Straight off the bat let me declare I think Facebook is a good thing. It’s a useful communications device helping me to keep in contact with people. However, if given the choice I prefer being in the company of real living humans and communicating face to face. This isn’t possible of course if like many of us your friends are dotted around the country and indeed the whole planet. As a result, Facebook is a handy and necessary tool in order to keep in touch with people. However, there seems a grey area when it comes to protocol.

For example, I found myself in a slightly sticky situation some time back and it centered around the break up with my then girlfriend. We hadn’t been friends on Facebook before going out and I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive when only a couple of weeks in to the relationship I received a friend request from her. I remember thinking at the time that it was a tad hasty for either of us to be committing to being cyber friends as it very early on in our new relationship in the real world yet alone the computer world. Furthermore, it’s not as if you can counteract such a request with the line “Lets give it a few more weeks and see if we’re still going out, then we’ll make a call on the friend request”.  Such a reaction would spell the end of a relationship before it really started and so there is really just one course of action to follow – accept the request. This I did but around a week later a new development occurred when I noticed it was now showing up on her profile page that she was “in a relationship”. My initial reaction was  to query “who the hell with?” until I realised it was me. I’ve never had the inclination to press that button when in a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a case of keeping anything secret, I just don’t feel the need to put up banners advertising the fact. So, albeit with a sense of slight bewilderment I let it go and got on with things. Time passed and after an enjoyable six month relationship it was apparent we weren’t destined to be together and I’m glad to say an amicable break up came to pass. However, we were still friends on Facebook and it got me thinking. Surely neither of us wanted to see photos of new girlfriends/boyfriends popping up on news feeds when you least expect?  It appeared a choice had to be made –

1. Remain friends on Facebook and run the risk of having to view pictures and new profile updates it would  be preferable to be oblivious to.


2. De-friend in an act of self preservation in the hope that the other party is thinking of administering the same course of action.

After some deliberation, during which I canvassed the opinion of others, I made a decision – to de-friend. It was only a few weeks later that I discovered there was a third option I could have implemented –

3. Click the “Hide” facility enabling you to stay friends with someone but without having to view any news or profile updates.

Alas, I didn’t know this third option existed at the time. Furthermore, I automatically assumed she would have wanted to de-friend as well but I was wrong, very wrong. It was just after I had finished a long but successful days work on location in March that my phone buzzed with a text message. I casually took the phone out of my pocket to view a message I thought might be from my producer saying how well the days filming had gone and what time we were going to be starting the following day. No sodding way, it was a text message from my ex along the lines of “I can’t believe you’ve blocked me on Facebook! Did the last six months mean nothing to you?”. There was more in the message but you get the general idea. In fact there were several more text messages exchanged back and fourth with me protesting my innocence by claiming what I had done to be some act of mercy on both our behalves. Unfortunately, she didn’t appear to really believe me which was frustrating as I can honestly say that what I did was not meant to be harsh or insensitive and it bugged me to think someone I had enjoyed a relationship with now thought the time we had shared together hadn’t meant as much as it did. Finally, after protesting my innocence I got the impression that although still not agreeing with my actions, she understood that they were not intended to be coldhearted in any way and what I had done, albeit under some fuzzy logic in her eyes at least, was well intended. Sadly for me, this respite would not last for long. I had just about managed to calm tensions when things took a turn for the worse.

What I haven’t mentioned already is the fact that during our time together I had received and accepted a couple of Facebook requests from her friends. Call it a knee jerk reaction if you will but on de-friending my ex I thought I’d better implement option 4 –

4. When de-friending an ex you should do the same with their friends as you can’t exactly cease communications with one party and not the other.

So, I did. It wasn’t long until I received a text on the back of her discovery that more de-friending had taken place. Suffice to say, this text wasn’t too empathetic and it took me some time before I managed to calm the situation down once more. We have yet to re-friend at the time of me writing this which is a shame as she is a great person but I suppose understandable after the fiasco. It all leads to a couple of summations on the whole episode –

1. If you’ve met the love of your life and you both feel the same way about each other, friend up on Facebook and start planning where you want to go on honeymoon.

2. If you haven’t met the love of your life and want to maintain an amicable break up consider the “Hide” facility before any panic de-friending commences.

With the dust now settled it’s time to determine what I have learned from Facebook Fiasco. The first is that it would be useful if there was a document which explained what the correct Facebook protocol should be because on regaling this tale to friends it became quickly apparent that nobody was sure what the correct course of action should have been. Another thing the whole saga illustrates is the differing level of importance people append to Facebook. As I have already said, to me it’s a handy communications device but to others it appears to mean more, which I hasten to add isn’t a bad thing, just a different way to look at things than the way I do. I’ve also realised that I value a greater level of privacy compared to some users of the site. For example, I don’t really get why someone would post scans of their unborn baby up there. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. To me some things are so sacred they shouldn’t be viewed in the same way one would view a friends holiday snap of them careering into a fellow holiday maker on a water slide in Portugal whilst mouthing the words “come on!”. It got we wondering as to how long it will be until we see a detailed analysis with links to youtube footage concerning how babies are made in the first place? I wager that would get a good few hits. Another aspect which leaves me a little perplexed is the craze for publicly liking things. I’ve clicked this button a few times when someone has posted some genuinely good news, a really great tune or a link to an interesting article but I’ve also seen some rather mundane information such as notifications of a cup of tea being drunk met with a chorus of approval. This in turn has left me eagerly awaiting the invention of a button that when clicked reads “Upon reading this I remained totally ambivalent to the information contained”.

While we’re at it, if anyone is going to divulge information in an update which they fear may appear to cross over the line from news sharing to public gloating, I think they should do so with no ambiguities whatsoever.  Such lines as “I can’t believe how lucky I am” or “My life can’t get much better than this” contain too little detail and leave too many questions unanswered. If someone is intent on making a big declaration, then pack it with detail which while running the risk of splitting opinion, will prove a true talking point and by dint, a more interesting one. I await eagerly to read something along the lines of “Due to the fact that I’m now making close to three million pounds a year after tax, I’ve bought a massive house with two games rooms consisting of four pool tables, eight dart boards and a full subbuteo set complete with grandstands and floodlights. Do you know what? I’m not even in to games but I’ve got money to burn, yeeeeessssssssssss!!!!”.  There are various ways to respond to such an update. You could like it by pressing the requisite button on your keypad, voice disapproval at such vociferous gloating or use the third option of counteracting it with a supplementary declaration of your own. I would propose a message that’s as unambiguous as the original but in no way eluding to it. Something along the lines of  – “After several recent false starts, I did the best shit in weeks today’. If I ever read such a statement I would be most interested to witness what kind of reaction such an announcement would be met with and how many “I like this” ripostes it would garner. I would be shocked and disappointed not to see a high number.

Image 1 – Facebook

Image 2 – allvoices