I have an ambivalent relationship with social networking. I love it and hate it in equal parts. Twitter irritates me. It seems to have a huge element of self promotion and bizarre grandiosity but more importantly, I can’t possibly say what I have to say in that small amount of letters. I’m too verbose to tweet. I need to rant and expound, not chirp a pithy one liner.

The whole concept of social networking, for me, fits in with the whole “Only Connect” concept. Connection with others is what makes life bearable for lots of us. I’ve found out loads of stuff on Facebook which I wouldn’t otherwise have known. People I nod at in the corridor at work and have never managed to get to know, suddenly become more interesting when I find that we have something in common. I like the glimpse behind the curtains of people’s facades when they rant or rave about something.

The bad things for me on Facebook are the boastfulness, the distasteful over sharing and the pleading attention seeking. You know the kind of thing. Here’s my guide:

1) “Gail has had enough of it and can’t believe it has happened again.” This is purely meant to elicit curiosity, draw attention and so is best ignored. Do not under any circumstances type back “What’s up babes?” or “((hugs))”. Tough love is the answer. Ignore these people. Knock them off your news feed. Now! You’ll feel better for it.

2) “Sheila can’t believe the cancer is back and she has to have her womb out tomorrow and may be dead on Thursday.” Really? You want to share that with the 300 people on your friend’s list including the woman from the Post office and that cleaner at work with the dodgy eye who you politely accepted a friend request from for fear of causing offence? Maybe it’s not so bad if you have a select list of close friends on Facebook but who does that? We all have lots of random people we nod to on there but wouldn’t know what to talk about if stuck in a lift together, don’t we? One ex-acquaintance updated her status that her mum had died (which was fine) but the status said “R.I.P. Mum who died at 1230am” and was posted at 12.31am. Phew. Speedy work on the laptop there and a small case of inappropriate priorities. One married couple I knew, publicly split up on Facebook. That was fun for everyone. Seriously, it was fun. I’m not being sarcastic. I love a bit of rancour and airing of dirty laundry. Some of their posts were like lines from “George and Mildred”

3) Posting pictures of happy toddlers/dogs/husbands/bouquets of flowers or the nice tea you’re having. This is purely meant as an act of spite and is to rub single and miserable, dieting, pet-less people’s faces in your joy. Stop it.

4) The “everyone” statements: e.g. “Everyone is proud to be British right now!” “Lovely weather for us all” Erm,..maybe but also maybe not. We’re not in a Fascist regime or a nation of Stepford wives. Get over your extremism and drop the generalisations.

5) The “LOL”, the “ROFL” and the embarrassing “PMSL”.These people generally have bad grammar too. They’re strangers to the apostrophe and as for the their/there thing. They should be made to attend classes and also if they really are PMSLing then they need to get that checked out with their local practice nurse. It can be helped by simple bladder exercises and techniques.

Trawl through my social networking accounts and I suspect you’ll also find me guilty as charged on a few of the above (but not the LOL, naturally).

I did go on about my piles once and have often made remarks about my dodgy relationship break-ups too. When I used to drink to excess, I once also woke up on the kitchen floor after a session to find that I’d somehow written a poorly spelled comment to out a closeted ex. Thankfully a lovely friend saved my honour and sent me a text message suggesting it was an error to post that. That was lucky as I had no recollection of doing it, so thankfully it was only there for a few hours. I would have lost even more of the remaining self respect, which was rapidly ebbing away, had it been up longer. I hate that kind of behaviour too, especially in myself.

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I’ll redress the balance now with some truth telling of a different kind:

Social Networking status: Had an amazing time at the nature reserve and saw herons, a weasel and fed the swans. Lovely day and great lunch.

The truth: Yes, I did have a great time. My partner was there, we ate a lunch which was well presented on a balcony over-looking a pond and watched lots of interesting birds. To be honest though, there were only two non-meat options and I ended up with egg mayonnaise again which does get to be a bore. The sun was out and we laughed a lot. What I failed to mention is that I saw a weasel and was absolutely terrified and only just managed to contain my panic. It is after all, an elongated rat. I had a nervousness and protective instinct about my ankles the rest of the walk around the reserve. If I’d had some string I would have tied my trousers at the bottoms.

I saw herons and swans but to be honest the swans were a bit mean faced and all had cuts and scars and were brawling with each other a lot which depressed me slightly. I went in a hut called “The Kingfisher Viewing Area” and saw no f***ing Kingfishers, just a sparrow or two. I wanted kingfishers. I didn’t get them. It was sunny but I was battered and tired after 7 shifts at work and it felt a bit stark at times. I sweated a lot. A man told me off for smoking too near the cafe and I almost pushed him off a bridge in rage and stuck my lighter up his arse (but contained myself). I brooded a little about this but not much. My partner’s back was sore and he was fretful about some work he’s got to do for University. Finally, I was bitten to pieces by insects and now have a swelling on my neck like a goitre. It itches like mad and makes me look like an inbred Derbyshire hill person from the 1700s.

Happy now?

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I once declared a “truth day” on Facebook and people joined in with gusto, counterbalancing smug posts with reality bites. It’s amazing how many people admitted to being bored at home, having flatulence or sitting around in a baggy old tracksuit watching TV.

So, next time you see a photo and posting about a loved up couple and their happy toddlers, just remember: one of them may well have cheated, one has a persistent fungal infection and they’re yet to find out where the toddler has hidden the turd. It’ll make you feel much happier.

Disclaimer: If you’re still on my social networking lists then it’s not you I’m talking about. The above mentioned culprits have been removed and my news feed cleansed.

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.

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