Social networking is marketed as a digital path to social empowerment and without question websites like Facebook have made interactions between people easier, communications more frequent and humanity more social.
However, with British commercial broadcaster ITV set to sell Friends Reunited, at an eye watering £150 million pound loss, I am beginning to question the long term appeal of the relatively new phenomenon of social networking.
I currently have 167 friends on Facebook, which many among my peer group would describe as a fairly conservative tally. Among that 167, perhaps 20 could be considered actual friends. The rest are an assortment of ex-class mates, former work colleagues and miscellaneous acquaintances generally acquired out of politeness or boredom.
I have absolutely no desire to reacquaint myself with the majority of these people incorrectly labelled ‘friends’, but without deleting profiles, potentially reducing your friend count to socially unacceptable levels, I am now stuck with them. Before I condemn social networking completely, I will concede that adding new friends, at first, can be fun. I can think of no better way of idling away a dull Tuesday afternoon than by net- stalking former girlfriends. You may also get lucky and find one or two are either gay, making a porn film, documenting an acute mental breakdown, or preferable all three.
But after the initial novelty of curtain twitching has worn off even that becomes tedious, leaving you with the reasons you decided not to remain friends with them in the first place. My major bugbear with sites like Facebook and Twitter is the constant stream of unimaginative tweets and status updates. Despite the infinite possibilities offered by social networking and in particular micro blogging, the majority use it to categorise their mind-numbing exerts of daily life. Rather than utilizing this unique forum to bring forth poignant disseminations on the general issues of the day, your average "facebooker" or "tweeter" would prefer to tell about the content of their lunch.
Last night I happened across a fairly typical example of the common usage of micro-blogging: "Natalie Young has just dropped her jacket potato on the floor". What a pointless berk, would be the most reasonable response, followed quickly by, who gives a Donald Duck? But wait a tension popping minute! Tawdry as this would appear, no less than seven "friends" deemed it sufficiently intriguing to leave additional comments. I shall not tell you what these consisted of for fear that you might be tempted to take your own life; needless to say it drew from the same pool of inspiration.
Before the advent of micro blogs even the most uniquely dull person would have been forced to keep this kind of mundane detail to themselves. But with the immediacy of the internet, this kind of information once consigned as incidental is now "breaking news". The art of intelligent conversation has been compromised to such an extent by the tendencies of your average micro-blogger that spud-related mishaps are now considered noteworthy.
Just to be clear, I do not hate Facebook. It's fantastic for arranging social activities, sharing photographs and even, on rare occasions, reigniting waning friendships. The problem for social networking, like communism, is that it has been compromised by the intrinsically selfish and egotistical nature of human beings. Before the advent of social networking, if you received a letter, telephone call or even an email informing you that one of your friends had "just eaten a cheese roll", then you would assume, quite rightly, that they had taken leave of their senses. The fact that this kind of teeth itching detail is now considered acceptable and is in fact commonplace, is another dismal example of contemporary western civilizations unique capacity to turn innovative new technology into sprit crushing banality.
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