I have a facebook page. I admit it. I am not alone. According to the news reports facebook has 200 million members worldwide. That's quite some membership - an exclusive little band of followers. And each day I check my page to see who is doing what. It has become part of my life.
I admit I was sceptical. When I first googled facebook back in August last year it was because I was trying to track down someone that I had known well at college and then lost touch with. I searched against the name and was faced with lots of entries some with thumbnail pictures. It's been a while since I have seen the friend and I wasn't sure that I could identify them from the blurred images that were on my screen. But in order to get any more detail I had to sign up to facebook. I was nervous. Remember that this was just at the time that I was taking my first, faltering steps into the 21st century and I wasn't really sure what kind of Pandora's box I might be opening by entering my details.
Feeling intrepid and more than a little curious, I signed up. Almost instantaneously, someone who had been my friend in the late seventies popped up requesting to be my friend. I clicked yes and I was off. In fact the friend that I was trying to find remains elusive but I have gone on to develop something of a facebook habit.
The concept sounds ridiculous to anyone older than about 35. A website where you can bore people who you know barely well enough to be claimed as an acquaintance with the minutia of your life. Where you can record what's on your mind at any given moment and assume that that may be of some interest to someone else. Where you can have hundreds or thousands of "friends" and be whisked off in a new direction just by viewing someone else's friends list.
The ball got rolling quite quickly. Once I was on my childhood friend's list, I was picked up by lots of people who remembered me from school. Suddenly, I had lots of friend requests. I said yes to them all. It seemed rude to decline. Sadly, however, I couldn't remember who most of these people were. They had stayed in the same town throughout their childhood. I had moved away and had an unusual name and so appeared to be recalled with relative ease. However, I moved all over the place as a child, not really staying anywhere longer than a few years and people who passed through my world when I was 9 have long been forgotten.
Undeterred, I read all about their children's sporting prowess and nights out planned in pubs that I knew nothing of. At the same time, I searched for people that I would like to be in touch with but generally with little success. Back then on the rare occasion that I found someone that I both knew and would like to be in contact with I often lacked the self confidence to ask them to be my friend. I looked at the pages of younger friends or teenagers that I knew and saw pages and pages of entries. I was beginning to feel inadequate.
Then one day I decided that I needed a strategy. By exploring all the settings pages, I discovered that I could eradicate friends and so I spent a very satisfying evening culling anyone of whom I either had no memory or no desire to stay in touch with. That done I decided that my way forward with facebook was to ignore the popular trend to try and amass as many people as possible and instead stay selective. And so, if I received a friend request from someone who didn't interest me, I ignored it. Very satisfying I must say. I even caused a modicum of outrage when someone took umbrage at my decline. Excellent.
My friends list is now a select little bunch of people that I am interested in or fond of or would like to get to know better. There are one or two who hang on for old times sake that I can't quite bring myself to ditch. Every so often I will find someone new and send them a request - or an email without a request depending on how antisocial I'm feeling.
A lot of what appears is puerile or dull or holds no interest for me at all but every so often someone will say something that is either thought provoking or entertaining and this adds a dimension to my somewhat solitary life that wasn't there before. As facebook grows and more and more people of my age become involved, I may have to change my aproach but at the moment facebook and I get along just fine.