Thursday 16 June 2011
Julie Burchill: What do you mean, Facebook is over? I've only just become addicted to it
It's quite an embarrassing thing for a feminist to admit, but I've been married three times since I was a teenager, going from one straight to the next, and even when the first two unions went tits-up I still found them immensely interesting, in a ghoulish sort of way. What I'm saying, tragically, is that my personal life has always been so central to my existence that I've never really been as culturally aware as other people, and thus often discover things much later than my footloose, out-there friends.
For instance, I remember saying to my teenage friend Emma once, somewhere in the late 80s: "There's a really good group called The Smiths – have you heard them?" She went all quiet, gave me a scared look and then said: "Julie. They broke up last week. They were together for five years!" How'd I do that? Then just last month I discovered the amazing radio act, Count Arthur Strong; imagine my shock and yes, horror, when I discovered that the first three series of his radio show were recorded at the Brighton Komedia between 2005 and 2008! Yes, that'll be the same Brighton Komedia that I walked past so many times during those years as well as others, moaning at my mates: "There's never anything I want to see at the Komedia..."
The same with Facebook, which I shunned as a time-wasting ego-boost until earlier this year two friends and I (one of them Andy Watt, whose gorgeous drawings gild the lily you're now looking at each week) decided that it would be a handy way to promote our brilliant cartoon creations Booze & Fagz. ("Just above the dirty mags/Every day having fun/In the Brighton sun/They didn't mind being on the shelf/They were fine, they had their health/And all the people passing by/Seemed to smile as they caught their eye." I wrote and sang the theme song, too!)
That was the idea. But after a few weeks, the FB page stopped being about BF and started being all about meee! For someone whose default emotional setting is semi-detached hyper-sociability, and whose most beloved friends generally live in another place, and whose better half likes to sleep on in the mornings, and to whom speech is a second language, it truly is the gift that keeps on poking.
So I wasn't at all surprised to see my darling demonised as an instrument of jury-nobbling (nattering, rather) this week, or to read that 100,000 people in the UK alone deactivated their accounts last month, with millions more deserting in the US. Compare this with only the start of the year, when the number of Facebook accounts here reached 30 million, half the UK population.
Well, I'm not going to be one of them, not as long as I have one eye to see the screen and one finger to tap in my password. There's an old saying that friends are G-d's apology for families, and I would add that Facebook friends are the same reward for wading through the trolls and tribulations of being an online public figure.
It's a sad fact that the internet is what some disciples of Onan have instead of intercourse, whether indulging in porn proper or the pornography of trolling. At least it keeps them off the streetwalkers, who might otherwise have to bear the brunt of their impotent fury, but it can get a bit samey for the rest of us, even those of us who have developed a real sense of warped affection for our trolls. (I had a troll doll when I was a tot, with a shock of purple nylon hair, called Trudy, whom I adored, so I guess it started there.)
Yet just when I'm convinced that the internet is the main domain of a gang of mass-escapees from Broadmoor, the amazingly agile minds of my new Facebook friends shimmy by. Like a bedazzled dancing bear I stumble after them, my best barbs long-blunted in booze and self-satisfaction – but being with these glittering ghosts is like being young again, without the boring or embarrassing bits. Watching the sun come up and swopping favourite records with the man I consider my brother, but whom I rarely see due to busy lives and separate cities, and who is similarly occupied while his husband too slumbers on, is the sweetest way to start a day. By the time my husband wakes up, I often feel that I've been to as brilliant a party as I've even known, and, incredibly, I'm still sober!!
So budge up, Booze & Fagz, you're not getting your Facebook page back any time soon.
Keep sending those angry letters – I love them
It's true what they say about time flying when you're having fun. I've been here coming up to a year now, and for the next fortnight I'll be away slurping up the five-star sun in Crete. But I hope very much to be back to delight you all soon.
One of the most delightful aspects of my time here has been the abuse. Before I took this job I was offered the cushiest billet you've ever heard of by The Sunday Times magazine, basically flying round the world at the front of the plane hanging out with whoever I pleased and writing about it.
The problem was me. I hummed and hahed and kept making excuses not to start my job there. I'd miss my husband. My feet would ache from the travelling (I really said that!) But I had to admit the truth: I didn't want to do a job where I wasn't going to get abused. Then The Independent found me, and the rest is hysteria.
I can't explain why I enjoy being disliked; it might have something to do with being an adored only child and growing up with an almost sociopathic sense of self-esteem. Verbal humiliation for me is what flagellation is for judges; when you feel so impervious, what could be more exotic than, momentarily, being treated like the lowest of the low?
It's a perk for me, like a company car. I can't drive but I know what gets my engine running. More, now, again!
Brighton, a council that's all fur coat and no knickers
I love living in Brighton; every day feels like a holiday. But thanks to the grandiosity and ineptitude of our council, it really is all fur coat and no knickers. My friend, the writer Christopher Hawtree, coined "Skidrow-on-Sea" to sum it up.
You get the feeling the council does things to make other councils ooo and ah over the Wow Factor rather than for the benefit of those who pay for it.
A few years back, they spent £750m of our money on souping up the Dome concert hall, the equivalent of four new state-of-the-art hospitals, or tuition fees for a quarter of a million students over three years, or a home for every homeless person.
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