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Mistakes...

About eighteen months ago, I was working as a local librarian - a job that I really enjoyed. If you ever wanted a local job for local people, that would be your one. People scoff at public libraries, but they’re an amazing local resource. I came to know everyone’s comings and goings, relationships, reading habits and even their family trees. It’s an unfortunate shame that librarians aren’t well-paid people, because if they were I’d probably still be in the same job now. It was a great way to be at the hub of the community.

Because librarians aren’t paid a Kings Ransom, I took on a whole variety of other tasks to bolster my pay packet. I took on after-school clubs with kids, mobile libraries to old ladies in the middle of nowhere and I.T. training sessions for those we affectionately called the “Silver Surfers”. Much to everyone’s annoyance I was everywhere - but it was money, and I did what I had to do to earn a living.

Tuesday mornings were the most interesting, with my class of octogenarian internet users and the lessons were random in nature. Topics included how a mouse worked, what to look for in your first computer, how to look up details on war graves or how to research your family tree. The possibilities were endless - it was what made it so much fun.

One morning, a lady in her seventies asked, “Could you show us how to set up a Facebook page?”.

And for a second, I hesitated.

If you’ve seen my previous comments about social networking, you’ll know that I’m not a Facebook lover. However, with my best teacher’s hat on I fired up the projector and preceded to show the class on how to get their accounts started. I showed them how to create a profile, upload photographs and find people - to which there was much oooh-ing and ahhh-ing as they took their first steps towards establishing an online presence.

“You have a friend request already!”, said the lady - who obviously thought this was part of my show.

It wasn’t. Irritatingly, by the time I’d finished work I’d been pinged by four people. I posted “Mneh” on my wall as a mark of protest and vowed that this wasn’t going to be a long-term arrangement. I was annoyed already. Go on, tell me you’re surprised. Stupidly, I decided against deleting the account for fear of upsetting my friends, who’d think I was shunning them. As the weeks went past, I tried to love Facebook. I did the mindless games. I told everyone my favourite Mr Man and nun-name. I integrated as best I could - but it all felt wrong. I felt like I’d abandoned my principles.

Next came the dilemmas. Should I be letting all those “friends” see the details of my life? If not, who should see what? What should I even share? Should I actually share anything? What if I don’t want everyone seeing everything? Then again, what if I don’t want to see the boring shite about everyone elses’s life? What if I don’t care that Friend X had chips for tea? What if Friend Y’s child looks like a shaved chimp? So what if Friend Z’s partner never does the dishes? Who cares? What if real life is actually just boring? Should I be subjecting people to the same?

Let’s face it, we’re not famous. We have repetitive lives. And they’re boring by comparison.

Then there’s the other privacy concerns. Should I have to check my settings every few days to find the new tick-box? Should I have to keep monitoring pictures to see what I’ve been tagged in? Do I want people “checking me in” to locations? Do I want such complexity? Do I want my personal data marketed? Probably not.

It’s time to leave the hive of half a billion. I made a mistake in thinking that the experience would have been anything but banal. More fool, me. I’m gradually deleting my data and the account will be removed at the end of the month. Twitter, however, stays. It’s been an entirely different experience altogether. It’s like the SMS version of the BBC. Each day I’m educated, informed and entertained - and above all, it’s simple.

So, what do I do now? Well, I guess I can either delete my account data and hope that’s it, or I can “stay on the inside” with the bare minimum of profile data, dip in and manage what other people post with my name against it. I’m edging towards the first option, because I suspect that the majority of friends probably wouldn’t tag those that aren’t on Facebook because you’re not going to tag a picture if the person won’t ever see it, are you?

It’s not for me. The mindless games, inane discussions and requirement to anally monitor your preferences and ensure your details aren’t broadcast to all and sundry is more than I can be bothered with. I’m figuring that after all these years, those people that are friends will endeavour to stay in touch and we’ll exchange proper contact details anyway. Let’s be honest, how many “friends” have you got on your list that are at best, acquaintances? How many people on your list are merely on your friends list out of curiosity? (This is formerly known as the Friends Reunited Effect) How many people are on your friends list that you’ve merely done out of obligation and have no intention of ever meeting? Go on, admit it - that’s a good percentage of your list.

Of course, there are true friends and family that it will be a pleasure to keep in contact with. You know who you are. Chances are, though, that you’ve probably got my e-mail, phone number or address anyway. That’s what we did before Facebook came along - and that’s what I’ll be doing from next month.
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