Facebook GIVES A FALSE touch

THE worst thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind is not apartheid, the two World Wars, the dropping of the atomic bomb or the tsunami.

THE worst thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind is not apartheid, the two World Wars, the dropping of the atomic bomb or the tsunami.

It is Facebook. I am overwhelmed - and not in a good way - by Facebook.

I have never thought of myself as boring and old, so I was taken aback when a stranger issued this verdict on me via email.

The confidence with which this conviction was issued did not leave much room for me to launch an appeal.

A 47-year-old married father of three had invited me to be his Facebook friend.

He was flabbergasted that there is anyone in the world who is not on Facebook and has no intention of putting her life story on the web for all to read about.

It is not the first invitation and the more of these I reject, the worse it gets. The invitations are standard and encourage you to link up so "we can view each other's pictures and videos".

I always decline the invitation and inform the sender that I am not on Facebook.

The responses vary - some simply let it go and the cheeky ones ask me with much irritation: "So when do you plan to join Facebook?"

Inherent in this enquiry is a statement that a life without Facebook is no life at all. One minute my life was normal and the next, I was a backward outcast, all because I am not "feeling this Facebook thing".

Human touch

Before you argue that it is because I am in the public eye that I am inundated with invitations, how do you explain the requests from friends and family?

I am talking about close people who have my phone numbers, email and physical addresses - people who know the bad and good side of me, who have risen and fallen and risen again with me, who have held my hand when I cry and touched my life in a profound way.

Why would I want to replace this poignant human touch with the impersonal Facebook?

My aversion to Facebook is not based on ignorance or a fear of change.

I have a sober understanding of the magnitude and reach of this tool, which combines e-mail, Internet messaging, gaming, photo sharing, social networking, personal Web hosting and mailing lists all in one.

This newspaper has also reported on the usefulness of Facebook for so-called celebrities who air their dirty linen in public.

Recently, a very smart and talented presenter told the whole world about her useless baby's daddy.

Before that, there was a story of celebrities who not only swapped partners but made their feelings known on Facebook.

I also know of a teenager who told the whole world that the man who had raised her was not her father. This is outrageous.

Facebook allows for screening and a degree of privacy but the truth is it also creates a blur between what's private and public. The more friends you have, the more your Facebook page becomes a professional website.

Universal sharing

In this massive and swirling ocean of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers, what happens to the private, personal and meaningful touch? Can our interaction with each other really be so clinical?

With Facebook you can choose your friends and ensure that only they are privy to information about you. However, even our friendships are unique and, in a normal world, you share different aspects of your life with different friends.

This universal sharing, even among friends, is cold and distant. With one friend you talk sport, the other about relationships, and maybe with another friend you talk about work. Facebook is also eroding the magic of making the time and effort to visit your friends; to look them in the eye and count your blessings.

I hate a world that is forcing us to disengage from each other. The connectivity that Facebook offers is a façade. Connecting with each other is not only about the words we write but it is also about hearing each other's laughter and tears. That's friendship.