Yeah. I know. It sounds seedy. Nontheless, I spent the weekend in Nottingham with a bunch of people that hitherto I’d only known through Facebook. From the looks I’ve had from most of the people I know in real life, that put me somewhere on the social rung directly between a paedophile and Bruce Forsyth.
I think that’s so much fucking hogwash.
Think of the people you know. You’ve probably got a small core of long-term friendships that date back as far as childhood. Along the course of your working life, you’ve probably accumulated a few people from each place you’ve worked and kept in touch with them down the years. And if you’re especially sociable, there’ll be a wider network of friends-of-friends, people from down the pub and the occasional nutter from the bus stop.
A site like Facebook works so well because you get to ‘meet’ people on a much wider basis than accidents of geography or employment will ever allow. If you end up working in an office, you might find nothing in common with the other people there other than the fact that you work in the same building. Sure, you might share a laugh and some in-jokes but that’s no guarantee that there’s any kind of connection that will survive your inevitable move to a different office.
In fact, there’s nothing intrinsically new about what Facebook offers. For years, people have been finding people with whom they get on sparklingly through messageboards and forums. Any specialist hobby or interest group has an online hangout which leads to group meetings in some pub somewhere. Life’s richer for it.
So I’ve found a bunch of people of a similar age and outlook on life (get pissed, be ribald) and after a year or two of knowing each other through nothing more substantial than inboxes and text, we found ourselves having a beer in a pub for real. Shock! Horror! The way I look at it, if you’re going to discount being friends with people just because you can’t actually physically see them, then that’s your fucking loss.