Given my use of this blog, Twitter and Facebook it would not have been unreasonable for you to assume that I have embraced social networking. Well, perhaps given my rather erratic use of both Twitter and Facebook, it might be considered more of a wave across a crowded room than a full-on embrace. In fact, I tend to view both Twitter and Facebook as an adjunct to GofaDM: as repositories for material too brief or transitory to make it into a full post.
They do have other uses: Twitter does deliver the occasional well-formed witticism and only last week provided me with me first, definitive sighting of Venus (no doubt I’d seen it before, but for the fist time I both saw it and knew what I was seeing!). Facebook is, I have found, quite handy for keeping up with the lives of friends who are now parents.
Both are, of course, nominally free at the point of consumption – though, we are giving away precious details about ourselves to be sold to “the man” for his nefarious commercial ends as part of this Faustian pact. I feel fairly relaxed about this – if any commercial concern is able to learn anything useful about me from a combination of dodgy jokes, a somewhat stalled novel and an attempt at a haiku then I say “good luck to them!”.
The presence of location services on my cellphone (retro or what) might cause the worry that “they” can track my movements. However, whilst sitting in an Australian cafe near Goodge Street (W1) this past week, Facebook thought I was in Biggin Hill (some 18.2 miles away by foot according Google maps, which does not seem to provide a crow-flying option) – so whilst Big Brother may be watching me, he would seem to be either a very long way away or wearing the wrong specs (or both).
However, use can be taken too far. There are individuals who provide a commentary on their every action (or inaction) – a degree of sharing which I have (so far) managed to resist: if I do start sharing details of my breakfast (the usual) or bowel movements (perfectly satisfactory, thank you), please feel free to stage an intervention.
A huge range of products and companies now want us to follow them on Twitter or like them in Facebook. I’ve just had a quick scan of my larder, and whilst some products mention a website or even a real address, I couldn’t spot any which encouraged me to start adding them to my circle of friends. This may be because I tend to buy basic ingredients and make more complex fare myself (through a mix of culinary skill and egomania, I am convinced that I can make something more appetising than that which is produced by piercing a film and sticking a plastic tray of gunk in the microwave for 2 minutes). My flexible attitude to the Use By date also means that much of the contents of my pantry pre-dates social networking (and in some cases, the internet). As a warning to marketing departments everywhere: if I spot a foodstuff seeking to become part of my social life I shall discontinue its purchase forthwith and seek some less pushy alternative.
Many companies seem actively to seek cupboard-love by attempting to bribe me to like them on Facebook. Whilst I am eminently corruptible, I will need to be suitably insulted first: a trip on the corporate yacht might be tempting, some minor discounts and early details of special offers really isn’t.
But, for me, the final straw was being asked to visit the BBC Radio 3 Facebook page when trying to listen to some classical music. I don’t won’t to live in a universe where Radio 3 would have a Facebook page – let alone visit it. I realise I’m on thin ice here (as I fully intend to grow old disgracefully) but it’s rather sad when a middle-aged or elderly acquaintance attempts to be trendy in this way. Is this part of a plan to poach some yoof from the 1Xtra massive? I know from attending classical music concerts that there is a definite shortage of age and ethnic diversity in the audience (though, plenty of walking aids), but I hardly think that this is the way to address it. Or am I just showing myself up as a fuddy-duddy while the typical Radio 3 listener has the dextrous thumbs (or would one of them have to be sinistrous for a normal pair?) of a teenager (in a glass jar, perhaps?) and is a social-network addict?