Monday, 21 February 2011

The one that got away

Here is the post I started writing nearly four weeks ago, and then, wasn't really sure what to write. Or even why I was writing it. Or whether to. Time helps with most things, even writing blog posts, and mulling them over for weeks. To the extent that I know now that I am writing it because I like neat and tidy endings, and writing it provides that for me. Also because, it meant something to me for those years, it merits a post. And at least this post will be much shorter than the ones I was writing in my head three or four weeks ago. We started emailing on a pretty regular basis a few years ago. We'd mailed occasionally beforehand, and fallen out occasionally too. We were worlds apart - literally and metaphorically. Our lives were totally different, and we probably held opposite opinions on virtually everything under the sun, but I liked him. He was funny and he was interesting. He also had (has) a lovely dog which I suppose should be a minor point, but never is with me. There were lots of laughs and lots of grief. Who on earth could fall out about Sploofus, Scrabulous and Farmville? Er, we did. We fell out about sharing photographs too. Perhaps, on reflection, over the years, there wasn't much we didn't fall out about. It was, to say the least, an up and down relationship. Either we were up and laughing and having a good time, or we were down and arguing and one of us was walking away. Initially it was me, later it was him. Meeting people on the internet is like meeting people in real life. Except it isn't. There are similarities. You meet, you exchange conversations in common places, and then you drift elsewhere. But you don't really know these people, do you? It's not like socialising with neighbours or work colleagues. You can't share enough information in enough time. There is something strange about receiving a mail that says, 'don't contact me again, ever.' There was a please in front of it, but an order is an order, which is what that was, and adding 'please' makes no difference at all. An attempt at fake politeness. No more, no less. Initially, I was annoyed that someone else thought they could dictate terms and conditions of what I mistakenly thought was an equal relationship (in my dreams huh?). But should I respect that? I pondered long and hard. What about the times I had said I wanted to stop communications and my request had been ignored? Hey, when a woman says 'no', she never really means it does she? I don't like being told what to do, but what really stopped me from trying to explain that maybe we had, not for the first time, misunderstood each other, was someone telling me they wanted to have nothing to do with me again. Ever. That's pretty powerful, and it worked. So I never did write back, didn't seem much point. And in a way, there was a strange sense of relief. No more fall outs to worry about, no more thinking I'd say the wrong thing, no more looking for messages that weren't there. Every other time we'd fallen out, I'd been sad or upset, but this final one was different. Yes, I still look at my mails to check them out of habit, but knowing there won't be one. Why would there be? And maybe I breathe a sigh of relief that there isn't. I don't have to decide whether or not to reply. Yet, there are times when I miss him. When everything was stolen from our vehicle in Spain last year, he was the only person who offered practical help. Kind thoughts and good wishes from my Facebook friends (who no doubt will all be alienated at this point) are all well and good, and I did appreciate them. But how many people offer to send cash to someone they have never met and never will, because they trust it will be repaid? He did. And when I was fed up or wanted to moan, he was, in the early days, always there with a laugh, and a cheerful word. He would dish out the same sort of pragmatic advice that I do to others, but mostly he would try - and succeed - at making me smile. Things always change though. Maybe that's why I decided to clean up the finca, start blogging again. Do something that doesn't involve looking for mails that will never be there. Perhaps some good came out of it after all. Edited to add: Ironically my post here was written a couple of days before our final disagreement. A premonition? Or just co-incidence?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Facebook - Now you see me ..

Now you don't. For those of you who don't know, I have deactivated my Facebook account for a while, to take a break from my busy round of internet social networking. There are a number of reasons for this so I thought it was worth writing a post, seeing as how so many people (ie 600+ million according to use Facebook, and of those approximately half (depending on what stats you look at) use it for gaming. To start at the beginning, I joined Facebook for no particular reason, just that I noticed others were doing so, and I thought I would have a look and see what the attraction was. There didn't seem to be any, so I promptly left it alone. At the time, most of my internet time was spent writing my own blogs and visiting and commenting on others. And I spent time on forums too, and to be fair, some of that was actually useful. I went back on Facebook to start playing Scrabulous - and it was good fun. Luckily it was constrained to his lunchbreaks and after work which meant a) we weren't playing all day and b) I had plenty of time to think about what word to make with my seven letters. I needed plenty of time. And then, while I was playing Scrab, I noticed quite a few of my (dog) blogging friends were on Facebook. So I acquired some friends. And a few more. Then I noticed a popular game - the inevitable Farmville. I hit on a lot of other games, played them, chucked them, and blocked them - the games, not the friends. (See earlier post here about my views on games, and an interesting read here that puts me in my place for my somewhat derogatory comments about mindless games. And here is a short read about why people play games on Facebook). The friend list continued to expand, again mostly based on my blogging contacts, but some were added in the need to gain extra pals for the latest farm upgrade, but even they were mostly dog people. I hadn't met any of these people, nor do I ever expect to. Well, that was true until last year when one of them did visit Spain on holiday and we met up. The exception that proves the rule. But if one of the main Facebook activities is keeping in touch with friends and family, or refinding people from the past - I haven't used any of that. The few friends I keep in touch with tend to - occasionally - email me, send cards, or write letters. Remember letters? those old-fashioned things that arrive in the post. I got one the other day, an aerogram, or rather air mail letter as I see it is called, and it was a lovely surprise. Nor would I want to share exchanges with my 'real-life' friends in public on my Facebook wall. So what do/did I share on Facebook with hundreds of people I don't know? Not very much really. A few photos, links to updated blog posts, bushels and strawberry pigs (they are worth 15,000 coins so a good one to share). I made flippant comments on some posts, and admired the odd photo. I made a few serious comments on dog posts, and once in a blue moon on some posts by feminist friends. I did use the pm service quite often though. But the more the list of friends grows, the harder it is to keep track of people. You wonder if you have missed something. In fact, I often did. Kind-thinking friends would pm me to point me to a post about something so that I didn't put my booted foot in it. Instead of relying on the news feed, it seemed to become important to click on individual profiles. Gah!!! How many clicks was that? Especially if you needed to go back to it all over again. Too many clicks. Too much time. Feeling there is a need to interact with people, or they will be offended if they don't hear from you. How many people asked where I was when I deactivated, some of whom wondered if I had blocked them? More than one, to my surprise. I'm one of the types who invariably accepts a request from people who want to 'friend' me. If they have enough decent friends in common I do feel slightly guilty about saying no. Most people accept my friend requests that I make, so why should I not accept the ones who ask me? Here is a brief summary of a study which I found interesting. I really don't care about gifts or reciprocity or anything like that but I do have an occasional guilt twinge. Occasional. When I look at the profiles of a lot of my friends, they are so different to me. Many of my American friends are the 2Rs (there are probably 3Rs but I can't think of one right now) - Republican and Religious. So not me. My profile says/said very little. Perhaps if I put up my left-wing, animal rescue, vegetarian, feminist, environmentalist, ethical, agnostic/atheist views etc etc etc on Facebook I might not have quite so many friends. Or at least I would have them long enough for everyone to expand their farm, and then be discretely deleted. I mentioned that most of my friends are from the dog world. There was soooo much drama recently on there when it seemed Facebook was suddenly policing those people who, shock! horror! signed up as dogs. Well, they didn't sign up as dogs, but they were basically an extension of a dog blogging persona eg Rover Collie. It is apparently outwith the T&C to sign up as a dog, or hamster, cat, guinea pig, pet python, you get the idea. It is also not allowed to use a false name. Yeah, so I don't know anyone signed up under either of those? And do I care? People harmlessly sign on under an alias, or play at being their dog/cat/whatever. So what? If Facebook wants to protect the image of the site from serious abuse, I do not think animal identities are the place to start. Or maybe they are. One friend suggested that sex abusers/paedophiles may well try and lure teenagers with cute animal pix. Another friend suggested that maybe parents should monitor more closely what their children are doing on the internet and on Facebook. Moving onto more dog-related stuff. I am well sick of seeing posts about the Westminster Kennel Club Show. I had to look it up to discover what it was, but apparently it is something like the American equivalent of Crufts. I am not into showing dogs, at all. To me, it doesn't seem to be all about the dogs, it is all about the vain people behind them. And, although I may well be missing something, whenever I have seen those shows - yes I did watch Crufts as a kid - it does rather concentrate on pure-breeds, doesn't it? Pure breeds are very nice. I have lived with three pedigree ones in my life in the family home, and two in my adult life that we rescued from shelters. Their temperaments are no better or no worse than a rescue cross-breed. We've rescued two of those as well. But some of the other type of posts, that sadly I see a lot of on Facebook, are requests to adopt all the unwanted dogs who have only a few days left - or even hours - before they are gassed in a kill shelter. I wondered for some time why people put these posts up. I couldn't see any point to it, so I asked a small group of friends via pm what they thought. And one of them answered that she knew of one or more dogs who had been rehomed via a Facebook post. Whereupon I stopped feeling offended about seeing a lot of beautiful dogs who might well not be alive much longer, and hoped somewhere, someone, would give them a home, and if that was via Facebook then it was worth the posts. But I got my knuckles rapped recently for commenting about breeders making money. Apparently very few do. They are only breeding dogs because they love them. Really? If they love them that much - why aren't they out there rehoming all the dogs on Death Row? And because to me, every puppy bought from a breeder potentially means one dog less that is rescued from a shelter, whether breeder specific or otherwise. And that means one more unwanted dog killed unnecessarily. So, I looked at the time I was spending on Facebook, and wondered why on earth I was doing it. Yes, I had enjoyed a few laughs and made some new virtual friends, outside the blogging ones I already knew. And I had a large virtual farm with lots of points and mastery signs. According to today's Daily Telegraph, Facebook is worth around $50bn, and Zynga (Farmville) has been valued at between $7 and $9bn. What are they doing for me? Nothing. So why am I wasting time on them? And feeling overwhelmed with stuff that is nothing to do with my life apart from the virtual circuit. Fortunately I have certainly not put real cash into Zynga, because get this:
users can also buy Facebook credits to purchase extra features. These ‘virtual goods’ provide more than 90 per cent of Zynga’s revenue stream,
from this article here. If I want to avoid doing chores, put off essential tasks, whatever, I can just as easily write blog posts and comment on others as I used to before the lure of Facebook hit. If anyone wants to email me, they can. I usually reply. Or I can pick up a book. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier is the current one. So that my dears, is what I shall be doing, for a while at least.