Facebook’s great, no doubt about it. And as someone easily old enough to remember Blue Peter before the scandals struck, that is not as trite an observation as it might first seem.
A few weeks ago, it enabled one of my oldest friends from school to get back in touch.
We hadn’t heard from each other in decades and within hours messages were flying back and forth as we reminisced about blowing stuff up, deafening ourselves with guitars and other adolescent antics.
Soon after that, long-lost schooldays pictures of yours truly appeared for the world (at least the tiny bit that cares) to see.
We were communicating, maybe even enriching our lives.
So far, so good. And don’t forget the opportunities Facebook offers to chat live with your friends. I’m taking things slowly here. So far, I’ve only “chatted” with my eldest boy – and he was upstairs in his bedroom at the time.
What about the chance to share stuff you like with friends? I recently posted my favourite-ever Rude Kid cartoon from Viz (after responsibly blurring the post-watershed language).
You can do that on Facebook. Bringing the same cartoon into the office, or getting it out of your wallet in the pub, might seem, well, a bit odd.
There is, however, a problem. I call it Facebook Fascism. And I define it as the tendency for some users to obsess about how many friends they have.
The only thing worse than having a Facebook Fascist obsessing about the number of friends they have, is when they obsess about the number of friends YOU have.
I have 17 friends on Facebook. A few weeks ago I had just nine. Clearly, this makes me the social networking equivalent of Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein rolled into one leprosy-infected object of derision.
Someone I consider a real friend in the real world recently got in touch with a charitable offer. She would become my Facebook friend just “to get me into double figures”. Apparently, having nine friends was profoundly tragic.
My eldest son (168 friends) agreed. Nothing less than than three figures could restore my shattered reputation. He appeared to be lobbying the whole of his S1 year in a bid to get random 12-year-olds to become my Facebook friends.
I noticed that even Facebook itself taunted the socially under-endowed. I was offered numerous means of finding friends, and a gallery of possibilities was flashed up.
For a brief period, I bowed to the pressure and promiscuously clicked on the “+1 Add as Friend” tab. It was mechanical, unsatisfying, but the numbers were good.
My friend count rose giddily into the mid-teens. And then I realised something important: in most cases I was adding people (all of whom I like in the real world) without actually communicating.
I noticed one of them – a very nice and fearsomely clever person – has almost 900 Facebook friends. I’ve done the maths and, assuming you spend three hours of every day of the year on Facebook, that would allow just 12 seconds of communication per friend per day.
So I’m putting my foot down and refusing to bow to any further pressure from the Facebook Fascists.
In fact, I’m seriously considering making a stand and getting back to single figures by sacking several friends.
Now, how do you do that…?