Simon Varwell is not on Facebook

Finally, the debate you’ve all been waiting for. Facebook.

For some time now, but with considerable intensity in the last couple of months, people – both friends and new acquaintances – have been asking me if I am on Facebook.

No, I always reply. And I explain why: I don’t see the point in social networking sites that are networking for the sake of it. I think they’re great if they’re networking for a purpose – and Flickr is a brilliant example of this. It’s a place to store, share and explore photos, and while there is a strong networking element to it (groups, comments, “friends” and contacts, tags, and so on) it’s networking about photos – people aren’t getting to know each other just or the sake of it, they’re doing so because of the common interest in photos.

Facebook, however, seems to have no apparent purpose. It’s just… networking. And surely the whole idea of networking is because there’s a reason for it.

“But you can use it to keep in touch with people”, I’m told. “No,” I reply. “I have email for that. And not to mention MSN messenger, reading their blogs (if they have one), the telephone, and (gasp!) actually talking to them in person. Which nobody seems to do these days any more. Why would I need Facebook to keep in touch with people I am already in touch with?”

“But what about people you’re not in touch with, who you want to be? Or people who want to track you down? Or meeting new and interesting people?”

Well, there’s a number of responses to that. Firstly, if folk are wanting to get in touch with me, a quick google search will lead you to my website and to this very blog, as many people I’ve lost touch with over the years have done.

Secondly, and without sounding big-headed, I have a good number of wonderful friends, many of whom I often struggle to keep in touch with as much as I would like. Could I really cope with having more friends to have to keep tracks with?

I already lead a busy life, am blessed with an active social life, I travel lots for work and pleasure, and have lots of great friends all over the country (and world), and frankly don’t need a networking site to help me make new ones. That might sound callous, clinical and potentially very arrogant, but it’s meant to be none of them – it’s just my honest personal perspective.

And thirdly, do I really want to be “found” by certain people? A lot of Facebook to me sounds like a perfect stalker’s charter. Do I want people to know everything I do in life and who all my other friends are? With this blog, for instance, I have full control over what you know about me – it’s my blog after all, and I can write what I think is most appropriate. With Facebook, I worry about losing some of that control.

Oh, and fourthly, why Facebook? Last year, all the cool kids were on Bebo. The year before that, it was MySpace. Who’s to say Facebook isn’t just a “flash in the pan” fad that’ll be forgotten about next year and be replaced by something else? If I joined Facebook, I’d have to join them all to be consistent and obtain the real benefits, and frankly there’s more to life than keeping your dozen different networking sites up to date.

That raises another question – what do people who are on all these sites do? If you spend your whole time maintaining your networking sites, you’re not actually doing anything substantive all day, or leading a life that is actually worth networking about. It’s like building roadsigns but no roads or destinations. Why would I want to be friends with someone whose status is permanently set at “x is updating his Bebo/MySpace/Twitter”.

Yet people persist in asking if I am on Facebook. It’s like a standard question, alongside what’s your phone number?” or “what do you do?”. “Everyone” is apparently on it.

So while I remain a Facebook sceptic, I do accept that it seems to have more appeal to folk than many of the other sites out there.

Should I join? Will it actually bring added value to my life?

Let me know your thoughts either way and I will have a good think about it all.

I’m off to North Queensferry and Aberdeen for work tomorrow morning and won’t check my email again until Wednesday night.

Until then, play safe.

12 thoughts on “Simon Varwell is not on Facebook

  1. I’ve already mentioned this to Simon, but for the benefit of any other doubters out there… as a sceptic who gave in, I’d say that all Simon’s concerns about FaceBook are pretty valid, but the real sensational bit for me has been finding old friends I had lost touch with through accident rather than neglect. And the way this happens isn’t through somebody having sent off their address book to FaceBook, and remembering people they’d forgotten; I’m thinking of people who really didn’t have any contact details at all. No, the way it happens is through several degrees of separation. If you stalkerishly browse through friends OF friends, it’s incredible who pops up. And sometimes it’s a real small-world tell-tale too, because you may find connections you had no idea existed.

    So, for the wow-factor and the potential discoveries, I think it’s worth a go.

    As for any people you’d rather not regain contact with but don’t want to be rude to: I think it’s easy in the early days to get away with a lot by simply making it plain that you don’t use the site very often; people will then not be so offended if you never reply to them. Plus, putting them on your “limited profile” list will mean they are rather less likely to notice if you actually become more active.

  2. apparently the games are quite fun, because you can play your friends. Would you consider inviting a friend over for a game of chess? Rarely. But the experience online might serve to strengthen the relationship. Especially if you trash them in 9 moves.

  3. Simon, I couldn’t agree with you more. Yes, like Kieran I have stumbled upon one or two long lost friends but then after the initial ‘Hey, what have you been up to’ they are never to be heard of again. Email, flickr and blogs that works for me.

  4. well, you know my thoughts, and I’ve even spoken to you in person! I too was a FaceBook sceptic (way back in those early days), but then discovering that other people going out on the same expedition as myself were on FaceBook gave me a reason to use it.

    You could use other media to find out about the expedition members but you’d need to spend more time finding them. On the other hand, having a group on FaceBook where all the exped members can converse and follow a common theme , is pretty cool. And, amazingly, it has also led to actually using the phone.

  5. Hey Simon – was great to see you in your natural habitat at the w/e and meet your cool friends (hey keiran) šŸ™‚

    I think you should definitely have tried it before you write!

    Anyway, I prefer Facebook to blogging as I dont have to be clever, (which is clearly a challenge for me) and I dont have to worry about offending people (in the same way you …… one does when blogging).

    It is perfectly acceptable to bite, throw food at, poke or bomb someone on facebook. You can also go for rum and wenches, though thats not as fun in my opinion.. Your comments are not open to in depth scrutiny and are most certainly not taken as seriously as blog ones are.

    There is a high level of privacy control, so if you dont want to be found, you dont have to be – I use my boardtocertaindeath to discourage people from the distant past being able to find me – which works a treat.

    As Beat points out, the games are fun and are more interactive. I can have a small interaction with someone I wouldn’t feel I have anything worthwhile to write to in an email, but it just keeps the contact going.

    You can sort of keep up with what they are doing by a 5 minute scan of their “statuses” – very time effective compared with writing to each individual.

    It also brings together many different mediums, making it easier to email folk privately, upload photos and have discussions all in the one place.

    Facebook may be a flash in the pan, or it may be a more refined version of the bebo etc phenomenon, in the same way msn took over from icq etc. Time will tell i guess…

    Bascially its just more fun šŸ™‚

    Oh and once you have got into Pirates (arrrr matey!!) you are hooked for life!!

  6. Simon, as you and I both know that to make a truly informed opinion of it you should at least try it for a month or so. I know that you are against it as you have mentioned before but there is so much on there that is useful, and as witha blog you have control over the information that you put in there and allow people to access. I personally find it more convenient to use facebook to the myriad of other ‘specialist’ Social networking sites because it holds everything together coherently. There is a mail function in there that works pretty much as email does, you can upload photo’s in a similar way to flickr, you can link it in to an existing account and have it display what you are currently listening to, You can play various online games with your friends, you can add notes – similar to blogging, and can add posts – linking into cool stuff that you have found on the net and adding a comment of your own on it. It is a step towards the ‘world brain’ that was first described by H G Wells. In that it is a step towards this, the level of flexibility customization for exactly what you can add into it allows it to be almost future-proof in a way that neither myspace (spit spit – Owned by the evil of this world that is Murdoch) or bebo could ever have been, limited as they are.

    Be fair to both facebook and yourself, at least try it before dismissing it.

  7. Hm, somehow I missed this entry from before.

    Anyway, I have a Facebook account that I opened really on accident. I also have a MySpace that I opened because of a high school reunion – in order to be kept in the loop re: the planning/details of the reunion. I did not want to open either profile, but did and now I maintain them both. I don’t like them excessively, although I do like them enough to continue on with them because, like someone (Gill?) pointed out above, it’s an easy way to reach people with information that may or may not be developed enough for an email.

    I say that if you don’t want to have a Facebook page, just don’t make one. Who cares either way? I’m sure your potential Facebook contacts will live not having you as a contact on there. And, as long as you don’t know what you’re missing, you won’t miss it!

  8. i agree with Rob it’s definitely worth a go. I was also recently told how to use Grease monkey and user scripts to filter out all the nonsense about who made you a vampire/ poked you/ asked you pointless questions etc. You can just keep it nice an simple like a blog, but perhaps with the flikr application to show your photos in a slide show.
    Go on, try it.

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