After years of refusal, a couple of weeks ago I finally crumbled under the pressure and got myself a Facebook account. I've had a Space for years but have never been the least bit interested in its "social networking" aspect, choosing instead to view it exclusively as an easy and free way to distribute my music. In actual fact, when I first discovered MySpace, I had thought that it was solely for musicians to use to promote themselves. Imagine my horror when I discovered that there were hundreds of millions of "ordinary" people on there too, with no appreciable talent of any kind, using it to illiterately broadcast to the world every banal triviality that happened to pop into their heads.
When Facebook appeared on the scene, an immediate generation/class gap opened between the adults/middle classes, who used Facebook, and the kids/chavs, who used MySpace (and then there was Bebo, for those for whom even MySpace was too intellectual, but we won't even go there). But I shied away even from this, deciding that it was better to have a handful of friends in real life whom one actually met face-to-face, and went for real drinks with in real pubs, than 500 "friends" most of whom you probably didn't even actually know, and wouldn't like even if you did; and besides, even Facebook seemed to suffer from a sort of debilitating infantilism, with its litany of superpokes, time-wasting games, throwing dead sheep at one's friends, and other such nonsense.
When, a year ago or so, I realized that I had somehow accrued a circle of actual friends - who were asking why I wasn't on Facebook - and was actually interested in what they were up to, I started getting my fiancée to add them to her page, but eventually she got so sick of this that I caved in and got my own account. In the first week or so, many hours were lost tracking down people I hadn't seen in years, seeing what my friends were up to, writing about what I was up to and generally trying to get my head around all of Facebook's various features - and the etiquette of its use.
One of the nice things about it is being able to hide from your news feed the people who write loads of stuff you have no real interest in. The downside of this is, of course, that other people can hide you too, and you have no way of knowing whether they have done so. The irritation comes from realizing that you could be blindly posting your thoughts away into the ether, with the possibility that not a single person is actually looking at them. It becomes disconcerting and, ultimately, dispiriting when no-one comments on what you are writing - so much so, in fact, that I've already pretty much given up and rarely post anything on there anymore.
The verdict? Facebook is all right. Most of what's on there is rubbish, but it's pretty useful if, as I do, you have lots of family or friends who live far away and want to feel a bit more connected to them. The novelty soon wears off, however.