I used to think being one of just 12 humans in the world who had never seen the movie Titanic marked me out as special. But more recently I find myself part of an even more exclusive and, I like to think, elite club: people who are not on Facebook.
Time’s decision to bestow the Person of the Year title upon the young Zucker-whatever therefore leaves me even more bemused than usual. “For changing how we all live our lives,” the magazine intones. No, not all of us.
A few years ago, when the phenomenon was starting, an early adopter emailed me a link and urged me to start up a Facebook account. I had already set up and swiftly discarded one or two other such networking pages – I think LinkedIn was one – and the same thing happened. I looked at the site for a few minutes. It didn’t help that the site’s user interface gave few clues about how to, for example, post a photo. But most of all I completely failed to see what I was supposed to do with it.
Hemlock started up a Facebook page to see if it would work as a blog to replace the old one, but rapidly lost interest when it seemed impractical. Presumably it can be done, but life is too short to rummage around in a Help section. He still gets occasional notifications of ‘friend requests’ or whatever the jargon is, which prompt a quick peek at the site, which in turns arouses embarrassment and guilt at all the comments from acquaintances who apparently think someone is paying attention.
When I asked a younger relative what the whole point of Facebook was, he said: “It’s so your friends can see what you’re doing and you can see what your friends are up to.” And why, I thought to myself, would I want to do either of those things? We already have a perfectly good way of staying in touch. If God intended us to have social networking sites (or phones, now I think of it) why did He give us email?
The wife of a writer at PC perhaps hits the nail on the head when she says the idea is “seeing what’s going on with everybody … and commenting on it.” It’s for those people, apparently some 99.9998% of humanity, who find ceaseless chatter about other people’s day-to-day lives irresistible and, for all I know, necessary. Most people are energized by social interaction; a smaller, very special number of us find it draining. Life’s tough enough when you’re a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population without constantly being worn out by even more vacuous gossip (‘98% content-free talk’) on-line.
If I were constantly broadcasting chit-chat about people I know, what would it be? Right now…
- There’s the guy who was recently caught by his girlfriend with a woman in his apartment in Western. To multiply the shock for them both, when she pulled the interloping bitch’s hair, a wig came off and revealed the head of a bald ladyboy. He says the transsexual followed him home from Wanchai (across town all the way to his sofa). The girlfriend now takes the wig to bars for the guy’s pals to wear.
- There’s the girl I knew at university (not for long but quite well, shall we say) who appears in the Wikileaks US diplomatic cables. I was vaguely aware she was in the State Department; it seems she is now a senior embassy official in a strategically important hell-hole, and colleagues have been saying rude things about her behind her back.
- There’s the Hong Kong legislator who is planning to retire at the next election and pass on his functional constituency seat to his eldest offspring, much to the horror of officials and constituents, who dread the damage to the reputation of FCs but seem powerless to stop it.
- There’s my aged and extremely courageous mother (also an inveterate un-plugger of phones), who’s currently undergoing a course of monthly injections… in an eyeball. (!!!!!)
- There’s the property owner who, after watching his wife waste months fussing over the renovation of the apartment next to mine, took his revenge last week by shacking his pigtailed mainland mistress up in the place and staying late most evenings. Within hours of moving in she demanded, and got, a replacement mattress and dressing table. The unit is now available for rent. I think she took her slinky black leather stuff and Hello Kitty bedspread back with her.
And so on. A dash more detail perhaps, plus photos, and I would have a Facebook account with something for every prurient voyeur. But they will just have to go without.