Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Facebook isn't all bad

The inevitable vampire bunny from
Dracula, the Pantomime*
I know it's trendy to pooh-pooh the social networking giant, and speak of the way Facebook is so yesterday. And, of course, one doesn't need virtual friends, one has real ones. And all that guff. But, in fact, in a world where many of us don't stay in one place, and may have contacts around the world, I think Facebook does have a lot going for it. 

Let me give you two quick examples. I used to be a member of a writers' online group called Litopia. Over the years some of the people I liked best left, and then the whole thing folded. But I had made real friends - people who I would happily go out for a drink with if we were in the same city - and I was in danger of losing touch. One of our number (partly as a result of my moaning) set up an invitation-only group on Facebook, which is now 120 strong, and it has kept those virtual friendships going - and brought a good number back into the fold. Facebook made this easy to do, compared with all the faff of setting up and moderating an online community.

Here's another example. I'm gradually digitising my pre-digital photos to have a more comprehensive collection in the places I tend to look at photos these days (and to have a Cloud-based backup, which means I wouldn't lose my precious pictures in a fire). A few days ago, I put up a set of pictures from the mid-1990s of a couple pantomimes I wrote and directed, starring the members of a youth group I helped run. I put these up on Flickr and made the only person I was still in contact with from the group aware via Facebook. Within a day I'd made a whole string of connections with people I haven't seen for nearly 20 years - and it's really rather a nice feeling.

The fate of an author/director at the end of the run of a youth group pantomime
So don't always paint Facebook as evil. Yes, it's too big and powerful. And manipulative. Yes, it has problems. But it can also put a smile on your face and re-connect you with people you thought you'd never see again. Which can't be a bad thing.


* The vampire bunny was shamelessly lifted from a joke in the old radio comedy show, I'm Sorry, I'll Read that Again. To get the joke, you have to be aware that in the even older TV quiz show, Take Your Pick, the culminating game involved the contestant choosing between opening a box or taking cash. The audience would shout out 'Open the box!' and 'Take the money!' So, in the panto, a character is running away from the vampire bunny and finds a coffin to hide in. Should he hide, or should he attack the monster rabbit? The opposing shouts go up 'Hop in the box!' and 'Stake the bunny!'

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