My significant 250 others
This time last year I ended the rather meaningful relationship I had been having with Facebook. It was a messy break-up. Facebook didn't seem to understand I already had a wife, a child, a career and a mother-in-law. That's enough for any person. I certainly didn't have time for the 285 Facebook friends who were supposedly a big part of my online life.
I've never been good at break-ups. I recall in high school comparing a departing girlfriend to ice cream - "how do you know if you like her flavour, until you've tried some others?" I was 17, and a jerk. I hope she's living happily ever after with someone who knows their hokey-pokey from their Neapolitan.
This break-up was similar, I wanted to end it and Facebook wanted to know why. It offered me a whole bunch of possible reasons for breaking up; I didn't tick "I don't feel safe with Facebook"or "I spent too much time with it". I picked "I had privacy concerns".
I didn't want these 285 friends I had collected knowing what I was doing. These people wanted to look into my life whenever they felt like it and I wanted to pull the blinds.
On my Facebook page there are photos of me at friends' parties, the odd wedding photo and a snap or two of me at work. It's the sort of stuff you may bore your mother with when she comes to stay and wants to know what you've been up to. What you wouldn't do is walk into a pub with 200 people in it and start waving around your photo album, and that's what Facebook invites you to do. And I know people who surf Facebook, perving into people's lives. They are the online equivalent of the horny teenager up a tree staring in my sister's window while she gets changed. Facebook has become the party line of the 2000s. Growing up in Gore, I knew of farmers' wives who would listen in on the neighbour's phone conversations, now we can all do it by trawling Facebook.
After I had ticked the boxes, Facebook made one last desperate attempt to get me to stay. There in the middle of my screen staring back at me was a picture of my daughter with the caption: "Marley will miss you." It was a dirty trick and the only reason it didn't work was because I knew she wouldn't miss me, I could hear her next door in the kitchen trying to get into the dog food. So, yes, my 18-month-old daughter has a Facebook page. Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you it's not really a page for her. It's for her aunty in Darwin, her nana in Gore and her cousins in Brisbane. They can watch video of her spitting out her first solids, and images of her first steps. It's important stuff but only for the people who care.
The reason a break-up 12 months ago is news is because yesterday I decided to get back together with Facebook. I was doing research for a documentary idea and needed to find some people. The scary thing is that Facebook hadn't gotten over our break-up. Like an obsessed ex-lover, it had kept everything we ever had together - the photos, the video, and my 250 friends. There they were welcoming me back; I'm not sure they had noticed I had left. So it turns out that Facebook loves me unconditionally. It never questioned me about who I'd been with or what I'd been up to. It may be the perfect relationship, maybe that's why I'm not the only person in love with it.
Hadyn Jones is a broadcaster and fairweather friend. He writes a fortnightly column.
The Dominion Post