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Huer's Call

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 22, 2012

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The print is so tiny and hard to find, because of course it doesn't want to be found. But it is there, and it does work. I moused and clicked away and finally the confirmation came back to my inbox. As of tomorrow – there's a 14 day change-your-mind period – my name and details will have left Facebook forever. I'm out.

It was never a big part of my life. A Young Person set up my site a few years ago because she thought everyone needed one and was doing me a favour. She asked me a few questions while I was talking to someone else, not really listening, then said "There you are!" And behold, there I was.

Like everyone else with a new toy I played with it for a day or two. What could you do with it? You could send messages – but then you could always phone people up or send e-mails or use something called MSN which I'd already tiptoed around. You could send photos. You could hear about events. Yawn. I wasn't getting it at all. You could have relationships. Ah. Now I got it. You could have friends – or rather Friends.

I'm not sniffy and don't pretend that everyone on social networking sites is needy or insecure. Many of my actual friends use it a lot to keep in touch, swap news and ideas, brighten each others' days. But the downside of this is that being friends has changed its meaning. I know who my friends are. We've shared experiences, helped each other out, been pleased to see each other, had fun, felt comfortable and at home in each others' company. I can look into their eyes and know I'm with someone I like and trust, and so are they.

But Facebook friends seem to have taken a cue from primary school. There you had to learn the art of friendship, the hard way. There, being friends with someone was desperately important, carrying a prize of self-esteem and social status, a rung in the pecking order without which life could be utterly miserable. There, the formality of saying: "I'm friends with Jack, and best friends with Tom, but I've stopped being friends with Jimmy," defined you and shaped your life.

But we're grown-ups, right? We find and cling to people we really like as people, not presences in some dry cyber-world. We don't really need to publish a virtual CV of our likes and dislikes and general wonderfulness. We don't have to chat all day about trivial stuff or parrot our opinions on things we don't know anything about, just to prove – what? OK I can see my hermit's reflection in the eyes of the young, but closing my Facebook account has been a small joy, like itching a faint scratch, stopping an aggravating draught, or turning off a programme I wasn't really listening to. And happily I never even toyed with Twitter...

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