Facebook – On Dogs, Daughters, Daiquiris and Degenerates
February 19, 2013
The other day I wrote a rather bitchy piece about LinkedIn. It produced a bit of a reaction here and there, and a noticeable spike in traffic to this blog. Which of course I appreciate. Though my friends know that it’s very dangerous to encourage me.
So since we’ve been talking about my relationship with its suited cousin LinkedIn, what of Facebook?
One of my main problems with Facebook is dogs. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a canophobic. We have a large dog whose entry into the family I grudgingly consented to seven years ago. But I do not drool over it as other family members do, and post its picture on Facebook on a regular basis. In fact it drools over me, not because I’m adorable, but because its snout is twelve inches away from my dinner.
OK, it’s a she, like everyone else in my family. Perhaps she quite likes me, and I quite like her. But that’s as far as it goes.
And one dog is enough, thank you very much. For some strange reason I seem to have collected a number of friends on Facebook who delight in posting pictures of dogs – loads of them. A never-ending stream of dogs. And their posts tend to crowd out everyone else’s.
Occasionally I wish they would also post pictures of dog hair tufting up at the back of the sofa and drifting around the house like brushwood. Or those yellow patches on the lawn. Or the owner doing the poop patrol and dragging them away before they can sink their fangs into some Jack Russell’s hindquarters.
Because that is the other reality of dogs. Those smoochy pooches posing on Facebook in all manner of winsome settings – followed by a cascade of adoring likes and aaahs – have a dark side. They poop, they pee, they salivate, they bark. They smell – at least some of them do – like moth-eaten aristocrats or truffle pigs. And they fart at inappropriate moments, such as when you have friends round or you’re in the middle of the final episode of Downton Abbey, prompting wrinkled noses, accusing stares and cries of outrage.
Another thing about Facebook is that I often feel I shouldn’t really be there. As my young, upwardly mobile ex-colleagues cavort in various exciting parts of the world – they don’t bring their dogs with them by the way – I see their pictures of parties in Perth, daiquiris in Dubai and orgies in Omsk, and I feel like a crabby old priest in an Irish dance hall.
Then there’s my daughters. Why they put up with having me as their friend, heaven knows. When I was their age, the last thing I would have wanted was to give my parents a window into my world.
You could argue that as a Dad it’s good to know what your kids are up to. No it’s not. They are adults. It’s not my place to approve or disapprove. And there are times when they tell you things you would rather not know. Such as the time when my older daughter found herself and boyfriend face to face with an angry bull elephant in Kenya. That kind of stuff doesn’t get on Facebook. All the fun stuff does – which makes you wonder what more fun – of the dangerous kind – lies beneath.
What of the old farts of my age, who are not ashamed to display themselves growing old disgracefully? I look at them and think “do I look like that?” Well yes, and probably worse. This is one of the reasons why I put virtual blinkers on when I go to an Eric Clapton concert. All the paunchy, balding guys with shaggy Afghan coats rocking arthritically to the master’s music – they are me. Minus the Afghan, fortunately – that decomposed a long time ago. Focus on the music, Steve, you are not like them! You are still 21!
Nestling among the dogs, the daughters and the decrepit are the erudite. People who post in Latin, or write serious mini-tomes on incredibly elevating subjects. I ask myself what right I have I to be granted this little keyhole into their ethereal minds, to be exposed to great thoughts and insights I could never emulate.
I also have mixed feelings about the gurus whose posts I have signed up to. People like Robert Fisk, one of the few people who can match me in grumpiness. You look at his posts and they have a thousand likes! Well OK, he is after all one of the finest political journalists in the Middle East still standing, so I guess he deserves his likes. But he doesn’t need them, and why can’t I have a few? Whoops, there’s a lapse into the inner Iago. Actually I only said that for effect. Likes – like endorsements on LinkedIn – are a debased currency. Balm for the ego, but they don’t pay the rent.
And finally there are the comments to your friends’ posts by people you don’t know. Witty, fun, yet unreachable. They leave you thinking that there’s an alternative universe out there, full of interesting people you never met, but might have met had you made different choices in your life. Yeah well, in that alternative universe I might have para-glided into a rocky ravine and broken my neck, or drunk myself to death in Marrakesh.
So I guess I’m fine with the dogs, daughters, degenerates and party-goers that populate my Facebook world. In amongst them are people very dear to me – real friends. It’s good to know that they’re still alive, and I enjoy reminding them from time to time that I am undead also. Even if my brief interventions are as rare as white smoke from the roof of the Sistine Chapel.
Would my world be diminished without Facebook? Not as much as Mark Zuckerberg’s for sure.