Fully (Face) Booked

“And what is your question for this week?” asked my friend. If this had been a sit-com, I would have rolled my eyes and slapped my forehead.

As it is I remembered that some time ago I had asked my Facebook friends – specifically, those who are known to keep it open all day – for how long they could endure to be without it. I had garnered quite a few replies – but then I had blogged about something else altogether and forgotten all about it.

A couple of phone calls to my Usual Suspects elicited the replies that not much had changed since our last conversations. This, coupled with yesterday’s news item that Oregon and Ohio Police are using Facebook and other social media to trap criminals, led me to look up the replies and quoting some of them here.

Not many miscreants are likely to put “Just robbed a bank” as their Facebook status; but some of them, apparently, are asinine enough to put “Life is good in Barcelona!” Or to check their Facebook status from an open pc, mid-robbery! This, by the by, is the same reason why people whom you never met want to “friend” you on Facebook; they, or someone for whom they are a cat’s-paw, wants to remain updated about your whereabouts and your doings. That is why it is wise to restrict your list of friends, and tighten your privacy settings – because anything you say online might become evidence against you offline (and that means real life) too.

It pays to be diligent about your digital identity. Delete all Tags and Applications that somehow have your name on them.

Melynda Rushing is one parent who taught her daughter Alyssa Hope was spending far too much time on Facebook, with her school grades suffering as a result. Melynda offered her daughter $300 if she would stay off Facebook for one month. I did try to contact both (via Facebook, of course) to see whether the experiment had borne fruit, but neither replied. This could be because they decided it was none of my business to know, or because I wrote from a different time-zone.

My friend Carmen knows what Melynda was feeling. I sometimes actually pray for a power outage. My kids all shut themselves up in their room, communicating with their friends – and with each other – via their pcs. I have a Facebook account too – but I only log on in the evening, for exactly 30 minutes, before I have my pre-bed bath. But I can’t blame Facebook for this man-is-an-island attitude. Even in countries where Facebook is banned, people use LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, or hi5.

Pauline thinks that there’s a reason behind this: It’s psychological, really; they would want to use any available social networks to prove to themselves they can connect with others, despite the imposed limitations. I use Facebook because I babysit my daughters’’ children and it helps me communicate with a world outside nappies and baby food and the like.

For Josephine, the reason she cannot do without Facebook is totally different. I look on it as a tool that helps my business; I have a wall for my products that is separate and distinct from my own personal one. I have to admit I often go on rabbit trails and find that I’ve spent twice the time I’d rationed myself to, though.

Like others, Josephine regularly posts examples of her work on her wall, as well as links to her website.

None of these people could ever, they said, do without their Facebook connections.

Inevitably, there are Facebookers who use their walls to boast of their own achievements and get cheap publicity, or to wind others up, pass inane comments. And under this heading I include artistes and media people, myself included.

Sometimes, Facebook is quick way to ask someone something, without the expense of a telephone call or the bother of text message or an e-mail. So this means that if we had to stop using Facebook for a week, we would have to revert to “more primitive” ways of communication – like the good old telephone.

For others, however, Facebook is a mere diversion. I can take it or leave it, because I know it’s a time-gobbler, Therese told me. But I had to log in after five hours because as you know I set up my [place of work] account under my name and I had to look up something specific.

Frances is a very hip grandparent: All the members of my extended family are my friends on facebook. I am the fulcrum of the family in fact – many of them have connected again after years because of me. Yet they know I am only online between 4.00pm and 6.0-0pm, and they respect that.

I cannot understand why people say they “have” to be on Facebook in order to find things out, Silvana told me. If it’s important, you get it in the online papers (to which I am addicted) or someone will call me and ask me whether I would have heard the news.

The bottom line is that Facebook and other social media are as important to us as we want them to be.

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