Facebook has its place, but it can’t beat coffee with a friend

Facebook has its place, but it can’t beat coffee with a friend

PUSHING THE RIGHT BUTTONS: Two billion people have signed up to Facebook, but the site has been mired in controversy

“ARE you a ‘dumb f***?”

That’s how chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, described the 4,000 people that, back in 2004, volunteered their personal information to his burgeoning social network.

Fourteen years later, two billion people have signed up to what is now best described as a somewhat nefarious (even if that was initially unintentional) portal that has massive influence on how people do everything from purchasing goods to voting in elections.

Last week, we learned that Cambridge Analytica, a company funded by conservative billionaire, Robert Mercer, acquired and exploited the data gleaned from 50 million Facebook profiles.

This data harvesting is the new Big Brother. Donald Trump allegedly owes his election victory to Cambridge Analytica. What a sorry mess. The victorious leave side in Brexit is also alleged to have been manipulated.

But, like Jeremy Corbyn, I won’t be deleting my Facebook account. The British Labour Party leader finds Facebook useful to get his political message out. I find it handy for work and for keeping in touch with people, but only on a superficial level.

It will never replace meeting a friend for coffee. And I’m not fooled by those posts that veer on the side of boasting, with picture perfect photographs of people in their tastefully decorated homes, or living it up on holidays, cocktails on hand and an azure swimming pool nearby.

These folk are all about projecting their best selves. They curate their lives for the delectation (or envy) of others. They are their own PR merchants, spinning a version of their lives that has nothing to do with reality.

A light user of Facebook, I’m flabbergasted at just how active many of my ‘friends’ are on it. They’re friends with inverted commas because I don’t know some of these people. That’s what happens with Facebook unless you do a cull and ‘unfriend’ people, which always strikes me as a little chilling. How would you like to be ‘unfriended?’ I suppose it’s a bit like being blanked on the street.

Some of my Facebook friends do not appear to have any gainful employment, given that they’re on the damned thing all day and night, sharing interesting newspaper articles that reflect their largely leftist world view and ranting about Trump.

And while we must never forget to register our disapproval of Trump, I sometimes think that if we metaphorically blanked him, he might go away. After all, he thrives on being the centre of attention.

Like ignoring a troublesome child and thereby disapproving of their attention-seeking behaviour, Trump might shut the f*** up if the world dozed every time he makes an inane (or downright dangerous) pronouncement.

I’d hate to be his social media manager. although judging from his stupid tweets, sometimes misspelt, they seem to be his own (un)doing.

Facebook is a massive distraction. It’s also oddly comforting in some ways. After all, if it wasn’t for Facebook, would we get so many birthday wishes? But nothing beats a birthday card in the post from close friends.

It’s reassuring to go on Facebook every morning and see that all the usuals are alive and well, posting and berating, laughing and sharing funny video clips of cats washing themselves in the kitchen sink.

A world without Facebook would mean no more updates from a radical writer who could spot a conspiracy in a bird’s nest. He scratches beneath the surface and jolts me out of complacency with his commentary on the dire state of politics and his analysis of the topics du jour.

Then there’s the cousin with her tales from abroad and detailed descriptions of the cultivation of her garden.

There’s another cousin in Dublin who posts photos of her cute grandchildren whom I’ve never actually met.

There’s the guy whom I’ve got to know in real life, through Facebook. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times about his work projects. Until I actually got to talk to him over a coffee, I had an impression of a guy totally in thrall to beautiful actresses like Angeline Jolie. But there’s a lot more to this gay man than obsessing over aesthetically pleasing Hollywood gals.

There’s also the thoughtful poet who, every now and then, posts wise words a propos of whatever is to the forefront of his mind. The most recent one I spotted was about the beauty of Skellig Michael.

A dedicated communicator posts a new photo of herself every day. I don’t quite get this, although she is undoubtedly a looker. But in real life, she’s not what you’d call vain.

Facebook is a broad church, attracting the keyboard warriors with their ready opinions on politics. It’s also a minefield of pure nonsense. I get regular ads for products such as the Loss Bomb, a weight-loss drink.

They’re targeting the right person, but I won’t succumb.

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