Sunday, 10 September 2017

Social networking and instant messaging

I'm starting to feel out of step with a lot of people, for not having a Facebook account. Apparently I am missing out on what's happening in other people's lives. And there's a suggestion that people are not going to send me special me-only messages if they have already posted something up on Facebook. They expect me to 'be on Facebook', and dip into what's going on, and generally be part of it all. And if I won't, then sadly I'll just have to miss out.

Well, judging from the trivia I often see when friends look up something they want to show me, I don't think I'm missing anything very important, although I do acknowledge that I'm standing apart from the rising generation of people - billions of them, I suppose - who share their lives online. For blogging isn't quite the same thing. Certainly, a lot of my life is there, in my posts, but you only get a disconnected picture, not a stream. And you don't see who all my friends and family are, and what they might be getting up to. And although the photos posted up on Flickr reveal where I've been, and what catches my attention, they share no confidences. I can inadvertently say silly or indiscreet things on the blog, but as each post has structure and has to be carefully composed, the likelihood of a slip is much smaller.

When writing about Facebook before, I've highlighted the distressing fact that its quick-fire nature promotes flippancy and encourages carelessness. Too often I see - on other phones - people I know undermining themselves with terse or stupid remarks, and offhand commentary that does them no credit. Facebook clearly has abundant potential to stir up dissent, and create disharmony and misunderstanding. A far cry from the original benign notion of linking up people, re-establishing contact, and letting them come together again. There are too many tales nowadays of damage done with hurtful or bullying messages, and untruthful rumours spread that trash reputations. Then there are all the dodgy opinions, misinformation, and gossip from people who claim some kind of peer-group connection, designed to influence or destabilise or subvert one's point of view. And Facebook's own policies on how it handles all the information fed into it by its users are open to question. It regularly changes its rules for handling sensitive data, and lets people down on protecting personal security.

I don't trust Facebook. What are its motives and intentions? It has become way too big and powerful. I have a gut feeling that it's wisest to keep a safe distance, as you would a dangerous and unpredictable beast, and not enter its cage just because most other people have. There is every good reason not to feed it with the kind of meat it wants - information about my life that it will secretly use (or misuse) for its own ends.

For similar reasons, I am most reluctant to sign up for Whatsapp - which is now of course owned by Facebook, and shares personal data with its parent company. These two apps together seem to me like overweening machines. Sign up and be bound to them, with no escape. No thanks.

If wishing to stay in touch with friends and family, I still don't see what's wrong with ordinary texting and emailing. I'm not going to abandon Gmail and Samsung's messaging app merely because some people consider them dull and untrendy.

In any case, I don't have the temperament to enjoy being part of a huge community. I hesitate to 'join in'. That's not to say that I haven't joined local real-world groups (like the pilates class, and Slimming World) to meet a definite purpose (so far, though, only a health-connected purpose), but I'm not the sort to belong to clubs, societies and hobby groups. Nor action groups and political parties. I don't want to be a member. I want to be my own person. And if that means being cut off to some extent from the mainstream, then so be it.


  1. Binfer instant messaging is private. Also, it is free. See


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