Nonplussed

There are many of you for whom the phrase Social Network means nothing. Therefore announcing that I’ve joined a new one would be akin to saying: “Just started learning Uzbek; fancied a change from Kazakh.

Most people have heard of Facebook. If you haven’t, to explain briefly: Facebook is a website which allows you to look at the photos of the people you went to school with and decide whether they’ve done more with their lives than you. Now there is a new thing to distract you at work: Google+ – (pronounced GooglePlus). Google+ is similar to Facebook but it allows you to integrate your whatsits with your doodahs. Overall the whole user experience is just more ….Well it’s just more.

Despite that, Google+’s success is not guaranteed. It still depends on whether interest in social networks as a whole will continue to grow. Already in the USA, numbers of Facebook users have declined for the first time – possibly because people are now receiving friend requests from their parents. The arrival of well-adjusted people wearing sensible shoes and reading-glasses-on-a-string at the back of the Internet’s bike shed has caused a hurried extinguishing of home-rolled ‘alternative’ cigarettes and general skulking away.

As the audience for them evolves, so social networks will have to change too. And I hope to be part of that change by creating my own website which will challenge Google+ and Facebook: TheStateOfYou.

TheStateOfYou™ is an Irish style social network for those afraid to try or sick of Facebook. It’s a direct response to the feedback I’ve been hearing in my extensive market research. The messages are loud and clear:

1. On Friendship

Well Colm, I got a friend request from this girl with a tattoo of a motorbike on her eye-lid. I’ve no idea who she is but I don’t want to be rude.

Facebook has done many things for society. It played a part in the wonderful triumph of the human spirit that was the early days of the Arab Spring. But its worst crime has been its misappropriation of the word Friend. Have you ever tried making new friends? It’s not that simple. And you will certainly not become friends with someone who requests your friendship. This has not been appropriate since Primary school.

Instead, friendship on TheStateOfYou is a precious thing which will only be accorded when the correct amount of effort has been put in. If you meet someone for the first time they can send you a TisYourself!™ request. This is the first stage of friendship and for many people, this is as far as it will go. A TisYourself! sender will have no access to any of your details, however if you refuse a TisYourself! the requester has the right to add you to their WhoDoTheyThinkTheyAre? list. (A list they can share with everyone, with increasing bitterness for the rest of their lives)

Further progression beyond TisYourself! can only happen if you meet the person again in another context, after which time they can send you a WouldYouLookWhoItIs™. ‘Friendship’ is the next stage but TheStateOfYou will only allow it to progress if both parties can provide documentary evidence they sat next to each other at Noirín’s wedding and had a great chat altogether.

2. On Privacy

These young wans telling all and sundry their business. Sure I wouldn’t want anyone knowing anything about me.

Here’s what Facebook thinks about your privacy. That’s right, I’m holding up a picture of a man laughing. Privacy is bad news for any company that relies on advertising for its main income stream. TheStateOfYou will use a revolutionary new technology called NetCurtains™ to keep your privacy safe but at the same time let people know there’s all sorts going on inside. Viewers who are not friends will see a fuzzy, lacy picture of your profile.

3. On grammar

Well, some of the language you see up there Colm. I don’t even know if they’re speaking English

StateOfYou will be very strict when it comes to users’ status updates (or StateofMes). All users will be required to complete a detailed tutorial entitled ‘Sound The Same But Not The Same’ which will instruct on how to use there/their/they’re/dere and your/you’re/ur. It will also perform qualitative analysis on what you write so that the internet is not cluttered with the half-baked wittering of people who under normal circumstances would never get a chance to ‘share’. Here are a few sample error messages that users will receive when they try to post something on their wall.

Your opinion is inaccurate and the world is not interested in it even if it was. Please desist.

Your assertion that you ‘just had the most amazing day ever OMG’ is incorrect. It was a pleasant day at best. Please review.

Your comment includes the phrase “should of” instead of “should have”. It has been rejected and a member of our technical staff will contact you shortly to arrange your beating with a birch rod.

4. On losing track of time

“I know what I’m like Colm. I’d be on it all day.”

Regardless of how they look and feel and who is using them, social networks are addictive. I have seen the most sceptical of people turn into Facebook junkies once they have tasted the insidious thrill of seeing someone ‘Like’ their opinion. TheStateOfYou will nip addictive tendencies in the bud. If users spend too much time online, a safeguard system called EnoughExcitement ™ will be triggered. A picture of your mother will appear along with the message “That’s Enough Excitement For One Day” and you will be automatically logged out until tomorrow.

It’s not all about restrictions though. TheStateOfYou will enrich lives and in a peculiarly Irish way. YouWouldntByAnyChanceBe™ is a special application which allows you to work out whether two people are related. It’s quite simple. When you are registering on the site and inputting your personal details, there are other fields to fill out on the form.

For example: ”Please enter your name: [Colm O’Regan]. You are one of the [Reagans] of [Dripsey], ye know [Patsy’s Reagan’s] youngest. You’d be a [first cousin][twice] removed of the [Horgans] of [Clondrohid]

StateOfYou’s intelligent software would then be able to find out your general relativity. Just be aware though that if you are related to someone on the site, they will automatically skip past all intermediate friendship stages so ignoring them is not an option. As the old saying goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose family.

Social Networking in some form or other is an unstoppable force so it’s best to try and clamber aboard in whatever way you can. You don’t want to be left behind – in a state.

2 Responses to Nonplussed

  1. Hi Colm
    I would love to publish this article in the Gazette. I was hoping to see you in the Arts Festival as the trip up there to Dublin might be a dangerous thing for someone of my advanced years! Are you going to be in Galway at all at all? Say hello to your good wife Marie and my good daughter Claire!
    Mary

  2. Colm says:

    Of course – publish away!

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