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Knowing When to Pull Out...

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Good old facebook. Keeps us in touch. Shows us what all are friends are up to. Keeps adding features to show how connected we all are. Keeps revealing by using those same features that actually quite a lot of us would rather be left alone. Oh...

Let me explain.

Just now, I received a facebook message. In itself, this is not particularly rare. While I may not be winging off envoys to remote parts of the world every day, the odd communication is to be expected. In fact, one such thread has kept me amused for quite some time. But this particular note was something quite novel.

In general, there are three types of facebook message: The genuine conversation - consisting of questions, answers, idle chit-chat and the like -; spam -***GET DRUNK AT OUR CRAPPY CLUB***- £$FREE T-$HIRT$ M8£$ etc.; or sponsorship updates along the lines of 'STUART'S RUNNING THE MARATHON GIVE HIM SOME MONEY'.

While the latter pair have their pros and cons, they can each be dealt with through a casual delete and a quick fiver and pat on the back, respectively. Spam is irritating no doubt about it, but at least the purge is brief. And to be honest, I can take emotional blackmail for most causes as long as it's not jumping out of a plane; that's just something you want to do - at no point is you reaching terminal velocity helping anyone achieve anything, least of all the people you're ostensibly waving a flag for.

This though, was an invitation to 'like' a business on the good old social network. And not just any business. An M& no... It was the business that a girl from school's mum had bravely set up. Why bravely? Not because the business model/plan sounds appalling, but just because, in the middle of whatever kind of dip-(double/triple/chocolate/sheep)-recession we are experiencing, new businesses seem to be cropping up like mushrooms. And more often than not, only to be duly squashed by the ruthless hob-nailed farmer's boot of macro-economics.

And hell on the face of it, it even sounds like quite an admirable enterprise. 'Ping! Student Foods', as I've discovered it's called, promises to deliver "Proper food with no rubbish" to all you lazy-ass students out there. And in a way, that does actually sound quite good. Who doesn't like a home-cooked meal? In fact, one guy I used to live with even had his mum actually come up two or three times a term just to provide him with bolognaise sauce instalments...

But here's the thing. Getting a mass message on facebook, I instinctively didn't want to read it. I saw, "Hey guys" and instantly, BAM, my mind went "Nope". Maybe it's my inherent desire to maintain a veneer of individualism that put me off. Maybe it's my covert ethical stance that won't let me back something I don't personally use. Or maybe I'm just a dick. Whatever it is, I know you've done it too. And what's worse, facebook is making it harder.

By showing us when people have "officially" left the conversation, it's just advertising the tender, antisocial reclusiveness that some of us like to harbour. I mean of all things, facebook, an invention specifically designed for people too agoraphobic for real social lives, should be able to appreciate that. This is exactly the kind of alarm bell we don't need. Christ, I find exclamation marks too enthusiastic...

But no. Now, I don't even have the luxury of not giving the slightest shit. Either I'll leave this (and any other such future) 'do-something-nice-aren't-we-all-nice' thread and be judged for the anti-enthusiastic, scornful bastard that I am currently channelling; or I'll be constantly reminded by ceaseless updates from all the other watery-eyed well-wishers about how I couldn't even be bothered to click my support for Katie's marathon, Simon's Ironman or Barry's commando-crawl to Barbados.

At the end of the day, it's a tough balancing act. And all the more so when the thread you're engaged with actually consists of a group of friends. One current message recently suggested that we all go as a group to the zoo. "WHAT?" I thought. For starters, I'm twenty-three. I know what animals look like. I've also got to the stage in my life where, unless they're being saved from man's destruction in the wild, I'd rather not see them behind bars or in a glass box being tapped at by an obese child and their accompanying pathetically indifferent parent. But, restrained by the complex mix of 'not leaving the thread' and some form of social convention (politeness, maybe?) this lack of enthusiasm was not expressed, and instead grudgingly gave way to tacit disdain alone. Yet the thread mercilessly trundles on. "I can do the xxrd!"..."But what about?" "Can we still?" And so on.

Soon enough I'm sure the zoo will become a thing of the past. But I know something will replace it. Or they'll just reminisce about some kind of meerkat that looked like a politician but probably didn't really and was just a convenient filler for a slow news day. And then there'll be a Meerkat page I have to like and then there'll be a thread and we'll all end up slowly hating ourselves for ever. (Oh Christ I thought I'd made this up but it turns out it exists).

The choice then, seems to be between resentful bondage to the thread and social exile. That or achieving a Nirvana of indifference. Let's pray for the latter, because I say this with evidence on my side. A friend of mine left a group thread only last week. The Monday after, he moved to America. His latest picture currently features two things: Him and a double-barrel shotgun. I don't expect to hear from him again.