More than 300 ‘friends,’ and some of them I actually like

Mark Zuckerberg poses for a photo next to a Facebook logo at the offices in Palo Alto, Califonia on Feb. 7, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Updated 07 February 2019
0

More than 300 ‘friends,’ and some of them I actually like

  • Facebook has changed the rules. Not only has it restored contact among people who had long ago lost touch, it has redefined friendship
  • It is a truism that when an online service is free, we are not customers, we are the product

Until recently, I thought a BFF was a Before Facebook Friend. It is a senior thing, like David Cameron, the former British prime minister who used to sign off notes to his dearest friends with “LOL,” in the belief that it was an abbreviation for “Lots of love.”

I know different now, of course (as does Cameron, once everyone asked him what he was laughing at), but you see what I mean. BF, a friend was someone you met at school when you were 10, formed a bond with, and stayed close to for the rest of your life.

Or at least, it was for other people. I have always been useless at friendship. When I was a teenager I had two best mates; we met over a mutual passion for Bob Dylan, we did everything and went everywhere together, shared a flat, and were generally inseparable. 

But then we grew older, got married (not to each other, obviously; you could not do that then), and went our separate ways to other cities and continents. I have not seen either of them for 40 years.

I am equally fickle with colleagues. Journalism is a tight-knit trade, and the bonds formed under the nightly pressure of producing a newspaper to demanding deadlines appear at the time to be permanent and unbreakable — but they are not, of course. A new job beckons, you move on, “friends for life” are forgotten.

But then Facebook changed the rules. Not only has it restored contact among people who had long ago lost touch, it has redefined friendship. On Facebook, you do not even have to like your “friends.” At the last count I had 306, including three ex-wives, which is definitely stretching it. Constantly, the site throws up another face from the past, another voice, another box of memories opened. The most recent re-established contact was with a bluff, hearty Englishman from the Channel Island of Guernsey, with whom I worked in the 1980s and had not seen since. If you had asked me then, I would have predicted that he would seek out a wealthy farmer’s widow from the west of Ireland and settle down to a life of relative idleness and leisure. Guess what; he did, and he has.

Facebook has made our small worlds bigger. In the old days, sub editors in London newspapers, their shifts over, used to gather in the hostelries of Fleet Street to exchange horror stories about the crimes against the English language perpetrated that day by their reporting colleagues (there is a reason why the collective noun is “a whinge of sub editors”). Now they moan on Facebook groups, and where before there were a few dozen, now they number in the hundreds.

It is a truism that when an online service is free, we are not customers, we are the product. Facebook does indeed have questions to answer about how it monetizes our data, and I could do without the schmaltz of the “Facebook community.” But old friends found again? Give me more.

 

• Ross Anderson is Arab News’ Dubai bureau chief

 

 


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
0

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).