Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A Special Report

The Rules of Facebook

These days, merely maintaining a real-world existence (doing things like going to the shops and talking to people in the pub) is not enough to be considered a complete person. For that, you need a strong online presence as well. Gone are the days when a telephone and a pair of legs were all you needed to stay in touch with your friends; if you don’t have an online networking profile in 2007, you might as well not exist at all.

One of the most popular places to get an online profile is Facebook, which in the past 12 months has gone from being the reserve of students and the undersexed to being the word on everyone’s lips, thanks largely to the site opening up membership to literally the world and his wife (anyone with an email address) in September 2006.

Getting a profile on Facebook is fairly straightforward and can lead to many joys, not least the joy of finding out that the people who bullied you at school are still more popular and better-looking than you, or finding out that ‘Michael Swift and Simon Johnson are now friends’ or ’Helen Stott is no longer listed as single’ at 4.30 in the morning.

However, with the joy comes a whole new set of rules, unlike those you will previously have encountered. We all know the do-and-don’ts when it comes to everyday life: pay your taxes, vote, try not to kill anyone; but Facebook is an entirely different kettle of html, where normal societal rules are replaced by web-centric ones…

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Friends
Unlike the friend-grabbing frenzy of MySpace, Facebook isn’t about making as many online acquaintances as possible. People here tend only to ‘add’ friends that they know - or have at least met - in real life. So going around Hoovering up all your friends’ new friends, ‘because they look cool’, is not an option. Neither is a friend count in the thousands, unless you’re Stephen bloody Fry.

Thou Shalt Check The News Feed At Least Every Half Hour
At first you’ll be sane about things and only look at the news feed when you log in, but when Facebook takes its wicked hold, you won’t be able to do basic things, like leave the house or use the toilet, without first getting a fix of ‘news‘ (usually nothing more significant than one of your friends joining the On The Buses Appreciation Society or something).

Thou Shalt Not Drunkenly Send Messages To People You Fancy
It always ends in tears.

Thou Shalt Use Your Status Update As A Means Of Bragging
As important as it is to let the world know that you’re tired or home from work, nothing beats the thrill of using your status update to brag about things and generally laud it over people in a way that would be unimaginable in real life. Promoted? Do a status update! Seeing the nice young man from HMV? Status update! It won’t be long until you’re able to change your status to ‘…is better than you, just face it‘ and have done with it.

Thou Shalt Start To Think About Your Life In Terms Of Status Updates
As a by-product of having to think up new and interesting ways of getting around the grammatical inflexibility of status updates, you will start to describe all your experiences in the third person, present tense. This won’t worry you too much, until one day you’re quite happily sitting on the bus, when all of a sudden ‘…is on the bus’ will pop into your head, and you’ll get off the bus and go for a long walk somewhere green.

Thou Shalt Set Thy First Status update to ‘…is really confused by Facebook lol!’ Or Some Other Variant.
You will. You really will.

Thou Shalt Engage In ‘Poke Wars’
Poking people is fun - unless you do it on the Tube in which case it’s a bit weird - but poking people ON THE INTERNET is probably the most fun you can have on a computer without going to court. Beware though, if your pokee reciprocates, you might find yourself embroiled in a ‘poke war’, which is basically a mouse-clicking variant of tennis, that tests patience, stamina, and willingness to adhere to the Second Commandment of Facebook, to the limit. Until one day the other person doesn’t return your poke and you get miffed with them for ignoring you, and then get miffed with yourself for caring.

Thou Shalt Not Clutter Your Profile With Applications
In an ideal world, there’d be a limit on the number of applications a person could add. And they’d have to be useful. None of this food fight business. Not even MySpace had a bloody food fight.

Thou Shalt Make Sensible Use Of Groups
One of the best features of Facebook is the ease with which it allows you to find and join fan clubs and groups, instantly aligning and giving yourself ease of contact with thousands of like-minded people around the world. This seems fine when it’s bands and television shows you’re joining up to talk about, but not so when you get a request to join the “PARTITION 2 SHUT UP KEV BAXTer lol” group, or one of those “If 100 thousand people join this group I will murder my family and film it” ones.

Thou Shalt Always RSVP
Picture the scene, your friend is having a party, to which, via Facebook, you’ve been invited. But you don’t bother clicking on a reply to the invite, knowing that it’ll be fine for you to just turn up and that they’ll be pleased to see you. A couple of days later you see your friend in the pub. “Hey”, they say, “are you coming to the party?” Yes, you reply, it’s going to be great. “Oh…” Oh? “Yeah… it’s just… you’ve not confirmed it on Facebook…” But I am confirming it with you now, in person, you say. “Yeah… it’s just… if you click it on Facebook we’ll know exactly who’s coming, and…” But I am telling you, right now, TO YOUR FACE, that I am coming to your party. You still want me to confirm it on Facebook don’t you? “Please”.

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