I've become addicted to Facebook

7 April 2007

Oh dear. I did have plans for the Easter weekend. Well, not big plans, but plans nevertheless. Back at home with my parents, I was going to catch up on some reading,  watch a bit of telly, and gorge myself on good home cooking and Easter eggs.

But then I discovered Facebook.

I’ve dabbled with social networking sites before. I’ve got two MySpace accounts - one personal and one for my music. The trouble is I’ve only got about four friends on each account, and they get bombarded with spam messages and spam “add friend” requests from desparate friendless American teenagers.

I had an invite thing for Facebook a few months ago, but I’ll confess I didn’t bother with it because I thought it would be pretty much the same. But then my sister showed it to me on Thursday and I was embarrassingly excited.

Facebook is a like a combination of:

  • MySpace - but with all the crap bits taken out. No "unofficial" profiles of popular sitcom characters. No pretending that you're on first-name terms with Russell Brand. No rubbish music blaring out when you click on somebody's profile. No brain haemmorage as you suffer what somebody else thinks is a "kewl" colour scheme.
  • FriendsReunited - but with all the crap bits taken out. No paying money just to send someone a message. No removing of email and website addresses from profiles, so you don't see silly things like "email me at .com" or "my website is http://" because the owner didn't realise.
  • Flickr. I expect there are some crap bits about Flickr. I've not used it much.
  • Blogging, but you don't even have to tell people about your blog because you can just import it into your Facebook notes. Genius.

And it seems pretty much everybody I’ve ever known has a profile already.What an annoyingly good idea. I wish I’d come up with it.

So, instead of the nice relaxing Easter weekend I had planned, I’ve spent much it trying to remember the names of everybody I’ve ever known. If I go away from the computer to read or watch TV for a while, it’s not long before I come running back to the computer to search for somebody else I’d forgotten about, or just to check if anybody else has added me as a friend.

Facebook is not without its faults of course. I’m a mere normal person, and not a student, and I’m self-employed (for now) and don’t have US phone number, so I can’t “verify” my account. That means every time I want to add a friend I have to enter one of those annoying image verification codes which are always an interesting challenge. Sometimes these don’t even come up, so when I click the “add” button I get told that I got it wrong.

Also for some reason all the times I see are an hour ahead of the real time.

But these are just minor flaws. The thing that really worries me is, where are the adverts? There are hardly any. Who is paying for all of this? Are they just getting us all hooked until we depend on Facebook for normal human interaction, so they can then stick the knife in and make us pay exorbitant fees just to keep in contact with our friends? Or do they really think they can sustain their business by getting us to occasionally pay for a small picture of a cake to appear on somebody else’s profile?

I think I’ll have to start limiting my Facebook usage, as I could easily spend all my time on it. There is a danger that you can almost use it as a replacement for real life - living vicariously through your News Feed showing what your friends are up to. It probably won’t be long before people find out they’re dumped because their News Feed tells them that their girlfriend or boyfriend has changed their status to Single. And I don’t think paying $1 for a small picture of some flowers is going to fix that.