An article i wrote for a website some time ago....
//Accept friend invitation?//
Facebook, Bebo, Myspace. What do these words say to you? Some will have no idea, and probably guess that they are pop groups vying for this years Christmas number 1 spot. For the majority of people in the 15-40 demographic however, they are as common in daily vocabulary in the same way as words like ‘Big Mac, ipod and tomtom.”
For those at the back, the aforementioned are websites. Social networking sites to be more precise. They were designed with the sole intention of linking people together more easily and efficiently. The idea is pretty simple; first set up an account (your profile). This is done by answering a million questions from what music you like to whether you would prefer to sleep with Brad Pitt or Jonny Depp. You then upload a photo, and search for some ‘friends’.
This is where it becomes interesting. Most of us could probably write our list of real friends on the back of a fag packet. I mean, the word friend suggests someone you ring up on a daily basis, someone you meet with at the pub/gym/church/S&M club, right? Wrong. If you give yourself over to the online dark side, then prepare to completely change the way you operate. Even with casual use, a slightly geeky thirty something with no real friendship group in real life, can notch up a good 60 friends within a month using one of these sites. He enters the e-mail address of his one drinking buddy, whose list contains another 5 people he went to school with. A click of the mouse here and there and e-presto, he has 7 friends. These people in turn have mutual acquaintances and before you know it, our once greasy recluse seems at first glance to be more popular than the Pope.
Sites such as Facebook can be both a blessing and a curse. A sceptical friend of mine remarked how invasive she felt the site was. This is all too true. When I first joined up, I reviewed my page and began realising the extent to which my life could become a published article. I don’t necessarily want everyone I have ever known knowing about everything I do from here on in. I’m not saying I lead a double life like Batman or Clark Kent, but we all have a past. The main problem is that these sites bring our past, present and sometimes future colliding together in one potential online pile up. One comment typed out of turn, and before long, the worldwide rumour web starts spinning.
You hear more and more of marriages and friendships being destroyed through malicious web untruths, and while I know gossipers have always existed, they have now been given an extension of the tongue with a boundless audience. One badly timed post on someone’s profile can effectively ruin him or her. There are stories about potential employees’ online behaviours being under surveillance so as employers can ascertain whether or not their new receptionist is or ever has been a hooker.
I totally disagree with the notion that you can suss out any given human being on the strength of their Facebook page. For one thing, their comments may not be a true reflection of what they think, but instead a contrived ploy to either glorify themselves or to put others down. We must remember that unlike audible conversation, typed comments can be carefully mulled over for hours before utterance, and are immortalised in digital ink rather than the comparitively forgiving timescale of sound waves. Secondly, the list of one’s friends should be taken with a pinch of salt too. Whilst I have very few contacts on my profile that I would not gladly go for a drink with at a moment’s notice, others accumulate friends they don’t even know faster than their laptops accrue viruses.
Another thing that gets my goat is those who actively seek a person’s ‘friendship’, acquire it, and then never get in contact. I mean, you wouldn’t introduce yourself to someone at a bar, shake their hand, and then blatantly ignore them having sat at their table would you? In my mind, people should stop hiding behind the online shroud, and treat socialising online the same as they would in the dying habitat of the real world. Only last week, I had a friendship request from a guy I have not seen since school, and even then I barely knew him. Despite him actively seeking my approval, I saw him days later in the local pub. I recognised him from his picture, as did he with me, but he avoided my eye contact and did not even approach me. Needless to say, I wimped out royally, accepted his request for fear of being deemed rude, and shall probably never speak to him; online or otherwise. So much for the increased ease and simplicity of social networking. It was much less confusing when it all took place down the pub….