I’ve just returned from a week’s skiing in Austria. It’s an odd, slightly divorced experience being on holiday when a global event happens. We heard about the Japan earthquake from a chap getting off a bus, a couple of hours after it had happened – he seemed to just need to tell someone. Until then we’d both pretty much cut ourselves off from the outside world, doing a good job of ignoring news sites and Twitter (too worky), only checking up on what mates had been up to on Facebook.
So, for a week, my view of the outside world was via Facebook.
As an unintentional experiment, it was slightly unnerving to consider that compulsive as it is, Facebook really doesn’t give a balanced, insightful view of the world. The way it’s used – by my mates, at least – is as a online pub. Aside from a couple of well-intentioned, but inconsequential status updates from Facebook friends sending prayers to those caught up in the disaster, there was nothing but football banter, LOLs, hangover talk and fitness updates.
When I did briefly check in on Twitter, it was completely different: links to latest footage, blog posts and updates, alongside the usual stream of tweets.
I’m not saying that Twitter’s better than Facebook, but when you consider that 31 million Brits are on Facebook and the average user upload 90 updates per month, you realise that for many – particularly younger users – Facebook is their window to the web. Facebook’s a fantastic, yet compulsive, website – but like fast food, it needs to be consumed as part of a balanced online diet.