We sat down for lunch at an African restaurant in the western suburbs to celebrate an old friend’s significant birthday. The gathering of 25 people had been organised very efficiently with a flurry of emails and, in my family’s case, a pencil and a wall calendar.
Gee, thanks for the invite.
We were sipping our St George lagers and waiting for the platters of spongy bread and stewed goat to arrive when another friend leaned across the table.
“You’re coming to my birthday, aren’t you?”
“You’re not turning 40 yet, are you?” I joked. Ha ha. “Yes, of course we are. Remind me when it is again.”
She gave me a look. “Didn’t you get the notification of the event?”
“Er, Facebook was it? Tell me now and I’ll put it straight in my diary.”
I have to confess that I’m not on Facebook. That is not the boast of a social media refusenik, someone who manages his life very well with no more technology than a pencil and a wall calendar. I was on Facebook until a couple of years ago but it wasn’t a force for good in my life and I had to log off. I deleted my account and I know that if I put my email address into a Facebook page now it will all be horribly reactivated. I’m staying on the wagon.
I’m not sure how many significant birthday parties I have missed since I quit the social network – probably quite a few. I do know that I have missed an infinite number of funny videos, lots of fake news, plus the announcement of my sister-in-law’s pregnancy and the birth of the child, because my brother-in-law only used Facebook to share that information.
What are you supposed to do if you aren’t on Facebook? You can’t call people – no one answers the phone any more – and there’s no point in writing a letter. Australia Post hasn’t delivered a letter to my house in weeks.
The other day I was clearing the junk mail out of the letterbox and I came across a handwritten card inviting us to drinks at a neighbour’s house on Friday the 12th. The card was buried quite deep in the supermarket flyers and I quickly figured out that there were no more Friday the 12ths in 2018: we had missed the neighbourly drinks by a couple of weeks.
I got straight on the phone to apologise, of course – and got a recording: “You can leave a message, but send a text if you really want to reach me.”
But no one reads texts these days, I thought. I’m going around there right now to knock on the door.
Matt Holden is an Age columnist.
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