Now, don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily need to understand something to use it. My knowledge of cars is on a par with my knowledge of 17th century eggcups but I still drive (and eat dippy eggs with toastie soldiers). To quote Edmund Blackadder, 'I'm one of those people who are quite happy to wear cotton but have no idea how it works'.
MySpace I get. MySpace is a great way to sell your wares - my son's band has a MySpace page and they get a lot of hits. And hits means they're shifting their CDs and getting gigs. But why does Rolf Harris have a MySpace page? Or Brian Blessed? Do we not know who they are and what they do? And if you hunt around you'll find bankers and fishermen, fencing salesman, antique mobile phone enthusiasts and otter lovers. Why? What possible use is there in setting up a MySpace site called I like fishing?
Blogs I get too. I can't help feel that a lot of people on MySpace should be keeping blogs instead. There is a kind of unwritten protocol that you don't use blogs for selling stuff but if all you're doing is sharing your passions and enthusiasms, a blog is perfect. It's the modern diary/journal, only it's open to public scrutiny.
But Facebook? I cannot fathom that one out at all. All Facebook did for me today, like most days, was get me poked and superpoked. I've had sheep thrown at me, been sent a virtual drink and been asked to take part in a number of (generally) badly-spelled quizzes. All of which is fun, of a kind ... but what is Facebook for, apart from distracting me from work? Or is that it? Is that the purpose of Facebook?
In Stephen Fry's new Saturday Guardian column he stated that 'I have a secret presence on Facebook and a public one, too, which I don’t have the time to pay much attention to.' (Do any of us?) And if you take the time to also read the comments that people leave, it seems that there are others in the same boat as Stephen and me. 'It’s funny that whenever someone tells me they have a Facebook/MySpace, they will always follow it with ‘but I’ve been ignoring it for ages.’ Is that part of the whole experience, never actually using it? I’ve been getting that sense.' wrote Ruby Cosmos.
She does go on to tell this great story though - 'Although I will admit to their usefulness for amusements. A friend of mine works at a theme park, and someone on the tech crew created a rather detailed MySpace for one of the animatronic characters, including dating information. Sadly, the park bigwigs nixed it, so Clancy the Leprechaun remains woefully single and bereft of an online social network.'
I aired my grievances with 'Me' online yesterday and her simple no-nonsense answer was 'Why don't you leave Facebook then?'
And therein lies the problem ... all of those people chucking spiders at me and making zombies bite me last night are friends. Facebook obviously affords them some amusement. Personally, I'd rather chat to them on the phone or via MSN or some other interactive method. Despite its supposed 'bleeding edge' status, Facebook seems to me to be rather old-fashioned and pedestrian. Writing on each other's walls and being notified of new pokes etc. is basically just communicating by email which is ponderously slow and, to my mind, only one small step for Man above letter-writing. But will they see it as a snub if I shut my account?
The question I have to ask myself is why I bothered to open an account in the first place. Some desire to be part of a community? Not wanting to be left out? I don't recall. I think I was simply curious to see what all the fuss was about. And now that I have, I still don't see what the fuss is all about. But now I'm trapped between the desire to be free of Facebook's clutches and the equally strong desire not to alienate my chums.