Saturday, 7 February 2009

Why I love Facebook, and why Janet Street-Porter is entirely wrong

Facebooks sucks: it's boring, dangerous, deeply stupid and suitable only for losers who have no friends. These sociopathic retards inhabit a shallow, sad, pathetic world, suggests writer, presenter and and foodie Janet Street-Porter, whose tirade against Facebook in the Daily Mail raised a rash on my ankles this morning. Facebookers, says Porter-Smith, should eschew the' shallow allure' of living our lives in cyber space, and return to the real world, where they could have actual flesh-and-blood friends.

Well, more than an ankle rash. More like a desire to give Janet a good smack in her puffy and elasticated broeks (that's knickers, Janet), from me, and all the other smart, interesting people who use Facebook here in South Africa.

Why should I give a toss about what Janet thinks? Well, I care because I'm a great fan of this Janet: she's foul-mouthed, opinionated and clever. She doesn't give a continental fuck about what anyone thinks of her, she is a free thinker, an open-minded dame, and someone I would dearly love to have over for a dinner party involving a few tequilas.

Which makes her column all the more disappointing. And which just makes me more depressed about the world, as a whole: even the cleverest, quickest people succumb to utter, obdurate stupidity at some point in their lives; this tends to happen chiefly - have you noticed this? - between the ages of 2 and 4, 14 and 19, and 85 and 105.

I don't know how old Street-Porter is, but what I do know is that she has written this sniffy little piece with no real experience about how the Internet works. 'The truth is,' she huffs, 'that we live in an age where we over-communicate. It started with texting and emailing: now it's "blogging" and social networking. It's verbal diarrhoea, with zero content of genuine interest. '

Note the quote marks adorning the word 'blogging'. My goodness, this sounds like my grandmother, who put quote marks around 'jeans', and the 'Beetles'.

Street-Porter continues (and this was written this week, not seven years ago, I kid you not): 'Most blogs are a litany of the humdrum, with bulletins about new tricks the cat can do, or how many times a day the baby has pooed.'

Let me repeat that: A Litany of The Humdum.

The article Janet wrote is so long and whiny and disappointingly sanctimonious that I can't be bothered to reproduce it here: read it for yourself.

But what I can do is offer some thoughts about Facebook: why I love it, why I think it's a brilliant and inspired idea, and why I think it is - generally speaking - a force for good in the world.

I joined Facebook, reluctantly I admit, some 18 months ago, when I was writing a feature for a local magazine about social networking. I couldn't write about this phenomenon without being part of it, so I signed up, and was disappointed to find that not many people of my vintage were on the site. That is: I couldn't find any friends out there, apart from my teenage sons and their friends (and tempted as I was to intrude, by asking to be 'friends' with them, I resisted the urge). For the first three months, I lurked, alone and feeling spare, on the site. And then, suddenly, a big burst: people my age - that is, around 45 - started to join Facebook. A trickle became a deluge, and before long I was having the time of my life rediscovering long-lost mates.

I set up a group for my old pals from high school, in Johannesburg, and joined other groups with similar connections, and, within a few months, these groups mushroomed from five people to seventy-five as more and more people of my age (many of them influenced by their Facebook-addicted teen children) flooded Facebook.

I am not exaggerating when I say there were joyful cries echoing through cyberspace, as old school friends, who last saw one another when they were eleven or twelve, reconnected online. I have made contact with more than 40 women whom I last saw as young gals during the Seventies. I've found old university friends, touched sides again with people I've met in my career as a freelance journalist, and rekindled old, old family friendships. People who I never thought I'd ever see again have popped up and given me the friendliest hullo.

I've spend many hours persuading my friends - yes, real, clever, flesh-and-blood ones, Janet: like you, I have plenty of them - to join the site, and not a single one has shown the slightest regret. On the contrary, all of them consider Facebook to be a singularly inspired and useful tool.

Facebook has been a revelation to me, and has given me so much pleasure and reward. Sure, it's sometimes annoying and banal, and it can be a terrible time-waster if you're not very strict with yourself.

But, then again, you have to embrace the good, and discard the bad and the banal. That's one of the skills you learn when you grow up, Janet.

Give it a real try, luvvie, and come back to us in six months' time.

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3 comments:

tonypark said...

All true, Juno. I have a love-hate relationship with facebook.

I hate it because it takes an age to load when I'm in the bush on very slow internent connections, but love it because it gives the impetus for people to (dare I say it) actually network with each other, especially old friends.

i find that after a quick facebook 'poke' (in inverted commas) or a super wall thang, that we end up emailing and/or talking once again.

(and, personally, I think J S-P is a bit of a pretentious old windbag.. but that's just me)

Ruth Page said...

I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Janet Street Porter's piece in the Daily Mail, and just blogged my own response where I pointed out that if she was going to rant, she might at least have done some research first! Check out http://digitalnarratives.blogspot.com/. Thanks for your post!

Muriel said...

I've finally got around to reading JSP's rant (I was put off several times by the exhaustive length of it) and thanks Juno for defending a social networking tool that has at least as many good things going for it as all the 'evils' she discusses. At the very minimum, my kids and several of their friends are on my friends list on Facebook (and as anyone with Facebook knows this is a totally democratic process - you have to be invited and you have to accept to be listed) and it's a great way of keeping a benign eye on what they're doing and thinking.