Just popping my dinner in the popty ping

I DON'T meet my friends down the pub any more. Which is at least partly because I don't have friends any more.

Aidan Semmens

I DON'T meet my friends down the pub any more. Which is at least partly because I don't have friends any more.

Not ones who live within walking distance, anyway.

These days I have friends who pass me virtual drinks from their desks in Birmingham, England or Birmingham, Alabama, from South Wales or New South Wales. And no worries about whose round it might be.

I have friends on every continent except Antarctica - many, maybe most, of whom I've never met in person. Of those, there are quite a number I'd love to meet, and maybe some I will one day.

It hasn't yet happened, but there are people in both north and southern Africa that I've met online and may meet some time on their home soil - or mine.

Most Read

It's about 35 years since I last saw my cousin Geoff. For more than 30 we were completely out of touch.

We now exchange messages frequently and find we have a lot in common, though he's lived nearly all his adult life in the States. And is, incidentally, a great deal better paid than I've ever been.

It's almost as long since I set eyes on Cheryl, who was one of my best pals in the sixth form.

We each went our own way after leaving school, as you do. And that would have been that, but for the subsequent invention and rise of the internet.

Now I have every hope of visiting her and her family at some point at their home in France.

The net has indeed changed my life. These days it's pretty much where I live my life.

It's not just a provider of information and entertainment. And it's not just social networking sites. It is virtually my social network.

And yet.

Most of the contacts I've referred to have come through websites based on common interests, not merely “social networking”.

I keep my Facebook account almost exclusively for relatives and friends I know in the real world, not just the online one.

And I don't have much patience for most of the time-wasting that goes on there.

It might amuse me to try and list every book I've read, every film I've seen, every album I own. But what on earth is the point?

I never read anyone else's list, so why should they care about mine?

The virtual “gifts” that are passed around in Facebook world are an inane waste of time.

Though I suppose they take up less space, are cheaper to transport and waste less material than trinkets and souvenirs in the real world. And in the case of the virtual drinks, get you less drunk.

It does please me to share chit-chat and nostalgia with a couple of long-ago friends long since resident Down Under. Both of whom I'd lost all contact with many years since and would probably never have heard of (or from) again had they and I not fallen victim to the Facebook phenomenon.

But quite what benefit I or anyone get from my niece's daily reports on the accuracy or otherwise of her horoscope, I'm not sure.

I can't think why I should bother taking part in quizzes that promise to reveal what Simpsons character I am. I already know I'm not a Simpsons character at all.

I am no fan of the impulse - born of, or at least encouraged by, Twitter - to interpret other people's browsing with pointless, baffling, out-of-context remarks.

Though I have to admit I was entertained by the observation made by another cousin of mine: “Did you know that the Welsh for a microwave oven is 'popty ping'?”

No I didn't, but I'm glad I do now.

But why should I care what all my friends are reading, drinking, eating or thinking at any moment? And as for those people who have to tell everyone every time they put the kettle on…

One respected writer I know has nothing to say most of the time and insists on saying it at length. To every one of his 1,600-plus “friends” (in the real world, can anyone really have so many?).

But if Facebook is like a children's playground a lot of the time, it also has one of the playground's advantages.

It's easier to make friends there than in the adult world.

And easier to get rid of them too. I am no longer among the 1,600.

ONE old friend I haven't seen for decades was driving through France, where she now lives, the day Michael Jackson's death was reported.

As she drove through a series of short tunnels the reception on her radio came and went. Various phrases coming out of the ether got chopped up and muddled - with the result that she arrived home convinced Jacko had committed suicide by leaping from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Now why does that seem a more colourful version of events than the grim reality? Yet at the same time no more surreal.