A column about Facebook

I’ve had terrible trouble finishing this week’s column. Usually my wisdom flows rapidly onto the page, and before I know it, I’m patting myself on the back after another yet successful instalment in my life’s mission to make the world a better place. Mahatma Gandhi chose passive resistance, the Dalai Lama chose travelling the world and teaching people, while my chosen medium is brief, pisstakey newspaper columns. Each guru has their own methods.

But this week, the distractions have been constant. I’m in the middle of crafting some pithy epithet about global warming, when my phone buzzes. Then, after I’ve dealt with that, and am midway through composing a powerful statement on industrial relations that will shake the very government to its core, someone sends me a message on Google Chat enquiring “what r u doing tonight,? ;)” I pause to enlighten them – because I give knowledge to all who ask, friends, not just the readers of The Glebe – and before I know it, my train of thought has been derailed completely.

Ever since email and SMSing took off, the constant textual harassment has grown to a maddening din. And, unusually for a guru, I haven’t a shred of self-discipline, so I eagerly seize up every single distraction. Honestly, it’s amazing that I can I accomplish anything at all, let alone produce words that touch as many people as mine do.

Things have gotten completely out of hand in the past month, though. Sadly, I have now become completely consumed by pointless internet messaging. And this addiction that is destroying what little productivity I have left has a name. And it is Facebook.

I’ve written about MySpace before in these pages, the social networking site owned by the publishers of this newspaper, News Corporation. I’ve used that for a few years, and it’s been fun. (Don’t worry, Rupert hasn’t asked me personally to talk it up. He respects my integrity too much for that.) But the problem with MySpace is that sadly, I’m too old. Sure, I had a few younger buddies I used to chat to, but my oldest and dearest friends would never have indulged in so teenybopperish an obsession. I am ageless, of course, but my friends are in their late twenties and early thirties. And it is they who have embraced Facebook.

What is it? Well, you have a list of friends, and you send messages and invite each other to social events. Yes, I’m aware it sounds lame, for those who haven’t been sucked into its evil web. The problem is that, probably because its owners have concluding some compact with Satan himself, everyone I know has just joined it.

Every day, my list of online friends swells by a couple more. And they span the whole gamut of my life – people I knew from school, people I knew from uni and people I talked to for five minutes at a party the other night. They’re all in touch with me, perhaps forever.

Sorry, let me pause for a moment here. Something important has come up. I’ve just been invited to be Facebook friends with someone who used to date someone who I haven’t seen in the past six years. Okay, click. New friend acquired. Awesome.

What I’m going to do with all of these new old friends, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll hold a massive reunion. Maybe I’ll foment revolution. Maybe both at once. But it’s nice to feel in touch with so many people I’ve once known, even so superficially.

And while the constant deluge of pointless invitations to join pointless groups (I just joined “Chuck Norris could punch someone in their soul”, which promises an interesting blend of metaphysics and crappy 80s action films) can become a little annoying, I sincerely hope everyone I know ultimately joins FaceBook. Oh, and MySpace, of course, Rupert.

I may never see half of these people in the flesh ever again, but as I sit here by myself typing, I feel like I’m not alone in the universe. And in some way, that’s meaningful.

So take that, Dalai Lama. I have a message of holistic interconnectedness to spread to the universe as well. I’m not sure if you’re on Facebook, your Holiness, but if you are, let’s be friends.

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