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Cutting out the Cheese on Social Networking

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I had a cheese sandwich today. Actually, I didn't, I had the Eat 'Xmas Full Works', complete with 10p donation to homeless charities. This makes it an interesting sandwich for three reasons. Firstly: the attempt to transfer what is traditionally the largest meal of the year into a sandwich. Secondly: the charity element - doing good via double meat. Thirdly: it's only November.

All in all, it was a pretty interesting sandwich. And yet I neither tweeted nor Facebooked this sandwich. I didn't take a picture of it and put it on Flickr, or mutate its image on Instagram. I totally failed to check in to the sandwich, or become the mayor of it. What happened between me and this sandwich remained a local affair. Remarkable, given the size of it.

Yet whenever I go onto, let's call it Facebook, there are many of my closest friends busy eating cheese sandwiches, waking up and being in supermarkets. And not in the sense of 'I woke up in a supermarket and now I'm eating a sandwich. It's cheese". These are the details of their lives that they see fit to beam out to their chums, around the clock. At least Twitter limits the number of characters you can do it in.

Apparently this relentless narration is not without its uses - those scamps in the City who bought you the downturn are using Twitter as a feed for algorithmic trading, based on cheese sandwiches consumed, how happy they made you feel, crumbs dropped on fellow train passengers and so on. For those of us who aren't going to get rich through the FTSE Inanity Index, however, the result is page upon page of the sort of thoughts we used to keep inside our heads, if they made it that far from our stomachs at all.

I fear that, following the friend boom provoked by Facebook, we are about to see a friend bust. It is, after all, the natural order of things. There was too much demand for cheap debt to buy giant TVs and money went bust. Then there was too much demand for celebrities doing things they shouldn't and the tabloids went bust. Then there was too much Jordan and, well, you get the general idea.

When I went to university, my Dad warned me: "You'll find you spend half your second year shaking off the undesirable friends you made in your first". It's a quote from Brideshead Revisited, you know, and if you knew my Dad, you'd know this is a pretty good story in itself and one I would have Facebooked at the time had our electronic communication not been limited to typing 55378008 into our calculators and turning them upside down. It looks as though Evelyn Waugh may have been most prescient in terms of social networking.

In its many incarnations, Facebook has so far failed to make a 'removing inane comments from view' button, although in this most recent one it has given it a shot. The trouble is that my friends are all capable of intelligence along with inanity, and there's no way to filter them out. To protect myself, and our friendships, they're going to have to be banished into the real world, where they'd never dream of giving me a blow-by-blow account of their trip to the post office unless it ended with the words "but what really qualifies as 'a spree'?". And that's a shame, because I enjoy seeing photos of their pets and holidays and more interesting meals.

I'm not here to say the internet's full of rubbish and there's never anything on, like so much multi-channel TV. If a cat falls off the back of a sofa in shock because someone dressed their baby up like Che Guevara, of course I want to be there. But people, I know you. I hand picked you out of seven billion. Have some dignity.

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