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Over the years – despite being a massive user of it – I’ve heaped a bunch of shit on Facebook.
I think the commercial value of their ‘likes’ is massively overrated. I am fed up that they keep changing their privacy settings. I am over being served ad after ad after ad.
And yet, despite all this, I log into it copious amounts of times, each single day.
There are – without doubt – some obvious reasons for this.
I’m a nosy bastard, so like seeing what my friends are up to.
I’m a lazy bastard, so like using my friends knowledge to inform me what’s going on.
I’m a needy bastard, so feel good when people I haven’t seen or spoken to in decades, are prompted to remember me.
But recently, I was reminded just how brilliant Facebook actually is.
Many, many years ago, I knew a guy called David.
Even though I went to school with him, he was older than me by a couple of years, so I never really knew him … but many years later, we found ourselves working together as pot washers at the Nottingham Knight bar/restuarant in West Bridgford.
Whether it was the shitty job or just a meeting of minds, we struck a deep friendship quickly.
In the years I knew him, we managed to pack in a whole bunch of wonderfully stupid moments.
Though sadly – for David – they were pretty much all at his expense.
Without going into the detail that explains what the circumstances behind these stories were, here are some ‘headlines’ of those wonderfully stupid moments:
+ Setting his arm on fire with a can of Lynx. In a pub. Full of people.
+ Making spaghetti bolognaise by dipping pasta into a bottle of Heinz Tomato sauce.
+ Being arrested for owning sexual explicit material. Even though he’d only asked the policeman for directions.
+ Having a friend [errrrm, me] send his mother a letter that resulted in her finding his stash of porn mags under his bed.
+ Breaking his nose by chasing a mates car that suddenly stopped.
+ Jokingly shouting “help” in a park, only to be heard by a passer-by, who called the Police, who sent a helicopter to try and find the perpetrator.
… no, I’m not making any of them up.
Anyway, all this happened when I was in my teens so as our lives changed and evolved, we lost touch.
I’d always wondered what had happened to him and made some half-hearted attempts to find him – but nothing ever worked out and life just carried on.
Until a few weeks ago, when I got a ‘Facebook request’ from him.
I cannot tell you how happy this made me.
Genuinely, positively happy.
Seeing his big, gormless, Woody-Allen-meets-Slash face filled me with joy … and it reminded me how great Facebook actually is.
Sure, there are other sites out there that could have connected us up, but the fact is it was Facebook that did it. It’s almost like they’ve become the World’s biggest telephone directory … where everyone you’ve ever met can be rediscovered.
Unless they’ve gone ex-directory.
But the thing is, I’d forgotten that.
I know I shouldn’t have … but having used it for so long, Facebook role in my life had evolved into more about ‘managing’ my relationships rather than reawakening or activating them.
That’s my issue more than Facebook’s, though I do think they’ve missed an opportunity to remind us how wonderful it is to be connected, even if it’s only virtually. It’s as if they think society has moved past that stage and yet, deep down, it is a feeling that never leaves us and never stops appealing to us.
Sadly David has gone through some massive shit in the intervening years – shit that is beyond what anyone should face – but I can honestly say that Facebook has ensured he now has another mate who will be on his side to help, cheer and celebrate as he comes out the other side of the darkness.
So thanks Mark Zuckerberg, you may have founded your site for entirely different reasons, but you have proved technology doesn’t have to be purely about instant gratification, but can ignite the emotions we all need and desire as well.
If only more brands understood that, rather than treating it as either a cheap advertising platform or a sell-sell-sell tool.
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