Some of them even got on so well that we are here today writing and reading this. Of course, the activity has changed but the connections remain the same. People still connect and form relationships around common interests. For those of us straddling the chasm between the old days of albums and land lines and the transistor-filled gadgetry of now, the etiquette could easily become confusing. I sit somewhere in the middle and am comfortable with technology. However, it would be very easy to make a social faux pas. Back in the days when a colour TV meant you were richer than Croesus himself, I used to meet my friends in the bar. Imagine the following scenario:
Me: Hello Pete, how’s things?
Pete: Great, thanks. Hey, have you seen my latest photos? Here’s one of a cat in a sock pretending to be that worm thing from that science fiction book. Oh, look, here’s one of a kitten who can’t spell properly. If you’re not busy after, we could go back to my place – I’ve got a Betamax video of a monkey throwing its own poo around.
Behaviour such as this would likely get you banned from the bar for life, if not detained indefinitely for your own safety. The other advantage of talking crap in a bar with your friends is that you could insult someone and they’d wake up the next day with a vague feeling of malaise and not much recollection of what you said about their fluctuating weight issues, not: #JabbaThePete – he’s so big his shadow weighs 11kg LOL xD #fatty
If you really screwed up you could simply switch towns, reinvent yourself as someone who wasn’t certifiably insane and move on. The internet, however, ensures that any gaffe or stupidity on your part shines like a s supernova for the whole world, literally, to see. Forever. Only 30 or so years ago, you could craft a CV which was economical with the truth and attaching a photo would have meant stapling a Polaroid to the front. Now, if you sit in an interview as an Adonis with an IQ of 150, your game could quickly be rumbled by the interviewer producing an A3 print of a Facebook picture of you sitting in your underpants eating cheesy snacks whilst watching the Cartoon Network. Please note that this has never happened to the author of this piece, it’s a purely fictional scenario.
So if it has its down sides, what are the positives? Lies, for a start. In the days before IM on the smartphone, if you’d planned to meet at the zoo gates at six o’clock, that’s when you had to be there. Now you can just open Facebook chat or MSN and type “just leaving now, with you in 10” – something some of my friends appear to do while still laying in the bath sipping Pinot Grigio. You know who you are. Need to prove that Anderlecht won the Champions’ League in 1998?* Simple, just go to the toilets, mess around with the Wikipedia entry (possibly killing two birds with one stone), stroll back into the bar and prove your sporting knowledge to everyone. Take the drinks you won and go home before the page gets put right.
If cornered in a discussion on Facebook, simply Google your way out of trouble. Even if your theories would make Baron Münchhausen himself appear rational, there will be plenty of spurious data and any number of conspiracy theorists to back up your claims. In the bad old days in the bar, we would be forced to observe that a friend’s pink shirt was slightly effeminate to conceal our obvious ignorance.
Clearly, this small-world stuff gives us the opportunity to accomplish all manner of exciting things with people anywhere on the planet. Instead, we write on walls and worship pictures of cats. So, not so different from the Egypt of the first millennium.
* It was Real Madrid, no angry letters please.