Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Hooptedoodle #7 - Death by Communication - omg
I've had a Facebook account for a while now, but I only recently started making use of it. I have a friend who insists on using his for just about everything. Some of the things he uses it for surprise me. Some of them, I think he dreamed them up specially to give himself another excuse to use it.
In the month or two that I've been making more use of Facebook, it has been useful on about 3 occasions. To balance that, it irritates me and wastes my time a couple of dozen times each day. That is not a positive balance. OK - I can just close the account, or stop using it. Or maybe I can't - I know it's damned hard to remove a photo - maybe you're not allowed to close an account? - who cares, actually? I have friends who cannot listen to a CD without telling everyone. I have seen enough mobile-phone pics of drunk guys with their tongues hanging out to last me a very long time. Graffitti.
So - yes, I'm a bit hostile, and I'm certainly aware of getting old and grumpy, but I worry a little. I worry about the time and bandwidth that are wasted, the consumer cost and the technology investment that underpins the immense exchange of drivel that passes for useful communication. Facebook exists primarily to make a lot of money for the guy who invented it. Facebook is just another manifestation of something which has already been around and growing for years. Why do we need an infinite number of TV channels when the programme content is almost entirely crud? - who watches this stuff? When you 've paid for your new TV, bear in mind that watching crud in High Definition is hardly a mighty step forward (imho).
How many people do you know who dare not switch their mobile phone off, in case they miss out on something? Perhaps you yourself are in this position? I am fortunate enough to live in a rural area where there is no mobile service. When I am at home, you can ring my mobile all you want - it doesn't work. Sometimes this is a nuisance, but mostly it just means that I have got into the habit of switching the mobile on only when I need to be contactable. That's right - weird, eh?
When I used to commute into Edinburgh on the train, I used to be astounded by the girls from the posh private schools, texting each other - from adjacent seats. I guess their parents were paying for this. I used to pass the time trying to ignore it, trying to be absorbed by my book, but distracted by vague thoughts involving chainsaws. I guess the juvenile texters all grew up to be mainstream Facebook users.
A while ago I heard a man on the radio expressing his theory that the amount of initiative people display is inversely proportional to the speed and ease of communication. It was a lot more interesting than it might sound. The example he used which stuck in my mind was the East India Company, back in the 18th Century. They had their own army, as we know, and they had their own army exactly because it would take maybe 6 months to send a message to London and get a reply. If someone attacked them, there was no point at all trying to ask Head Office what to do about it. Nowadays they would have to convene an electronic conference to decide who they needed to talk to, just to define their Terms of Reference. In the last month, I have been chasing a local (village) committee to get some information to put in the local community journal. Amazing. The whole committee are in endless mobile contact with each other, there is a greater degree of convoluted, tangled misinformation than I would have believed and - since everyone always has to consult everyone else - no-one is empowered to make a decision. I never got my notice for the journal - they missed the deadline. Something wrong here, chaps. If you provide a bunch of weasels each with a Blackberry, you achieve nothing. Weasels could not have managed the East India Company.
So, if anyone was thinking of sending me a message on Facebook to tell me how much you enjoyed your coffee this morning, please don't bother. Unless I hear to the contrary, I'll assume everything is fine.