Saturday, 5 July 2008

Stop Press: Journalist Doesn't Like Something

Writing in the Times, Adam Springsteen clearly has it in for Facebook, or at least its users:
Facebook is a goldmine of tosh – a monument to mediocrity. Once the preserve of institutions of higher learning, Facebook now caters to the untutored masses – anyone with time on their hands and a keyboard beneath them.
If I had a penny for every article like this I've read - whether about Facebook or some other form of social phenomenon - I'd have, ooh, about 27p by now. OK, that's not the best approach. What was my point again? Oh yes, my point is that this sort of thing is such an easy target for the lazy journalist.

A relatively recent development? Good, we can use words like 'craze' and 'hype'.
Something with a lean towards technology? Great, that's the 'nerd' box ticked, then.
Appears to be worth - on paper at least - a whole bucketload of cash for someone? I can let my bitterness at not having thought of it first shine through.

I bet when Gutenberg was perfecting movable type, bringing the printed word to the people, there was someone weaselly scribing away that this sort of thing was really not on at all. About how it would mean the great unwashed were going to be wasting their time reading stuff - when they could have been spending their time more effectively by fighting in feudal wars or contracting botulism.

I will declare an interest here. Allow me to stand up to the room and say, "My name is blahblahblah and I am a Facebook user." In Springsteen's world, that clearly makes me some sort of saddo with limited social skills and quite probably questionable personal hygiene.

But the truth is that in the main, the people I have as friends on Facebook are, well, my friends. They are people in whom I'm genuinely interested. If I'm in the pub with them I'll ask them how they are. The better mannered ones will respond in kind. We will converse on the important matters of the day. As the night progresses we'll put the world to rights.

Of course, I can't do that every night. For one thing, most of the pubs around here are borderline ropey. So we use other methods to keep in touch. And generally it works well, because I'm quite choosy about the people who get onto my friends list.

Springsteen does make some good points. About the mind-blowing awfulness of the status updates some people write, for instance. "Bernard is watching 'Deal Or No Deal'". Wowsers. "Bernard is going to the toilet." I shall alert the media at once. But the people I know - OK, we're not a latter day Bloomsbury Group - but we're all generally quite witty, so when a status is updated, it's normally a 20-word missive of some weight.

And I will concede that there can be a whole bunch of crap on Facebook, if you allow it. I know of some people whose Facebook profile page looks like the fight deck of Concorde, it has so many buttons and widgets. I've lost count of the number of times I've been invited to throw my goat at a zombie, or something. But it's really very easy to ignore it all.

So I use Facebook as I prefer. As a communications tool. I can easily get hold of the people I want to reach, often instantly. The other night Mike and I had a twenty minute instant conversation about a website we're building for our film production efforts. As we were both online we could do things there and then where a phone call wouldn't have worked. Brother no.2 could be anywhere in the world at any given time, but as he briefly checks his page most nights we can keep up to date with (most of) his exploits.

So I'm going to stick up for Facebook. It's a tool, nothing more, nothing less. The kids who mess around on it would only have been doing essentially the same thing down the park with a litre of cider five years ago.

And anyway, according to someone in my network, I'm the fifth sexiest person they know.

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