Monday, September 21, 2009


Bishop Nick Baines in his excellent blog Nick Baines's Blog highlights the use, in the cyber networking world ,of the word friend. He mentions that in Japan someone runs an agency for Rent -a -friend.  I remember in Dorking 20 years ago someone started a Rent-a granny scheme and the 4th Estate has adverts for Escort Services, not all of the oldest profession in the world sort, but for working people who simply do not have a lifestyle where friends are easily made, or maintained. Nick Baines is right to question the casual use of the word friend.
Before sociology students begin to write their theses on the Social  Networking matrices,we may unpack our own reasons for using Facebook, and asking ourselves
  • What do I get out of it? and 
  • What do I put into it?
Many people started like I did to use Facebook having become confident in the use of Friends ReUnited . Now I started using this app within months of it starting, having been told of it by my boss, the Headteacher of a school in Bridlington. He needed to be aware of what might be posted there, after all it was in his interests to be sure that nothing of a derogatary nature , concerning HIM or HIS SCHOOL was posted in cyberspace.

I look now at websites about this North Yorkshire town , and see the awful comments posted by illiterate youngsters commenting on the local chip shops, pubs, landlords and other public places.

My Head was right to keep himself informed.

I joined Friends Reunited because I wanted to see if I could get into contact with my room-mate from 1966 -7, when I was at college. And no -I still have not found her. We were friends for a season, I never disagreed with her, we jogged along together as 19 years olds by necessity. This  in the days when social conventions and our behaviour at a Cof E teacher training college would be seen today as those of a  girls' boarding school in the days of Angela Brazil. Within a year or two of dipping in to F-R-U  occasionally, I had found no real friends from my college days, updated my news of acquaintances, been amazed at my memory for names, and my lack of it. In short -it gave me , and still gives me Nothing Much.

I posted all my  1965-1985 (35mm)pictures digitally updated by my self-satisfied self to the photo pages of all the school pages. I felt my responsibility to Archive my part in their social history was completed. Other visitors to F-R-U will benefit ,or not ,from pictures of naturewalks to Wandsworth Common and school Journeys to Lyme Regis and Paris. I have drawn a line under my need to be useful to the record of the past.

Having not discovered any friends , I move on to network on Facebook.

Within weeks of coming aboard a cyberworld where I tread gently, I have requests from people all over the world who share my surname to become their friends.
My son amazes me on his profile page with his hundreds of friends. A cautious approach is taken by me. At first I accept as friends only people I genuinely know and like. This seems to work for me. They are my friends. I have now acquired several cyberfriends.  My definition of a cyberfriend is  
'someone you have  met online through a mutual interest, (a facebook group) and enjoy communicating with through the electronically  written word'
I have only 2 of them on Facebook, both found through my Facebook group 'I got an Echium through the winter'

Using Facebook , I have trodden gently, and no one has trodden on my dreams. I love the benefits. Old friends are within easy reach, we keep in touch by seeing our profiles, we learn about each other by interpreting the status updates, by reading between the lines, by judging what has been written for effect, what has been written for amusement and fun, by seeing who is out to impress  and who is just themselves. The interpretation of the data known as 'status updates' is the stuff of friendship anyway. A joy has been how the friends of my children, now respond to me  as an equal, not Bens Mother, or someone last seen dishing out fish fingers. I am their friend, but remain a distant one, here if they need me, not embarrassing them with senior remarks.
I am able to find news quickly, before waiting for round-robins at Christmas, to respond, pray and support when necessary, to 'laugh with those who laugh and mourn with those who mourn'. My global family is real and special to me.

Nick Baines queries the use of the word Friend. He is right to query its use. I would like to ask him where does a friend end and an acquaintance begin? Are they interchangeable?May friends be  for a season? What is a Friend ?
I know people who I am not close to, who I rarely see, but when I do we have an immediate rapport which may be intense for a short time, and then I do not see them again for years and the cycle starts again. I call these friends and acquaintances. Maybe we need like the Inuit do for snow, more words, but for friend.
So on to Twitter.  Here is my current background  picture .
The word here is not  friend  but  follower.
I follow some people who probably have no idea that I am vicariously part of their lives! Does it matter? No , of course not. I am able to detach myself from the idea that I am important to anyone I do not know, because I know , and they know that we ARE PEOPLE WATCHING.
This is what I get out of it,-I learn things about my interests from Twitter links to blogposts, I enjoy slowly getting to know some of the people I am following, and they become my cyberfriends. I care when they are down and laugh with them when they are not, it is the Romans 12 v15again. What do I put into it-just the same as I do on Facebook, I am here to share.

So, we all wait to see whether Facebook Lite ticks all the boxes missed by Facebook and hinted at by Twitter. I'm up for it!

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