The social networking site ‘Facebook’ went online on 4th February 2004 and whilst it has no doubt brought some people closer together, and has some value in that, it has also been responsible for breaking families up. Unfortunately I am an example of the latter experience.
I joined the site in Spring 2007, principally to keep in touch with my children, and like most people set about setting up a big network of friends as it seemed that popularity was measured by how many gravitars started to appear down the left hand side of the screen. I started in the obvious place with family and friends and then progressed to current work colleagues, old work colleagues, old school chums, random people with the same surname and then finally, and quite bizarrely (everybody does it), complete strangers.
Suddenly my life was a risky open book and I was living and sharing it with a dangerously increasing audience. Luckily I realised this quite quickly and soon began to remove the strangers, the people with the same surname, the old school friends and previous work colleagues who I realised I had no real desire to keep in touch with and then finally the current work colleagues because sharing my holiday snaps and private thoughts with them served no purpose whatsoever and made me perilously accessible and vulnerable.
So my list of contacts started to shrink but I carried on reducing it even though I was teased by my children for having so few friends. When I was back to family only, my own children obviously, and my brother and sister and their children, I thought this was a safe place to stop but how wrong I was because I was only days away from a family catastrophe that had the intensity of a force ten tropical storm and nearly six years later still hasn’t blown over.
This is how it happened: By the summer of 2007 I had grown bored with my ‘wall’ being cluttered up with nonsense and trivia and especially that of my niece who used the site principally to share the details of her love life, desires, sexual adventures and infatuations, sometimes dozens of times every single day. So, having nothing particularly in common with her, except for a few shared genes, I removed her from my list of friends. I meant nothing by it except that I didn’t think that it was appropriate for me to have access to her private thoughts in this way. There was nothing malicious in what I did, it didn’t mean that I didn’t want her as my niece or even my friend I just didn’t want to share my life with her on Facebook. It was as simple as that.
One day in August, even though she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, I told my mum about this, thought nothing more about it and then went off on a backpacking holiday to Greece. In the first week or so we stayed in Athens and then visited the islands of Naxos, Ios, Sikinos and Folegandros and in this time it never occurred to me once to use an internet café or to access my Facebook account but in Ios for a second time there was a computer with complimentary internet access so one afternoon I couldn’t resist the temptation to log on.
There was a message that a picture of me had been tagged so naturally curious I had a look. Yes, there was my picture and a tag that said ‘how disgusting, it makes me feel sick to look at it’ (Facebook wasn’t quite so secure in 2007) and it had been put there by my delightful niece. At first I thought this could be explained by a sense of humour but I was a bit hurt and I didn’t like it so I untagged it, closed the site down and really thought no more about it.
When I got home however all was revealed. It turned out that it had nothing to do with her sense of humour at all, she had taken unnecessary offence at her removal from my list of friends and she meant every nasty word of it. Mum, you see, had innocently told my sister that I had taken her off my friends list and the reason why and she had blown her stack. When I returned home I had even fewer friends on Facebook because my sister and her two sons had removed me, one of them was going to punch me in the face if he ever saw me again and the really sad thing is that I have barely communicated with my sister ever since except to squabble.
I don’t suppose that you could ever have described us as being devoted to each other, after all being related doesn’t oblige you to be friends or even like each other, but we used to get on well enough on the few times that we ever met or spoke. For a short time in 2003 when dad was ill and passed away we became quite close but that was only temporary because shortly afterwards things returned to normal and sadly in respect of our fragile sibling relationship the Facebook incident has turned out to be terminal.
Since then I have met with Lindsay only one time. That was in May 2008 when I was on a golfing holiday with my brother in Spain and she was staying close by in her apartment at La Maquesa so we arranged to meet one night in a Spanish restaurant in the town of San Miguel de Las Salinas. It was a pleasant enough evening (except for Richard’s son Scott making an unfortunate gaff) and for a brief moment I thought we may have mended the broken bridge but at the end of the evening I put my arm around her and kissed her to say goodbye and her response was so cold and unresponsive that it made me shiver and I knew that the bridge was still in ruins.
We have never spoken to each other since.