I won’t claim to be a hardcore social networker, but I am a user. There are aspects of social networking which really frustrate me but I have been a user of some form of it for the last 8 years (everybody in the group say Hi to Rory!), so I have formed my own opinion on the different sites and their benefits and shortcomings to me. I started quite slow paced using MySpace, compared to what we have today it looked like a smacked arse. Everybody customized their own colour schemes which was a form of abuse for the eyes, a lot of people had their pages setup so that if you were unfortunate enough to open it, you would be met by an embedded music video playing loudly., which was a form of abuse on the ears, especially considering MySpace allows it’s members to customize their profile layout to the point that the video could be embedded in different places on each users page so I often found myself scrolling as quick as I could, searching the entire profile page to shut off some crappy techno music, often times just giving up and logging out. I started to use MySpace less and less.
Being young and naive I let myself be pressured in to using Bebo. Which was a slightly more visually appealing alternative to MySpace and it was actually at one point the most used social networking site in Ireland and the UK. It served it’s purpose and got my beak wet. The big thing about Bebo in Ireland was that it was nearly entirely populated with shithead kids like me. So if you weren’t the type to go out clubbing and get fall down drunk there wasn’t much appeal for you. . Unfortunately it also taught me the harsh realities of putting your life on the world wide web. One of my first girlfriends was also on Bebo, things went south with the relationship and I was crushed. Meanwhile, she was not so crushed and I could see all the fun she was having thanks to her Bebo profile. Casting her out of my mind resulted in me terminating my Bebo account. And so I was onto my next online misadventure.
At the time I had a mail in my inbox for a quite a while, it was from a not so close friend of mine willing me to view their pictures on something called Facebook, the catch being when you try to view them it asked you to register. When I next met that person they were telling me Facebook is this great new site, it’s like Bebo except it’s only really popular with American college students. I decided against using it and stuck to infrequently checking my MySpace profile, at this point the only reason I still had my MySpace account activated was down to the fact half of my family lives in America and it was an easy way to communicate to each other with the time difference and share pictures with one another.
Soon I was in college and Facebook was starting to win a lot of followers, my main reason for being on MySpace, My American relatives was no longer a valid reason, they all got off MySpace after an incident in which one of my cousins was being abused by her former husbands girlfriend! They all one by one started to move to Facebook as (I can’t believe I’m typing this) it offered more privacy and security from lunatics like that bully. I was also reading a lot of articles about developers being hired by Facebook and others developing their own plugins and Facebook related software. I was doing a course in Programming so I decided to give it might be worth my while to try it out.
When I started looking at Facebook properly I got hooked. I messaged my housemates on it to ask what time they’d be back at the apartment rather than calling or texting. I got in contact with people I went to primary school and hadn’t seen in years. I added people I worked with in a new job and bonded much quicker by sharing videos and jokes with one another when not in the shop. The biggest benefit again was the possibility to now not only contact and feel more accessible to my American relatives but also be able to keep in touch with people I lost touch with or those who decided to emigrate. Facebook became a big part of my life.
Unfortunately Facebook being part of my life for the last 6 years or so in my early 20’s may have actually been a hindrance rather than a help. The longer I used it, the older I got, the older I got the more cynical I got. It wasn’t long before I started getting sick of reading peoples status updates talking about their nights out or great time abroad while I was stuck in a rut, working away trying to pay back college loans and survive. I started to privatize my account to the maximum and hide peoples posts but it wasn’t enough, I still got Suggested friends and other things I just didn’t want to see. I even went so far as to use a browser plugin called GreaseMonkey to hide these things from me. But it still wasn’t enough. I took the step no virtual person should have to take, I culled my Facebook friends. I reduced the realtively paltry sum of 126 friends and was left with 40. Big mistake Rory!
I explained all this to my girlfriend at the time and she didn’t understand but said she was fine with it. That was until it came to her attention that some of her friends were removed from my friends list. All of a sudden Facebook became a sore point in our relationship and a debate ensued on each others Facebook etiquette. To strengthen my case I looked at her profile. She had ex-bf’s, only 2 pictures with me out of over 100 pictures, you couldn’t even have been able to tell I was her boyfriend. I sent a request to be “In a relationship with” and was turned down by my own girlfriend of over a year and a half with the reason being there was no need to advertise that we were together…that made me suspicious. I then saw a picture of her with somebody else and could see a look in her eye that frightened me, she told me I was silly when I confronted her. I was so shaken from it that I asked her if I could just remove her as a friend since we see each other every day and I was now spooked by her page. She gave in but quickly started to moan that it was weird and so I re-added her. A few weeks later I found out she cheated on me with the person in that picture. Are you serious Bro!? Facebook had just become the target of a lot of my anger.
After a few months of using Facebook as a venting tool I decided to kill my online identity and posted the below picture on my profile, hiding my wall and telling those 40 of my Facebook friends still on it that I was switching off and leaving Facebook. I didn’t delete my account because Facebook, being the lovely folks they are only allow you to deactivate so I guess I left it up as a “Fuck You” to them. And a social experiment, since people could see me through friends, would they see my picture and try to add me out of morbid curiosity. The answer was yes.
Anyway to wrap this up, I am now back on Facebook thanks to nagging from a certain relative who flat out refused to stay in contact by any other means. Facebook has changed it’s format to be more like Google+ (Which is much better functionality wise and visually, it’s also more private by the way as confirmed by two IT analysts..they use SSL encryption for all features while Facebook doesn’t) With these features in Facebook I am now adding whoever wants to add me again and only sharing things with a select group of people. Thanks to the 9 months off it I no longer feel as dependent on it and I have also discovered the simple joys of Twitter. Twitter gives you no privacy on purpose, is a fountain of knowledge and thanks to the character limitation and less accommodating picture gallery you don’t have to see anything you don’t want to. I am now learning to be less cynical and try to get more out of social networking for myself.
In that 9 months or so I was away Facebook did something pretty creepy which was the auto-tagging feature. When I logged back in for the first time I saw my life while I was gone being played back to me. Pictures of my brother wedding and other events I had attended.
To anybody out there who doesn’t put up certain pictures on your Facebook or never put up a status update. Get off it, You are looking for Twitter and are by only snooping on people you are being anti-social! Lighten up a little. If you think Facebook can ruin your career or reputation then you must not be very confident in your own abilities and/or trying to portray yourself as something you are not because if you were above all of it, you would not be on there in the first place.
I just blogged my brains out,