Tommy Kapai: Face-to-face friends preferred

By Tommy Kapai

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Facebook is an instant connection to friends.
Facebook is an instant connection to friends.

Nigel no mates was a term we used back in the day to describe someone who either would not or could not make friends, and it was a tag that was a red rag to a bull or bullies who perceived it as a weakness.

Fast forward half a century and for the Nigel No Mates of the world there is now an instant book of friends that is just a click away on a computer mouse.

Some of these Nigels now have a virtual whanau whom they share each and every day with, and now they are busier than a Brazilian goalkeeper keeping in touch with them all.

There is something about being a Nigel that attracts me more and more as I enter the world of oldness, and the fact that I want to unfriend many or most of my Facebook friends says something about what, who and how I want to spend the precious commodity we call time on the final leg of life's journey.

When I last looked I had a book of 73 friends and well over 100 who wanted to be my friend on Facebook.

Why, when I hardly know who they are in real-time life?

For the record I don't do casual chat on Facebook and I don't do Twitter, mostly because I don't know how, but I do value the korero from those who have an opinion I respect and want to read more of.

Locally there are some excellent voices on Facebook who I take the time to read but you have to sort through a lot of chaff to get to the choice hay.

Whanau pukapuka is what my book of friends will now become because I need to not know a blow-by-blow account of other people's lives.

I suppose I have some selfish reasons about not sharing my life on Facebook - one of them being friendship is like teabags, where their real colour comes out when you are stuck in hot water, none more so than the tough times of late.

If I were to vet my limited Facebook friends and those who would like to be, there are some weak cup o' teas I should be and now will be unfriending for both of our sakes.

What was life before Facebook like, where we had to talk kanohi ki te kanohi to each other - face to face and not through a digitally created "face book", I keep asking?

A report just released on this has some stunning and concerning answers. Turns out Facebook and its rorohiko (computer) friends aren't what they were promised to be. Ten years ago our attention span on the internet was 10 minutes and now it is just five.

Studies released this last week have raised serious doubts about the level of learning we receive via our computers compared to that when reading a book.

Studies show we retain almost 10 times the amount of information we absorb by reading a book compared with what we cut and paste and scan off our computers.

As an author I am hugely encouraged by this as the learning magic happens when a parent and child share one of my books in the quietness of a bedtime story, not gawking at a screen.

On the flipside of Facebook is its connectivity to the issues we need to be talking about.

Digital democracy has huge appeal for many of us who dream of the day when the dormant will wake up and have a voting voice.

As does the power of the mighty mouse when clicking our voice to issues that are hotter than hangi stones, or colder than an ice challenge of recent times.

So where does a dinosaur called Nigel, aka moi, find new friends, I ask myself?

Not on Facebook, that much I do know. I guess I am happy with the book of friends I have and we both know who we are.

For those I have unfriended, arohamai, may you be richly rewarded by your own advice. If you listen to 1 per cent of it you will make a lot more life-long friends.

And for the rest of us who take the time to kanohi ki te kanohi, I'll talk to you sooner than later, where we can "lol" - laugh out loud - together face to face.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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