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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

A letter to Martin, upon his joining Facebook,
from classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

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AliceHi Martin,

Well hey, I've just checked up on your Facebook page, and (tut tut) we're not doing very well, are we? ... In fact, you've already broken half the unwritten rules of Facebook, and you've been at it for less than a week!!!! :(

'Can do better', is my not-humble-enough opinion. So: here is my handy little, cut-out-and-keep guide to Facebooking!!! Enjoy!!!!

First Rule of Facebook

First, you need to post embarrassing photos. Yes, cute grandkids — (tick) — in fact, quite insanely cute — but way too un-embarrassing: just your lovely family on Cornish beaches, and the toddlers unluckily way too cheerful-looking.

This will never do. To succeed as a Facebooker, you must immediately scrub your (well-scrubbed) extended family in favour of the following:

(a) terrifyingly enormous meals you're just about to eat
(b) a view of your own back garden (obligatory with even a half-inch of snow, as none of your connections can possibly have ever seen snow before)
(c) photos of yourself doing something supremely silly — these are possibly the most popular photos on Facebook — and/or
(d) photos of pets — by the way, you must get a Facebook-friendly pet, otherwise you'll simply never get anywhere!!!! (Ignore your wife's protests. Facebook must come first !!!)

Second Rule of Facebook

You haven't, at least as far as I can tell, actually offended anybody on Facebook yet. It is crucially important to offend your fellow Facebookers — who never seem to know they're alive unless they're bristling with negative energy. There are lots of Facebook groups (the — truly awful — Argument Clinic being but one) where you can sharpen up that invective. Not to mention all the chances you've just given yourself — simply by joining Facebook! — to make stroppy rejoinders to those with wrong-headed opinions on such major issues as gun control, capital punishment, and abortion, not to mention whether or not gut violin strings sound better than steel violin strings (the issue of the hour).

Third Rule of Facebook

I'm sorry to say that you appear lamentably lazy with regard to status updates.

I personally have several Facebook friendsawesome people — who update their statuses every five minutes. This heroic level of utter dullness, of course, can be attained by only the gifted few, but you've only updated your status once this week, which is (quite frankly) hopeless.

Haven't done anything recently that you feel moved to share? There's still (a) the weather (b) your state of mind (c) the 'mystery' routine. What is the 'mystery' routine? It's the last refuge of the attention-seeker. Here's an example:

Martin's status: 'Oh no!'
Facebook friends rush to write in: 'Are you OK?' 'Anything up?'
Martin's status: 'Just — nothing, really.'
Facebook friends: 'Look after yourself, old son', 'We're all here for you'
Martin's status: 'No, no worries ... I'll be OK.'
Facebook friends (etc etc, you get the idea).

So just get stuck in there and — oh look, the sun's come out!!! That simply cries out for a status update. Whoop whoop!!!!!

Fourth Rule of Facebook

You haven't got nearly enough Facebook friends.

Now you happen to be an unusually popular person, and without any difficulty at all could collect 400-500 people capable of boring you rigid in a mere couple of hours. However, to have only fifty-five friends is hopeless, pathetic and the mark of a real non-starter. You need to waste hours badgering people you haven't missed in thirty years and reconnecting with all those former workmates, old pals etc. (You rule, my lad ...)

Fifth Rule of Facebook

In addition to all your other Facebook failings, you have yet to brag on Facebook. This is a serious error. On Facebook bragging is obligatory, whether it's meals you've cooked, expensive boots you've just wasted far too much money on and (especially) travel and holidays. Don't you want your every acquaintance to be sick with envy? Didn't you go to New York last year? Here's where you get to show everyone the Statue of Liberty (because they've never even seen of photo of it), the Empire State Building view (ditto) and — get this — you wearing a silly hat!!!!!

Sixth Rule of Facebook

Sorry to be annoying, but here's yet another drastic failing: You haven't 'liked' enough posts, not nearly enough, in fact. Basically this is how the system works:

a) A close friend or family member posts something: You have to comment.
b) A less close friend or family member posts something: You have to 'like'.
c) Some Facebook friend you wouldn't recognise in the streets (and in fact you're pretty convinced confused you with some other person when offering Facebook friendship) posts something: (Sorry, you still have to 'like' it, ha ha!!!)

Basically, if in doubt, press 'like'. This even goes for statuses like the following:

a) 'My turtle just died' — as 'like' will deeply and eloquently convey your utter sympathy
b) 'I've just been made redundant' (or your empathy. Either way.)
c) 'Bobby and I are splitting up' ('like' is just great at expressing deep concern)

See how useful that little 'like' key is????? Now get pressing it !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!

Seventh Rule of Facebook

You have so far failed to harangue me personally (not to mention all the rest of your Facebook acquaintance) with stuff to sign in favour of various good causes.

Now in many ways petitions are one of the best things about Facebook. But I'm afraid that — in the entire week you've been a Facebooker — you have utterly failed to shove even one 'Sign my petition to achieve world peace in 48 hours' at me. (Talk about remiss !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Now if you find yourself feeling just a tad doubtful about the chances of a petition achieving world peace (at least, within 48 hours) don't despair. There are about a trillion online petitions you can choose from instead, in order to bombard your unsuspecting Facebook friends. You can even set one up !!! How about 'Ensure that Every Disfunctional Vegan Boarding School Survivor Aged over 85 Gets Free Surfing Lessons'? Why, this petition alone could kick-start a whole new career !!!!! So: get out there and start haranguing !!!!!!

Eighth Rule of Facebook

I was particularly shocked to note that, in one whole, wasted week, you have yet to share even one of your great thoughts. Good grief.

Don't you realise that your entire acquaintance is breathlessly eager to find out whether or not you admire Nelson Mandela, Beethoven or the Dalai Lama? The opportunities to be sententiously irritating are absolutely unrivalled on Facebook. And there are whole websites out there — yes, soon, they'll be advertising at you ! — which can provide pithy little statements (in snappy fonts) for you to put on your Facebook page. For extra credit (at being super-annoying) you can even tag these with a personal message.

For example, let's say you've chosen to put the hugely controversial, 'I don't like cancer' (in a cute font, of course!) on your status. You can then add a note from yourself, personally, saying darkly that you recommend that all your Facebook friends copy this message onto their own status instantly and that you happen to have a pretty shrewd idea of which of you will do this and which of you won't! (Clearly, the people who fail to stop everything else going on in their lives in order to hurriedly copy your anti-cancer statement onto their Facebook page for an hour are not only Very Bad People but also Don't Care At All about Cancer Sufferers !!!!!!)

It's all pretty obvious, once you understand the system.

Which brings us neatly to 'unfriending' someone on Facebook.

Ninth Rule of Facebook

I might have missed it but I'm pretty sure you haven't unfriended even one of your Facebook friends yet. With so pitifully few friends — mind, that's entirely your own fault, you're not concentrating — unfriending even one friend might seem rather a rash move. However unfriending is just one great little Facebook sport and I'm sure a sporty chap like you will just love it, once you get the hang of it. Why, I have two Facebook friends myself (or do I? Might have just unfriended one of them, hmm ...) that I've been befriending and unfriending for years!!!!!!!

What happens is this:

a) Your friend is rude about one of your status updates
b) You feel rather annoyed and tick him/her off
c) Your friend heartlessly fails to repent
d) You 'private message' them, and the two of you have a massive row in private.
e) One of you reaches the point of no return and presses the nuclear ('unfriending') button.
f) Time passes, life moves on, and you rashly choose to 'like' your ex-friend's funny comment on a third party's page.) Your ex-friend — being an idiot — yes, just like you! — befriends you again on Facebook. (Yes, it is just like in the playground!!!! Well spotted, Martin!!!!!) g) However, inevitably, your friend again writes something snippy on your status ...

What do you do? You move back ten spaces, roll those dice and start all over again!!!!!!! (Now doesn't that sound like an absolute blast? Aren't you glad you've joined Facebook?) No, let's not go there. Instead, let's move on ...

Tenth Rule of Facebook

Now, of course, the whole point of Facebook is to carol joyfully to all your Facebook friends (and their friends and their friends' friends and in fact basically all of greater Orpington) 'Anybody else going to the Charlton match tonight? Meet me, Martin F, at the Dog and Duck at London Bridge!'

Now I hate to break it to you, as it might just blight that cheery nature of yours, but — how can I break this gently? — not every single person on Facebook is, um, completely honest. There are some bad guys out there, in fact, but hey, burglars have to live too, and you have yet to make some daft pronouncement about your future movements (at least, not that I've spotted. I could have a better look this evening but, as it happens, it's our anniversary so we're going to that divine little French place in Chislehurst for a candlelit what's-it, as I just happened to mention in my own Facebook status, lol ...)

Anyway, I'm sure you've made loads of other typical Facebook beginner's mistakes that I ought to address, but sadly (!) I've got to run as there's a sliver of snow on the ground, and I've got to capture it and shove it on my status ... Won't my Canadian friends get one great hoot out of that? Bet they haven't seen any snow for ages ...

So: good luck !!!!

Your (hugely helpful) Facebook friend,

Copyright © 27 February 2015 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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