x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Fatiguing Facebook may finally be nearing its final chapter

Former Facebookers are, I am certain, turning to Twitter to continue posting messages about the mundanity of their drab existences.

Yesterday I heard words that were music to my ears. When, in a flawed attempt to get down with the youth, I tentatively asked a 21-year-old colleague whether she planned to post some recent good news on Facebook, she rolled her eyes slightly in that way only the younger generation do when confronted with their embarassingly out-of-touch elders.

"Facebook is so over!" she exclaimed dismissively. For one who has point-blank refused to join Facebook, Twitter or any of those other tragic networking sites, the death knell sounding could not come sooner. Now, I have no doubt the social networking revolution is far from over. Former Facebookers are, I am certain, turning to Twitter to continue posting messages about the mundanity of their drab existences before another platform comes along for them to somehow imbue a sense of importance in their humdrum lives.

It is the insidiousness of a network that has enveloped one in 13 of the world's population - that's more than 500 million people - into its web that disturbs me. These people think nothing of sharing their most intimate moments with complete strangers or posting images of themselves in cringeworthy situations - and if you think the information you are posting is private, you only have to read about the views of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who thinks privacy is overrated.

While he has succumbed to pressure and recently redesigned Facebook's privacy settings after a backlash against information being made public to marketing companies - not to mention the burglars delighted to find out when users are away on holiday - he stopped short of introducing an opt-in rather than opt-out system for sharing certain personal information. But it is not just the pernicious nature of sharing your innermost thoughts with a much wider audience that leaves me uncomfortable.

It is the enormous amount of time and energy people waste on these websites that appals me. There are not enough hours in the day as it is for me to do a day's work, catch up with friends and enjoy some downtime at the weekend. But according to researchers, the average person fritters away three hours every day on sites such as Facebook when they should be working. I have lost count of the number of times I have walked past the screens of colleagues to see their Facebook page open; they hastily close the browser window when they think they are being observed.

These people delude themselves into thinking they have a vast network of friends enthralled by their diatribes of incessant mundanity, most of whom they would not give the time of day to if they bumped into them on the street. Facebook is a pure numbers game, and there is a reason why they dropped out of the circle of friends you see regularly - you never thought very much of them in the first place.

Nor are they happy to leave the likes of my kind be; they constantly attempt to draw me into their cult-like web. I have had numerous "pokes" from friends, acquaintances and even random people in the office I have never spoken to before, inciting me via email to join their masses. Well, I never have, and I don't intend to. If you are a friend of mine, you will be in no doubt about it from the very real birthday presents you receive, the phone calls, the personal emails, the one-to-one conversations and the wonderful catch-ups over dinner.

Many fellow expatriates have waxed lyrical about the benefits of maintaining contacts with friends at home via Facebook. I'll admit, it hasn't been easy while living in the UAE to stay in touch. The time difference and busy working lives make it more difficult to touch base as regularly as I would at home, and I miss the nuances of their everyday lives - the rows, the disappointments, the meeting of a new partner.

But I am there for the big occasions: the weddings and babies and a large bouquet for the important announcements when I cannot say it in person. If anything, being away has made me work harder at being a constant and loyal friend. Whenever I go home, my diary is packed with lunches and dinners so I get to spend time with each of my friends in turn to hear their news, rejoice over the good stuff and commiserate when things are not going well.

It is just a reminder there is no substitute for the pure pleasure of seeing friends who are like family in person, reading their facial expressions, cackling out loud about the memories and parting with a great bear hug until the next time. And that will never go out of fashion. tyaqoob@thenational.ae