Wednesday, 2 November 2011
How I Discovered Facebook
Last week I discovered Facebook. I say "discovered", but I do not mean it in the sense that Christopher Columbus discovered America or Blind Date discovered Jenni Falconer. I mean that, approximately four years after having signed up for it, I actually started to use it.
In some ways this was an odd decision since mostly I hear nothing but complaints about Facebook from people on Twitter - but that's a bit like Aldi slagging off LIDL and they're both pretty good actually, especially for mulled wine and esoteric biscuits - so I shrugged it off and took the plunge.
I am aware that one or two of you may already be familiar with Facebook. (I learned my lesson a few months back when I thought I was blazing a trail with the cafes that have the sushi roundabout and drainpipe jeans. ) Still, for those of you who are not, here are my thoughts.
My first tip is not to keep going on about how you have discovered Facebook, unless you also claim to have been in a coma. If you take this route you must prepare thoroughly. I decided that my last waking memory would be Darius singing Britney on Pop Idol, which doubled helpfully as my reason for falling into the coma.
Also, do not be caught out by trick questions like poor Gordon Jackson in The Great Escape. If anyone mentions Gary Barlow, laugh loudly, puff your cheeks out and go cross-eyed before intoning "And he was never heard of again."
But to the Facebook experience. At first it's a bit like being a new start in Minority Report with Tom Cruise. Pictures, words and invitations to join the Smurfs down at the Casino appear at random on the screen alongside adverts for haemorrhoids. The idea is that you then bat them around ineffectually like a dozy cat trying to catch a laser beam.
This is mostly done via use of the "Like" button which tells the Captain of Facebook that the passengers have at least one functioning digit. (At least we hope it's a digit.) I was under the impression that the "Like" button also delivered a short electric shock to the person who had posted that picture of Halloween pumpkin erotica, but it turns out that was just wishful thinking.
Sometimes a little box appears where people can chat with you and tell you all about their day, but personally I get enough of that at home, thanks.
In a way though, all that stuff is a sideshow because your friends are what really matter. In order to maximise your enjoyment of Facebook, you should categorise your friends. This helps you to keep all the weirdos that you are friends with from knowing anything about you.
You can use any categories you like, I started with "Snog, Marry, Avoid" but there was too much crossover between the three groups so I binned that one. I am currently using "Useful" and "No Use", which is working well.
Friends are the best bit about Facebook, apart from friends of friends which is even better. For in Facebook's house there are many mansions and they are all full of ex-boyfriends gone to seed and that slut who sat in the second row at sociology lectures and is now a TV evangelist.
In getting to know Facebook, it is important to understand that it is powered by an addictive mix of schadenfreude and sentiment. I don't understand how you can not find it fun to stare at your ex-schoolmates' wrinkles through a magnifying glass, before slapping your thigh in joy and ticking the "has not worn well" box on your spreadsheet. (Don't pretend you don't have one.)
I secretly rather like the dreadful old photos actually. You are less likely to cry over your lost youth when you realise you spent most of your thirties looking utterly hellish. Take the pics of me in that khaki duffle coat that I thought made me look like Melanie Blatt, when really I looked like a homeless person.
But leaving aside my dreadful narcissism for a moment, the photos are also just, well, nice I think. It's been great fun trawling through pictures of parties, dinners, days at the beach, christenings and weddings. Some of them I had missed, some of them I remember, some of them of course are happening as I type this.
I know the novelty hasn't worn off yet, but at the moment I'm rather basking in the collective Facebook experience, wandering serenely through its pages like Kate Winslet being reunited with her chums at the end of Titanic. I don't intend to use it as a way of making new friends, but as a way of keeping up with old ones, of enhancing the dusty memories of our days in the sun, I like it.