We have all seen a situation like it. Many of us will have been involved in a similar situation. I know I have. While at University, I spent many happy hours in the Students Union bar, as do many other students. “The Haigh” was the given name of Liverpool John Moores University student bar and was a well used watering hole by many. It was a strange sort of place now that I actually think back to it. None of your state of the art and trendy decor, no, The Haigh was simply a large room with a bar at one end and a couple of fruit machines along one side. If you removed the posters from the wall and turned your back to bar, it could have been a visiting room in a prison. The strange thing about it though wasn’t tied to the appearance of the place. It was the atmosphere. It was always incredibly friendly and relaxed. This might not sound like a revelation, but my mate came over from his Manchester Students Union bar and commented on how chilled out and relaxed it was.
Since I was old enough (or appeared old enough) to frequent pubs, I have always kept a wary eye out for anyone causing trouble. I sometimes have had a sixth sense for this, just feeling that something isn’t quite right. A palpable tension in the air. It could be that I am usually a good 5 inches taller than everyone else in the rooms that I enter and therefore have an elevated vantage point to identify the flashes of temper. It could be that it was because I sacrificed this vantage point by sitting down, that I didn’t se the bloke hit me.
I was sat at a table with my flatmates and the atmosphere all around was nothing unusual. Lots of drinking, lots of laughing and lots of flirting. As we were quite a big group, we had commandeered two tables and were sat in a disorganised oval around the two of them. As a group, we were all quite different, but we could not have been a less aggressive bunch if we had flowers in our hair and included Audley Harrison in our midst. On an adjacent table, almost unnoticed, were a group of lads who seemed to be enjoying the same laid back approach to life as a partially grown up Wonder Years. One of our group, Ste, actually looked a bit like Fred Savage to be honest. He won’t thank me for telling you this.
Then, all of a sudden, the drunkest member of the table who were parasitizing on our good humour, devilish wit and camaraderie, suddenly punched me on the side of the face. I have not been involved in many fights as my good humour and sunny disposition usually mean that I cannot get myself into the fighting frame of mind in time before the other person has become bored and walked off to find a more baitable victim. This could also be due to my size deterring some, and possibly due to me generally not being arsed with the physical exertion of a good old scrap. Despite not being an expert on the physics and dynamics of a punch up, I can tell you that this one did not hurt one bit. I don’t think there was a bruise, a graze or even a mark left behind. But I was shocked by the unexpected nature of it. I immediately stood up, as did everyone in the close vicinity. There was that brilliant moment where two blokes are going to swing fists into each others faces, where girls suddenly leap in between the two combatants with their arms grasping for any element of restraint and control. They always shout the same thing. “He isn’t worth it!!” They never define what it is that the opposition isn’t worth, but it would seem that neither fighters are worth it, depending on your point of view. The scrappers never seem to gain the benefit of the thing that fighting would have deprived them of anyway, unless the thing it isn’t worth fighting for is a ripped shirt and half a pint of Guinness on your lap.
The whole reason why this incident sticks in my mind is that I simply didn’t see it coming. In general, unless you are actively looking to not recognise something, you will have some idea that something is likely to happen. Even if you don’t see it as likely, you will at least not be completely stunned when it happens. A toilet falling from the sky and squashing your dog while walking to the chiropodist is unexpected. Being dumped when all you have done is argue with your (now) insignificant other is not. Fernando Torres moving to Chelsea Football Club from Liverpool for a large fee was not unexpected. Fernando Torres actually scoring for Chelsea was. You get the picture.
I am certainly not a pioneer of social networking, but I wasn’t a latecomer who balanced precariously on top of that particular bandwagon. With an involvement over a number of years, you do collect a certain number of acquaintances over that period. There seems to be three stages in the development of a person engaging in social networking.
Stage 1: Slightly afraid, slightly awed and extremely excited by the whole experience. This usually manifests itself in trying to find as many people to connect with as possible in as short period of time as humanly possible. This includes trawling through the “friends of friends” lists, previous workplaces, schools and tentatively putting your email details into the friendly ” let me find all of the people you know” robot. Essentially, in the beginning, you try and add as many people as you humanly can to boost your “friend” factor or to have a nosey into other people’s lives. This often means you add people that you don’t really know, in the current sense of the word. It also means that you add people that you genuinely don’t know. We are often friend whores.
Stage 2: Simple maintenance. Users log in to use the social networking tool for the purposes it was originally conceived. To see what their mates are up to and to craftily check out the new boy/girl that their friends have begun dating and to see if they have any attractive mates. This stage is unlimited. Incidentally, I have never checked out my mates girlfriends or their girlfriends friends. Never. We maintain the connections that we have, use some more than others and begin to wonder about the ones that we never use. This leads to stage 3.
Stage 3: Also know as “culling” or defriending. Once the furore and delight of snooping through other people’s online personas wanes, we start to analytically assess the connections we have made. This, unfortunately, means that there are certain elements of dead wood in our friend lists. Sure, we could just leave the hangers on, hanging on, but we start to get sick of seeing their stupid, barely recognisable faces cluttering up our timelines. We have two options. Either we can “hide” these people so that we are not troubled by their banal and unimportant news, or we can delete them. Facebook likes to call it “unfriending”, but we are essentially deleting them from our lives and our consciousness. How to decide what we do with these characters is determined by how we truly feel about them, how brazen we feel we can be and what our reasons for taking action in the first place are.
I tend to hide people I actually know and occasionally communicate with. The reasons are often due to spam, pictures of their children, finishing off personal rants with “you know who you are!!!”, pictures of their pets, excessive swearing, pictures of their children, cutting and pasting “heartfelt quotes”, pictures of their children, posting every photo they have ever taken, pictures of their children and Manchester United/Liverpool gloatings. And people who post pictures of their children.
I delete people who I genuinely don’t know, people who have really annoyed me, people I never communicate with and people I will probably never have anything in common with as I have never had anything in common with them. You know, people I don’t know.
This has given me a few of issues recently. Firstly, I befriended someone solely through the social networking malarky and accepted their friend request on Facebook. They were a laugh on Twitter and I thought, “yeah, why not.” Despite conversing on Twitter about topics that we found mutually amusing, we never talked or contributed to each other on Facebook. Delete. From Facebook anyway. I thought little of this, but Tom was a little put out and no longer converses in any way. Fair enough. Seems silly to take it so personally, but each to their own.
Secondly, an ex-girlfriend seemed upset that I had deleted her from my friends list. Now, I usually depart from a relationship on good terms with people. I don’t see the need to be overly dramatic or require a blazing row. Sometimes, these things just happen. I have no issue with remaining as friends with people, as we did get along at some point. I am not saying that this is the case with everyone, but you know what I mean. The ex in question here had not spoken to me since the break up. That is fine. There was no bad feeling on my part and I had made attempts to keep being friendly. These attempts fell on deaf ears, so after a good long period of being ignored I decided that I would tidy up my friends list and she fell into the “never communicate with” category. You can’t ignore someone and then wonder why they don’t want to keep you on a list of “friends”.
Thirdly, we have a very strange case. Strange, but I am sure you all have similar experiences. I am sure a fair amount of us are guilty of this too. A guy I was at school with, tried to add me as a friend. I didn’t like him at school. He didn’t like me. I think many would agree that he was the bully at school. He certainly bullied me for the exact reasons that I mentioned before. I didn’t get worked up into a fighting frenzy in time to have a confrontation about stuff. He wasn’t particularly bright and there was no reasoning with him. I simply couldn’t be bothered with him. So why does he think that after 6 or 7 friend requests now that we are adults are going to convince me that he is a good egg after all of this time? I don’t live anywhere near him, I am extremely unlikely to bump into him and go to the nearest watering hole to catch up on the good old days. We had and continue to have nothing in common, except for geography at a specified time. If that was the criteria, then I should be friends with all of the lap dancers in the Whitley Bay strip club that I (reluctantly) attended on a stag night in 1996, and not just Charmaine. I was stunned that he considered adding me, and even more stunned when he insisted on trying numerous times.
So, I have offended some people, electronically. I don’t feel bad about this, but I am rather confused by it all. I would bet diamonds that this post sees me being un-friended by people in their droves. I dare say this post will offend a new load more. They should have been able to see this coming. But I know what to do with those people.