Friday, 1 November 2013


I was sitting in a restaurant the other evening when I heard a lady behind me ask her daughter, 'why do you have to sit there with your mobile phone in one hand?'  And the reply, in that slightly whiny, questioning way that teenagers have, was 'I need to take a photograph of my dinner?'  Ah, yes of course.

Well, we've all been guilty of that, but it reminded me of an interview with a teenager I heard on the radio the other day about Facebook releasing personal information.  She said two incidental things that struck me - firstly that she spends a large amount of her online time managing her relationships with 'friends' she has never met.  Well, we all do that too.  But she made the point that a chance, ill-considered remark could ruin her relationships in a flash, so she has to devote time to picking words and phrases judicially.  Actual friends of hers who didn't take such care have been devastated by the transformation of peaceful exchanges into battlegrounds.  And it is not just one or two 'friends' who turn - the hostility quickly snowballs into hate campaigns from anywhere on the website with distressing results.  I hadn't viewed social networking sites as quite such a minefield before.  It makes one think seriously before embarking on a new one.

The interviewee therefore makes sure she never ignores any online friend and also that she responds appropriately.  So much so in fact, that she has to interrupt interaction with friends she is with in order to manage the online relationship.  I can see how this would happen.  And of course you don't have the benefit of facial expression and tone of voice to add meaning to your words.  But the natural conclusion is that the online friendship is more important than the real one. 

But then she said something quite extraordinary.  Her friends understand when she ignores them to attend to her mobile device; they are likely to do the same.  'And anyway', she added.  'We have already sent each other tweets about how we felt this morning and what we had for breakfast, so we don't really have anything to talk about.' 

So it seems that, far from bringing us all into happy contact with each other and improving our comfortable interaction, the Internet has trivialised and hollowed out our relationships and given us instead a compulsive Russian roulette of a lifestyle with all the anxiety and insecurity we used to have only in the playground, but without the physical contact.

Actually, it hasn't done that for me.  I value the online friends I have, but, unfashionably, I don't take the online friends with me when I meet my real friends.  I manage the real friendships as carefully as I can and also try to meet up when I have something to say, rather than sending a text and then meeting with nothing left of importance to talk about.  But clearly I am now past the young fogey stage. 

But I also wonder, if meeting up with friends has become so unnecessary, whether texting and tweeting and online ineraction won't lead to more isolation and alienation.  There must also be the danger that, with online relationships taking over, we wish more and more to meet up with strangers we have met online, without really knowing who or what they are.  Young people remain remarkably indiscreet online and the trend for selfies has probably increased that.  The girl in the interview saw no problem incidentally with Facebook releasing her personal details.

Anyway you are all lovely.  Honest.  Yes, even you.


  1. You too. I have been in Facebook now for many years. Mainly my idea was to again have contact with the family and old friends, which worked. I was caught up in games for a time,, but let's forget that. I was going to leave Facebook because all that drivel you talk about in your post was happening. I wondered at the human intelligence and whether it was really necessary to tell the Facebook world I am fed up, I hate my partner, I cooked a lovely dinner etc. etc. Believe me it is not only the teens but the frustrated housewives and even golden oldies (like myself). My rescue from the facebook illusion was to create my own page, something like a company page. There I can cross post my blogs (Blogspot is just a backup my main page is Wordpress where I have over 2,000 followers). I like to write blogs, stories etc. and in WordPress I have found my little world, mainly interacting with other writers, journalists etc. The latest fad in Facebook is to establish your groups there. I can understand it as Blogger is not really the highlight of contacts if you have a group here. It is more by luck than judgement if we actually find each other and for some the html bill gates stuff is just too complicated. I don't mind the groups in Facebook, belong to a couple myself, but they get overrun and I just do not have to time to click on everyone's contribution with "great", "wonderful" etc. I would like to, but there are too many people in the groups to do justice to everything. There I am glad for the "like" button, at least it shows I was there and acknowledge what you posted. As far as releasing personal details that is everyone's fault that releases them to Facebook. There are a few details from me, but a minimum. If facebook releases them it is my fault for being there and done that. I am now old enough to know what or what not to tell, say, do.

  2. "With age comes wisdom', or so the saying goes. I think there's a grain of truth in it. I only joined the Facebook community a month ago. The group of friends I have there are the group I was originally connected to on Multiply before it's demise, who I've re-connected to. They are, for the most part, a fairly mature group, and as far as I'm aware, not prone to this constant need to visit the page of every friend every day. I post if I feel like it, I visit if I feel like it. No-one has yet 'unfriended' me or thrown their toys out of their pram because I haven't visited in the last 30 seconds. I also run a photographic group over on FB, but I also run one here on Blogger. There is some crossover of the people who take part in them.Unlike Pat, the one thing I hate about FB is the 'like' button. I think it encourages this trend of not communicating properly. If I like a post or a photo I will always comment on it and also click 'like'. I rarely just click 'like' and move on. As for personal details, I am fully aware that anything I post, not just on FB but anywhere on the internet, will remain there and probably accessible to anyone for all time, therefore I am careful about what I post.

  3. Thanks for these comments. I still don't know what to do. I do get interaction in Fb, but precious little anywhere else. And I still feel the need to have some swerious discussions sometimes. Maybe I should get out more.

  4. I never gave up my real friends and in the meantime met my onlne friends from Multiply as you are one . I'm very happy for that .

  5. I gave up on Facebook about 7 years ago. I found it inane and vacuous. I used to feel pressure to blog several times a week, but got past that stage and now just drop in to leave a post when I have time. Right now I am enjoying reading everybody else's blogs. I do look forward to that peaceful passtime. I just wish I could find a few more contacts in places like Africa and India and NZ and AU or South America or Japan. I want to learn about the 'regular folk' in other cultures.