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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January revisited

                It is unreasonable to expect much to change within a one year time frame. When I look back at the first three posts of last year the immediate thing that strikes is that they were much shorter-by about half! So either I could not think of much to say at the time, and have become more practised at writing dross, or I have become even more verbose; or a combination of the two.

                The beginning posts were somewhat grumpy. I set out my case for disliking musicals, citing ‘Les Mis’ as a prime example of everything I did not like. This is still true; although following this diatribe I did download the novel [gloriously free for classics] and made a worthy attempt to read it. I have to say now that having tried several times to wade through this famous and admirable classic novel the musical comes across as a little less awful. Never let it be said I cannot climb down a rung or two when proved wrong. You have to admire the makers of said musical, to have constructed a universally popular, understandable tearjerker from such an incomprehensible narrative.

                The Christmas and New Year season is the only holiday period which features [for us in the Northern hemisphere, at least] reliably ghastly weather, no more so in the UK than this year, when we have been battered by gale force winds and squally downpours consisting of rain, sleet and hailstones for about a month now. It is not conducive to going out, for taking bracing walks or winter bike rides. Unless your heart’s desire is to while away the hours in the sales [see previous post, ‘Boxing Day-a Daft Party or a Bun Fight?’] you are stuck with a choice of a good book, getting on with a project [Novel 2 for me] or the dismal TV schedules. The TV planners appear to save all of their dross for the winter months, as if their only objective was to make viewers as miserable as possible. The screen guide is peppered with reality shows, manically overwrought ‘comedy’, ancient movies from the year dot [trotted out every year] and re-runs. I found the only viewable items-‘Death Comes to Pemberley’-a barmy idea but a good romp, and ‘Jane Eyre’-a new adaptation of a reliable yarn. These I recorded, only to discover that Jane Eyre’s recording had been interrupted by a signal failure fifteen minutes before the end [and was no longer available on i-player]. Great…

                It’s not all depressing. We made an overnight trip to Gloucestershire for a birthday party, travelling back through the gloomy rain and the cold today. There are already catkins covering the hazel trees and fluffy buds on the willows, the first signs that the year is turning. Light at the end of the January tunnel! Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday to Me!

                Well there you are-I have completed a year of blogging! And WordPress, in their indomitable wisdom, have seen fit to award me a cup, in honour of the achievement. It was, and still is my intention to continue for as long as possible-even if I have wandered so far down the road to dementia that I cannot recall what I’ve written or whether I’ve written anything.

                It is always a slight concern that I may be repeating myself-[and here I try to avoid the obvious joke…], but in this next year some posts will relate to what I wrote last year, although not all.

                Helpful advisers to bloggers often say that in order to attract more views one should adopt a specialised theme and stick to it; a topic such as angling, car maintenance, mouse mat collecting or fire hydrant spotting. I’d have followed this advice were it not for one overriding obstacle-I do not have a specialised subject. I’m such a lightweight in terms of subject knowledge. I know a little about quite a lot of things, but not a lot about one single thing-including writing, at which I am still an amoeba.

                So I’ve had to continue in my usual, meandering, ranging style, with occasional rants thrown in for good measure.

                It has been good discipline writing a blog post twice a week. The stats still excite me, especially seeing the diverse parts of the world that viewers hail from. There is something thrilling about discovering that someone in Siberia or Patagonia has read a post. Strangely, one particular post, ‘Is the Art of Conversation Dead?-Discuss!’ continues to get loads of hits, despite being long passed into the archives [21.3.14 for anyone interested].

                Whilst I am pleased with my virtual cup I appreciate the comments, likes and visits of followers and visitors far more. But even so, I am less concerned with footfall than some, and not interested in making money from blogging, as a number of so called ‘followers’ have locked in to Anecdotage to show me.

                But I will be making a few changes to Anecdotage this year, mainly in that posts will appear once each week rather than twice. This is mainly because, good discipline and practice [and fun!] though it is, blogging is distracting me from what I consider to be ‘real’ writing, which is to say, my second novel and the short stories, one of which I am determined to get further than a shortlist with!

                So I wish all readers a very Happy New Year and may you make progress in whatever you set out to achieve in 2014. Oh…and see you on Sunday!