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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Too old for networking?
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology Correspondent, BBC News

Facebook profile page

From Lily Allen to David Attenborough, they are all doing it. Social networking, that is. From MySpace, to Facebook to bebo, sites which allow users to conduct their social lives online are booming - and attracting feverish interest from investors and advertisers.

But is this just a flash-in-the-pan, an internet fad that will soon go the way of CB radio in the 70s? And is it just for the under-25s?

As a 40-something Technology Correspondent, determined to keep up with my younger colleagues, I felt duty bound to find out. So I got myself a profile on MySpace, bebo and Facebook.

I also signed up to the hottest new social networking service, Twitter. This has an added twist - you can send short updates to everyone in your network via text message, providing a running commentary of your life.

After a few days I can't help noticing one thing about my virtual social life - I don't seem to have many friends.

I have tried to find anyone I know on these sites - but nobody seems to be there.

My school and university both have active networks on Facebook and bebo - but none of my contemporaries are there.

I get to grips with the language of Facebook and, with some trepidation, "poke" a few of the young people in my office.

'Pity' friends?

Graciously, they agree to be friends, but I can't help feeling they are doing it out of pity.

Then, a moment of excitement - I've suddenly got a friend on MySpace.

Twitter
My Twitter updates proved less than riveting reading...

He's called Tom. My 16-year-old son - a veteran of social networking - puts me right. "Dad, Tom is the guy who runs MySpace - he's everybody's friend".

Time to seek help. I've found a group on Facebook called: "I cant get out of bed without the Today Programme".

I now have a tiny Bebo network consisting of me and the founders.

I contact its founder Benna Schellhorn, and she comes over to look at my Facebook profile and give me some advice.

"Oh dear Rory, you really don't have many friends," she says, in a reproving tone.

Social events

She explains that Facebook has helped her keep in touch with old university friends, organise social events - and rediscover someone she last saw when she was 12.

"You can use it to organise nights out clubbing," she suggests, brightly.

Hmmm - I'm not sure she understands the nature of my middle-aged social life. But I follow her advice to put a little more work into my profile - and try again to persuade old friends to join me.

Rory Cellan-Jones with Michael and Xochi Birch
My social network - the founders of Bebo become my friends

By now I am having a bit of luck with Twitter - but I'm beginning to wonder why I signed up.

My circle of Twitterers - all of them in my age bracket - include my oldest friend, a Cardiff doctor using the soubriquet TopDoc, and two friends from the murky world of public relations, Suburbman and TheClackster.

Soon my phone is twittering with every detail of their mundane lives.

"Not much happening right now. About to take a shower," says Suburbman

"Up at dawn, back hurting. read the Guardian online," is the thrilling news from TopDoc.

Slightly pretentious

"About to cook for Mrs Clackster, duck stir fry thing. Drinking excellent Bouzeron(burgundy)," is the slightly pretentious missive from TheClackster.

In a final attempt to prove that I can network, I head for a meeting of some of the dotcom world's biggest movers and shakers.

Sitting at the back of another seminar on the future of technology I am awed and humbled to spot a top French blogger, Loic Lemeur, sending live twitters from his laptop.

But I'm a little reluctant to ask him or anyone else to network with me.

Then I spot the two founders of Bebo, Michael and Xochi Birch.

They try to convince me that the social networking phenomenon is now attracting more mature adherents - some even older than me.

So I feel emboldened to ask the couple "Will you be my friends?" Well, what could they do? I now have a tiny Bebo network consisting of me and the founders.

But despite my hard-won social success - and the constant twittering of my phone - I think I've had enough.

I have decided I am too old to Twitter and too mature for Myspace. Some things are best left to the young.




SEE ALSO
Hyper-connected generation rises
09 May 07 |  Technology
Facing up to Facebook fears
09 May 07 |  Technology

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