many, I do enjoy seeing photos of the places others visit-I may well want to visit those places myself.

So are social media sites overall a good thing? I’d say yes, providing you treat them as the shallow, cursory level of contact they are. But Facebook friends are not a substitute for real, talking, moving, laughing, gesticulating, sharing-experiences people.

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How Rude!

                Now I’m aware, as I begin this post, that this one is going to come across as very GOW [Grumpy Old Woman], but I’m going ahead with it anyway. Is my perception somehow skewed, or am I correct in noticing that general politeness, manners and consideration are on the decline? Could it be my heightened sensitivity due to becoming a geriatric? [most senses become rather more dull as one progresses towards expiry, don’t they?] Perhaps in the previous life of gainful employment [gainful to me financially rather than in any other respect] I was too knackered to notice anything much at all.

                Back in the hazy mists of time there used to be a sitcom called ‘Citizen Smith’, starring Robert Lindsay as a young, urban anarchist type attempting to change the world. Faced with anyone whose behaviour he disapproved of he’d write their name in a notebook and promise, ‘Come the revolution, they’d be up against the wall’. I can often find myself sympathising with his ideals. Whether a recent phenomenon or not, there are glaring and unacceptable behaviours out there in society, in all spheres. This is just a random selection of them.

Yacking shop assistants.

This is ignorant. They gas to each other while they are serving you, failing to even so much as look your way as they pass your change. Pointed and loud ‘thank yous’ rarely have any effect. I’ve experienced this in supermarkets, small shops, cafes and bars.

Pedestrians.

Two or more people are walking along a pavement together, side by side. They are coming towards you. The width of the pavement does not allow for more than two. What happens? They continue to walk towards you as if you were invisible, causing you to flatten yourself against the wall or step into the road to avoid being trampled underfoot. Nothing ever induces anyone to walk single file to enable someone to pass. And similarly…

Drivers.

Where only one column of traffic may access the road due to parked cars etc it is polite to wait. Most do not wait. If you are the waiting car, how often does anyone wave their thanks? Then there are the people who push into a queue uninvited, or drive across a ‘keep clear’ box and sit there, studiously looking ahead to avoid your wrath.

Public Transport.

Shouting on mobile phones [often explicit details of sexual exploits], screeching to accompanying passengers, throwing rubbish on the floor-these are the least offensive activities on the bus. Worse are actual assaults. I’ve been fortunate so far not to experience too much of this but know those who have.

Doors.

Sailing through a held door and ignoring the kind holder of it, bullishly pushing through and letting it swing back in the next person’s face etc etc. You know what I mean.

The Cinema.[or theatre, or concert-any performance really]

Eating noisily [and malodorously], chattering, commenting, shrieking, talking on mobile phones, wearing big hats, putting feet up on back of seats.

Planes.

All of the above plus reclining the seat back as far as it will go so it squeezes the person in front to a pulp, spreading out over everyone else’s seat [and both armrests].

Supermarkets.

Trolley wars. Need I say more?

                There’s no room in the curriculum for etiquette lessons. In any case the rudiments need to be learned before the onset of school. So come on Mums and Dads, ‘teach your children well’ [Crosby, Stills and Nash]. You’ll be doing them [and us!] a big favour.